The Egyptians have long been thought of as the first bread makers, believed to have begun baking bread around 8000 BC. However, recent findings show that Australian Aboriginals beat them to the bread game by a wide margin.
Aboriginal Australians began baking bread over thirty-four thousand years ago. Archaeologists found old grindstones in New South Wales, proving that Aboriginals were grinding seeds into flour for baking way ahead of the Egyptians.
Despite the common perception of Aboriginals as simple hunter-gatherers, the observations of early white settlers reveal a more advanced agricultural side. They noticed cultivated fields, particularly for crops like the ‘murrnong’ yam, indicating a sophisticated approach to farming, according to Ancient Origins.
An Australian author, Bruce Pascoe, in his book Dark Emu, Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident?, challenges the common belief that Aboriginals were only hunter-gatherers after European colonization.
“Yes, we were the first to invent bread by 15,000 years,” he said. “The Egyptians began cooking bread 17,000 years ago and one Australian grain grinding dish has been dated at least 34,000 years of age.”
In the early days of baking, Aboriginal women took the lead. They gathered various seeds based on the season and location. These included native millet and spinifex, as well as seeds from harvester ants’ nests.
These women utilized the ants’ efforts in collecting and husking the seeds by gathering around the nest openings.
Using 50,000 year old millstones to make flour
Making flour was hard work, requiring tools like the coolamon for winnowing and millstones for grinding. Some of these millstones are even fifty thousand years old. The flour produced from this process was mixed with water to make dough.
This dough was then baked to make nutritious bread, rich in protein and carbohydrates. Moreover, the bread was a crucial part of the traditional Aboriginal diet, as reported by Ancient Origins.
The Aboriginal way of making bread also involved using seeds from various plants such as pigwig and prickly wattle, highlighting their deep knowledge of local plants.
This special bread, sometimes cooked right on hot coals or in a particular kind of oven, was a vital part of Aboriginal food and continues to be a crucial aspect of their cultural heritage.
However, when Europeans came and introduced white flour, these traditional bread-making methods started to fade away, although some places kept them alive until the 1970s.
Bruce stated: “The houses were burnt down, almost every explorer and settler refers to the practice.”
“The crops were grazed flat by stock which simply walked onto the land and began to systematically eat through the grasses and root crops,” Bruce reveals.
Today, there is renewed interest in these old techniques with the aim to revive and celebrate the rich food history of Aboriginal Australians, according to Ancient Origins.