Iron Age pita found in France

Archaeologists excavating an ancient site in Brebières, northern France, have unearthed a round of carbonized 2,000-year-old unleavened bread. INRAP discovered the Iron Age bread during a preventative excavation of 150 hectares slated for development. The earliest evidence of occupation date to the La Tène culture between 400 and 300 B.C.; the latest to the 2nd century.

The mini-pita is just 10 cm (4 inches) in diameter and probably fell into a fire because it was so badly burned it had to be discarded. It was found in a small trash pit with barley and two different varieties of wheat, perhaps its progenitors. Their misfortune is our jackpot. Because it was so thoroughly carbonized, the bread was virtually unchanged for 2,000 years until INRAP archaeologists found it. Radiocarbon analysis dates it to around the 1st century, between 40 B.C. and 80 A.D. The dating matches that of pottery fragments found in the layer.

Researchers from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France and the Austrian Academy of Sciences are collaborating to study the bread and its context. Of note: TIL that the word for the study of the structure of seeds is carpology. The CNRS researcher involved in the study is a carpologist.

While the bread gets scrutinized, INRAP is continuing to excavate the site. They have discovered evidence of habitation and agricultural enclosures, and the skeletons of four horses in the fill of a ditch.