Without food there will be no history of man at all. Although there is relatively little evidence about our ancestors, archaeologists have discovered tools and other artifacts from different parts of the world which date back to approximately 10000 BC. This would usher the origins of a hunting and gathering societies. This happened more or less simultaneously in Europe and the Middle East and also on the plains of what is now the United States.
c. 9000 BC.
Archaeological evidence found in villages within the Mallaka region in northern Israel indicates a human activity dependent on a combination of hunting and very intensive gathering/farming of wild grain.
c 8000 BC.
At first grain was crushed by hand with pestle and mortar. In Egypt a simple grinding stone (quern) was developed. All bread was unleavened, there were no raising agents and bread was made from a mixed variety of grains. Today's equivalents are Indian chapattis and Mexican tortillas.
The basic diet of settlers in the Tehuacan Valley of Central America was wild maize. To make it more palatable they used simple stone cooking pots.
c 6000 BC.
A civilization developed between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris (modern Iraq) where emmer, einkorn and bread wheat were grown. By 3000 BC this Mesopotamian culture starts to consume leavened bread.
c 5000 - 3700 BC.
The Greek historian Herodotus described Egypt as ‘the gift of the Nile’. In actual fact, the Egyptian classical civilization developed grain production along the fertile banks of the Nile river. Grain became a staple food and spread to the Balkans and throughout Europe.
c 3000 BC.
Leavened bread is often attributed to the ancient Egyptians. Tougher wheat varieties were developed and the baking of bread became a skill in Egypt along with brewing beer. In the warm Egyptian climate wild yeasts were attracted to multi-grain flour mixtures and bakers experimented with leavened dough. The Egyptians employed the closed oven and bread assumed great significance. Homage was paid to Osiris, the god of grain, and bread was used instead of money; the workers who built the pyramids were paid in bread.
c. 2330-2000 BC.
A sweet cake baked between two perfectly fitting copper bowls was included with the various contents assumed to facilitate the afterlife passage of a Sixth Dynasty Egyptian prince.
c 2300 BC.
The Indus valley becomes an important area for Indian grain cultivation.
c 2000 BC.
The ‘beehive oven’, a simple domed structure made out of twigs and clay with a hole in front was employed for baking bread in Germany.
c 1500 BC.
The combination of iron ploughshares drawn by horses would be increasingly employed by farmers when ploughing their land.
c 1050 BC.
Southern England becomes a centre of agriculture - barley and oats were grown freely; by 500 BC wheat in Britain started to become important.
c 1000 BC.
In Greece barely was the most popular grain for making bread.
In Rome, risen, yeasted bread became popular and by 500 BC a circular quern was developed - a circular stone wheel turned on another which was fixed. This was the basis of all milling until the industrial revolution in the 19th century and is still the way stone-ground flour is produced today.
c. 500 BC.
The Greeks mainly consumed unleavened flat bread which could have been served rolled up similarly to a Swiss roll.
c 450 BC.
In Greece the watermill was invented, however it was only a few centuries later when its significance was fully realised.
c 168 BC.
A Bakers' Guild was formed in Rome. The Roman nobility insisted on the more exclusive and expensive white bread as a status symbol which differentiated them from the plebians. In Rome animal power was introduced to the milling industry.
c 55 BC.
Romans invaded Britain where wheat was still being crushed by hand and baked over open fires. More sophisticated techniques were introduced, including watermills.
c 40 BC.
In Rome the authorities decreed that bread should be distributed free to all adult males.
c 500 AD.
Rye introduced in Britain with the settlement of the Saxon and Dane communities settled in Britain This cereal was well suited to cold northern climates. Dark rye bread became a staple which lasted to the Middle Ages.
c 600 AD.
The Persians are said to have invented the windmill. The power generated could drive much heavier stone querns for milling. This predated the use of windmills in Western Europe by six centuries.