Posts Tagged ‘Flour’


East side of the Barbegal mill complex looking north. The buildings on the left are the millbuildings where the grain was milled, the higher walls and basins on the right are the waterbasins of the mill complex that housed the water wheels. Robert Fabre, Saint Etienne du Grès, France

original article:


New information about one of the first industrial complexes in history revealed.

Analyzing carbonate deposits from a second century AD Roman watermill site – thought to be one of the first industrial complexes in human history – has revealed characteristics of the mill, including its nonuse for several months of the year. These findings suggest that the Barbegal mill site was not the Roman city of Arelate’s main flour supplier as hypothesized, but rather it was likely used to produce non-perishable “ship’s bread” for the many ancient ships that visited the major ports of Arles during certain times of the year. These findings shed light on the variable uses of ancient mills, as well as on their maintenance and on the destruction of the related sites, information that has otherwise been hard to decipher for these ancient formations. Over the past decades, the unearthing of Roman mill sites has offered proof of notable innovation during the Roman times, especially in the field of hydraulics. A key example of such a watermill is located at Barbegal, in southern France. However, since its discovery in 1937, little has been revealed about its unique history. Gül Sürmelihindi and colleagues sought to discern more about the mill’s use by analyzing 142 carbonate deposits from the complex. Formed on the now decayed wooden parts of the watermill that had been in contact with karst springs, these carbonates can preserve information of the environment of the complex. The fragment samples can be split into two groups: large carbonate slabs that formed in water channels that turned the wheel (millrun flumes) and deposits that had formed on the wooden part of the wheel. Stable isotope analyses of oxygen and carbon showed a distinct, cyclical pattern in the deposits, suggesting interruptions of the water flow during the late summer and autumn, a pattern of activity in accordance with Roman shipping activities, the authors say. Roman shipping usually halted in late autumn, meaning flour production to support shipping could have subsided then, too. Thus, they propose that the mill’s main use was not for widely consumed flour but specifically to produce non-perishable ship’s bread.


Mill basin of the Barbegal mill with carbonate deposits.
Robert Fabre, Saint Etienne du Grès, France



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Interior of Grotta Paglicci, Italy, with wall paintings. Image courtesy of Stefano Ricci.

Original article: 

Posted September7, 2015

Popular archaeology
Grinding tool dated to more than 32,000 years ago used to grind grains into flour, say researchers.

Researchers report early evidence of flour production by ancient humans. Recent interest in ancient diets has led to the collection of extensive data about the variety of plants eaten by early humans and ancient food processing capabilities. Marta Mariotti Lippi of the University of Florence and colleagues analyzed the residues from an ancient grinding tool to gain further insight into food processing practices of the Early Gravettian culture of ancient Europe. The tool was found in Grotta Paglicci in Southern Italy in 1989 and dates to more than 32,000 years ago. Residue samples from the tool contained a variety of starch grains, and the distribution of the starch grains on the tool surface supported the use of the tool for grinding grain into flour. The presence of swollen, gelatinized starch grains in the residues suggests that the plants were thermally treated before grinding. Such a treatment might have been necessary to accelerate plant drying during the Middle-Upper Paleolithic, when the climate was colder than at present. The most common starch grains in the residues appeared to come from oats, representing the oldest evidence to date of the processing of oats for human consumption. The findings suggest that the inhabitants of Grotta Paglicci may have been the earliest people to use a multi-step process in preparing plants for consumption.

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Topic: Bark used to make flour

The article below is fasinating it goes to show just how far man will go to feed himself as well as preserve nature around him.

The mysterious scars on ancient pine trees in northern Norway have been explained. The pines were once used as a food supplement.

During a recent mapping of the rare virgin forest in and around the Øvre Dividalen National Park in Troms, Norway, scientists noticed some scars reappearing on the trees. Many trees had some of their bark cut away on one side, leaving marks that were hard to explain.

Arve Elvebakk of the University of Tromsø (UiT) headed the study. He worked together with Andreas Kirchhefer, an expert in dating old trees by tree-ring analysis. He had already used ancient pines to chart weather and climate conditions.

Could the cuts in the bark have been left by settlers who started farms in the Dividalen valley in 1850? These dalesmen logged the pine forest, but the scars appeared to be from long before this.

Some suggested the cuts in bark could have been made by indigenous Sami herders as markers of reindeer migration routes and indicators of territorial grazing rights – or simply as signs marking footpaths.

A third proposal was that the cuts were made by Finnish immigrants who used the trees for bark bread. In hard times with failed crops and famine at home they could cross over to Norway in search of food and game.

“How wrong we were,” says Elvebakk.

The mystery was solved when the scars in the bark were dated back to the 17th and 18th centuries. This was over a century before the dalesmen arrived. There were also too many of the scars for the footpaths or reindeer routes theory to be plausible.

“It turned out that this came from the ancient Sami practice of harvesting pine bark for food,” explains Elvebakk. “In a laborious process the bark was converted into flour that could be used in cooking.”

This was a tradition that had been lost in Norway. But in Sweden research on the theme has been conducted for the last couple of decades, and the solution to the Norwegian bark mystery was given by studies in the neighbouring country.

Careful cultivation

Pine bark has been used in times of famine by all the peoples of the High North. Norwegian farmers would chop down the trees and then scrape off all the bark, or simply scrape the bark off trees in continuous rings.

The pines with the strange scars in Dividalen haven’t been so brutally handled. The cuts in the bark are on just one side of the trees, which enables them to survive the injury.

The local Sami, who did not have tools for chopping down large trees, were more careful when they reaped bark.

“The harvesting was done in the spring. We think it was a job for women and children,” says Elvebakk.

Researchers have found five different tools made of bone that were used to harvest bark. The inner bark was the prize they were after.

Buried and toasted

After the pine bark was scraped away from the trees it was packed in birch bark and buried.

“A bonfire was lit on the ground above the buried bark and allowed to burn for up to four days,” says Elvebakk.

The heat slowly toasted strips of the bark and removed the bitter taste.

“The bark flour was mild and tasty. It was considered a delicacy when mixed with other food, such as porridge or a stew with animal fat.”

Respect for the tree

Researchers also think the fine bark flour was healthy.

“Comparisons made with the incidences of scurvy in the Sami and the Norwegian populations show that the disease was much more common among the Norwegians,” he says. “This can indicate that the bark had medicinal effects.”

The bark also protected against tapeworms.

The trees did not suffer from such harvesting. The oldest scrapings are all on the north side of the trees, in reverence of the sun god’s effect on the south side. But Elvebakk says this practice vanished when Christianity was spread to the Samis.

Not really virgin forest

The Sami and mainstream Norwegian farmers and foresters were often at odds with one another, not just in Dividalen, but also elsewhere in northern Norway.

The farmers who logged the forest regarded the scrapings as harmful for their lumber, says Elvebakk. Therefore, the Sami were pressured to stop scraping the trees. This is evident in contemporary articles on forestry.

Around 1860 more flour and sugar became available, and the need for home-made bark flour disappeared.

The tradition was forgotten, and as time passed nobody could explain the scars on the trees.

That is, not until Swedish researchers solved the mystery and the tradition was rediscovered in Norway as well.

“Now that we know what the marks mean and the history they represent, this is an enrichment for tourists and hikers in Dividalen. It also changes our outlook regarding this as a virgin forest area,” he says.

The definition of a virgin forest is that it is untouched by humans. No trees have been logged, and trees that fall down are left to rot.

“But this forest wasn’t untouched after all; what we regarded as a virgin forest was actually part of an ancient Sami cultural landscape.”

The tree marks can be found in many areas of northern Norway. If you are out in these woods this summer and see any of these old scars, Arve Elvebakk would be happy to receive your photos at his e-mail address: arve.elvebakk@uit.no

Here are a couple of additional links on bark bread and a recipe.

Bark bread


Original article:

By: Nina Kristiansen


June 27, 2012

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Topic: Soda Bread

Happy St Patricks Day

I could’t let the holiday go this year without sharing with you one of my favorite recipes and a small bit of history!


Until recently, for the most families in rural Ireland, travel meant infrequent trips to the nearest livestock market.  So yeast was hard to obtain and bought bread was a rarity. The traditional bread of Ireland was made at home, baked in a he4avy iron pot set over a peat fire, with hot peats covering the lid. These breads are quickly made, with no lengthy kneading or rising requirement. They are given a light texture and a wonderful taste by a combination of acidic buttermilk or soured milk and the alkaline baking soda.

*Soda breads are made to be eaten soon after baking.

Note: In the original recipe self-rising flour is used.

If you go this route you may follow the recipe below but omit the baking powder and baking soda from the recipe.

I converted the recipe for my own use and have made it several times with excellent results.

Also the original recipe used 4 squares of semisweet chocolate, which I tried but changed to chips for a more even distribution of the chocolate.

Irish Chocolate Chip Soda Bread

3   cups all-purpose unbleached flour

1  teaspoon  fine sea salt

2  teaspoons  sugar

2    teaspoons  baking powder

1/2   teaspoon  baking soda

3  tablespoons  butter — cold,diced

4 ounces  milk chocolate chips

1 1/4  cups  buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and grease one baking sheet. You may use parchment paper or a sillpat on the baking sheet instead.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the diced butter and rub in using the tips of your fingers, lifting your fingers well above the bowl to get plenty of air into the mixture. When the mixture looks like bread crumbs, stir in the chocolate, then mix to a form dough with the buttermilk.

Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead for a few seconds. Shape into a round loaf about 1 1/4 inches thick. Put onto prepared baking sheet and score into 8 triangles.

Bake immediately for 30-35 minutes or until the loaf turns a golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Eat warm straight from the oven.

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 281 Calories; 9g Fat (28.3% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 16mg Cholesterol; 296mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 2 Grain(Starch); 0 Non-Fat Milk; 2 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.

*Once thoroughly cooled, the loaf can be frozen for up to a month. Thaw completely, then warm before eating.

Serving Ideas: Serve warm with butter, clotted cream, and a fine Irish tea.

soda bread


Recipe By: Joanna Linsley-Poe

Serving Size  : 8

Categories: Quick Breads

“Adapted from a recipe in “Country Breads of the World “by linda Collister and Anthony Blake”

Copyright: 2000

Yield:   “1 loaf”

photos from “Country Breads of the World

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