The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things

Preserved bread from Pompeii

Photograph of a preserved circular loaf of bread discovered at PompeiiThis is the ultimate piece of toast: a loaf of bread made in the first century AD, which was discovered at Pompeii, preserved for centuries in the volcanic ashes of Mount Vesuvius. The markings visible on the top are made from a Roman bread stamp, which bakeries were required to use in order to mark the source of the loaves, and to prevent fraud.

I can’t get over how well it maintained its shape and texture, through both the volcano eruption and the ravages of time. It’s a very unsettling tribute to the normalcy of day-to-day life leading up to the catastrophic event: a (sort of) edible memento mori.

// Image via Ancient Resource.

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  2. John Michael Voss

    Is it really edible? If it is completely dry, like bread does under the right conditions, that would prevent it from becoming moldy and in theory it could be watered and baked once more for 10 minutes and be like fresh…

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  4. Puck Swami

    This is actually a great example of early branding. The Romans also branded oil lamps and amphorae with the names of the artisan shops that made them. These same names could be found all over the roman world – perhaps the first multinational brands…

  5. fashionnation1on1

    Reblogged this on Fashionnation1on1 and commented:
    When we used to visit the Boston Museum of Art, one object always touched us. It was an Egyptian honey cake in a small metal pie pan. Here we have found that we are not the only ones who love and obsess over ancient pastries. Read on… and thanks to Ridiculously Interesting.

  6. Becca da baka/sans boi

    I think this is quite a good website and I’m learning about Pompeii right now and it is um… boring until I found this website about the Bread! cool

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  8. Jerry Murdock

    I love this. I am a (devout amateur) baker & have visited Pompeii several times. As an American sailor, I took a couple of young Neapolitan ladies on a guided (by me) tour of Pompeii in 1966. They were amazed at the history of their “neighborhood”. The oven from which the pictured loaf was taken was part of our tour. I found this site while searching to make sure the “Roman style” loaf I intend to bake for my granddaughter tomorrow is authentic in its appearance.

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  10. Felicity Thompson

    I love the bread and the history behind it but please, when educating people, please do so correctly. It is a tribute to the NORMALITY of day to day life, normalcy is not a word!

    • Actually, normalcy is indeed a word; although less common than normality, it has been in dictionaries since the mid-nineteenth century, which is about the same time that the word ‘normal’ and ‘normality’ emerged as the concept we understand it as today. (An excellent book on the subject is Lennard Davis’s ‘Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body’, which traces the emergence of statistical measurement in the 19th century to contemporary perceptions of abnormality). The word ‘normalcy’ was rescued from obscurity in a famous speech by American president Warren G Harding in 1920, who, even then, was falsely accused of using a neologism.
      When educating people, please do so correctly.

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    • Some Old Dude

      I’m guessing, it was made like an “Upside Down Cake” . The “label” and lines are a relief of the pan it was baked in.

      • Rick Claussen

        I don’t thinks so, a pan would have left a more uniform depth marking, being that it was on the bottom of the pan. However this looks like a wooden stamp quickly done in dough.

      • Actually, you can still buy Italian bread stamps today (I have one). It wasn’t long ago that cooperative ovens in Italy used to accept people’s bread for baking.

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  13. How cool is that! I work with kids and reading. I love sharing neat tidbits of ideas. When I connect an idea like ancient bread to a particular time in history we all remember better. I think it’s like hanging hooks in a closet. When I learn another fact in that time period I have a place to put it. Thanks for writing this.

      • You are kind to say that. I’ve been at it for 23 years. Most of my good ideas come from my need to learn. When I was in school remembering historical facts meant nothing to me. When I began to teach I decided that remembering the “important” facts wasn’t going to be primary for us. I asked the kids to find something from that era that meant something to them like the first tea shop opening up for a tea lover or when the first football was made if your into that kind of thing. Stuff like that. We remember what’s important to us. We also remember relationships easier than events and dates.
        Oh, well, I ramble on. I appreciate your post.

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