science of us

Maybe Bread Is Paleo After All

Photo: H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

There are — I’ve heard — some genuinely good reasons not to eat bread, or to eat less of it. Maybe you’re gluten intolerant, or have Celiac disease, or you’re just trying to eat fewer carbs. But if you’re trying to eat the way our tiny-brained caveman ancestors did (favoring meat, veggies, and fruit while skipping dairy, grains, and legumes) under the assumption that the old-fashioned way is better, new evidence presents a slight complication: bread was around more than 14,000 years ago, and those cavemen were totally eating it.

Previously, it was assumed that bread originated with “the emergence of agriculture and cereal domestication during the Neolithic in southwest Asia,” according to the study’s authors. However, by analyzing charred food remains of a Natufian-era hunter-gatherer site located in northeastern Jordan using a Scanning Electron Microscope (I have so many more questions), researchers found evidence that bread-like products were part of our ancestors’ diets some 4,000 years before the advent of agriculture.

There has been some prior speculation that bread was indeed a part of our ancient relatives’ diets, and some scientists argue that carbohydrates were paramount to human evolution, but this study is the first to place bread in the Natufian and Upper Paleolithic eras. Previously, the earliest known example of bread was found in Çatalhöyük (Turkey), and thought to be approximately 9,000 years old.

This newer (by which I mean, older) bread also sounds delicious: Tobias Richter, a co-author of the new study, told Gizmodo “the hunter-gatherer bread we have does not only contain flour from wild barley, wheat and oats, but also from tubers, namely tubers from water plants (sedges).” This makes it “more of a multi-grain-tuber bread, rather than a white loaf,” he added. Mmm. Hearty and good for our brains.

Maybe Bread Is Paleo After All