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Baking Bread with 4,500-Year-Old Ancient Egyptian Yeast Is a Pursuit We Can Appreciate

Seamus Blackley baked ancient Egyptian bread

On Twitter, physicist (and “father of the X-Box”) Seamus Blackley shared his adventures in gastroegyptology, which is a thing I have just now learned about! Blackley recently worked with specialists in order to bake a rather unique bread fit for a Pharaoh, and it’s hard not gaze in wonder at what science hath wrought.

Blackley, a former video game designer and producer who was instrumental in the development of the X-Box at Microsoft, also calls himself an “amateur gastroegyptologist” in his Twitter bio. Along with Egyptologygist Dr. Serena Love and microbiologist Richard Bowman, Blackley & co. visited museums to harvest 4,500-year-old yeast samples from Ancient Egyptian vessels. Blackley’s subsequent raising of the organisms from the dead for doughy purposes is the ultimate combination of science-meets-whimsical curiosity, and I love it.

Bowman will analyze the samples to determine which “which microorganisms are old and which are modern contaminants,” so it’s not 100% clear yet what the team came back with. But that didn’t deter Blackley from cooking up a sample that he kept.

The results look frankly scrumptious.

There are also practical applications to the experiment, including, as a Twitter user on Blackley’s thread points out, potentially low-gluten grains. As Blackley reminds, further analysis will be needed to know if they’ve isolated the ye olde yeasties they desire. Whatever Blackley did bake, however, sounds and looks uniquely tasty.

Of course, people are already having fun with the subject matter in Blackley’s thread.

Until we hear more, we’ll remain cautiously optimistic—emphasis on cautious.

Do you have the tastebuds of an adventurer? Would you want to snack on ancient bread? While I’m not usually the boldest of eaters, I’d be ready to try this with a wedge of cheddar. The idea of biting into the past, and savoring flavors no one has known for millennia, has an exciting appeal that’s hard to resist.

(via Seamus Blackley on Twitter, image: Wikimedia Commons, Twitter)

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Kaila is a lifelong New Yorker. She's written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.

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