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Fun fact: Indigenous Australians baked bread before Ancient Egypt

Have you ever bitten into a fresh slice of sourdough and wondered who had the idea to first bake bread?

According to many resources, the Egyptians are credited for being the inventors of bread around 8000BC or 10,000 years ago. It could have been even earlier in the Middle East, with what is believed to be ancient bread discovered by an archaeologist in Jordan that dates back 14,000 years. But did you know that Aboriginals may have been baking bread long before either of these times and discoveries?

Aboriginals were baking bread 15,000 years before the Egyptians

Australian author Bruce Pascoe has made this claim in his book Dark Emu, Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident? It comes as a shock because historians have long regarded Aboriginals as hunter-gatherers, not farmers. But Mr Pascoe said that might not be accurate.

"Yes, we were the first to invent bread by 15,000 years. The Egyptians began cooking bread 17,000 years ago and one Australian grain grinding dish has been dated at least 34,000 years of age," he said.  

As part of his research, he found that Aboriginal people assisted European explorer Charles Sturt with a meal of water, roast duck and a form of bread/cake.

Why were they farming grain and baking bread so early?

According to Mr Pascoe's research, early white settlers referenced fields that had been cultivated for crops, shattering the long-held hunter-gatherer belief. In these fields, they were growing the seeds of a yam called ‘murrnong’, which was once common on our shores.

Mr Pascoe hopes that more research is conducted into Aboriginal crops and the grains and bread they created because it could enhance farming practices today to suit Australian conditions.

"I'm hoping Australians will learn about the sophistication of the culture they supplanted but also learn that some of the crops domesticated by Aborigines have adapted to Australian conditions and are important in a time of reduced rainfall," he said.

"They don't need fertiliser or pesticides and use far less water. This is the start of a truly Australian cuisine."

Unfortunately, it is believed that all of the bread-making tools and techniques used by Aboriginal people were lost when Europeans arrived.

"The houses were burnt down, almost every explorer and settler refers to the practice," Mr Pascoe said.

Pascoe also noted that crops were grazed flat by passing stock that walked onto the land. From there, they began eating their way through the grass and root crops. Because the soil was so friable and exceptionally tilled, the settlers noted that their sheep could move tubers out from the earth.

“Settlers and Aboriginal Protectors comment on the shooting of Aborigines who tried to return to harvest their crops. It became too dangerous."

It is important to note that Aboriginal bread and traditional Australian damper are two different things. Damper was created by white settlers and is still widely used as an Australian replacement or alternative for sourdough bread, as well as a campfire meal.

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