A French Researcher Recreates Ancient Egyptian Breadmaking

In the Hebrew Bible there is ample evidence for the importance of grain-production and bread consumption to the people of ancient Egypt—a picture confirmed from many other sources. There are even clues about what grains were grown; for instance, Exodus 9:31-32 states, “Now the flax and barley were smitten, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud, but the wheat and the emmer were not hurt, for they ripen late.” But more knowledge of how the ancient Egyptians baked their bread might also help understand such questions as what, precisely, happened with Israelites’ dough that necessitated their baking it into matzah. Adeline Bats of the Sorbonne has gone to great lengths to recreate Egyptian breadmaking, as Rossella Tercatin explains:

The question [of how Egyptians baked their bread] puzzled archaeologists for many years, in light of the profusion of cooking-vessel remains and even iconographic evidence that suggested that they baked their dough in conical molds. . . . Organic findings from the relevant archaeological sites indicated two types of grain were cultivated at the time, common barley and emmer wheat.

The researcher carried out several experiments, with different mixtures, temperatures, and humidity levels, with the goal of producing “a perfectly baked bread (with no trace of charring or a semi-baked mushy appearance) that would release itself perfectly from the ceramic without breaking it.” . . . The technique [Bats used involved] covering the inside of the conical bread molds with a layer of fine sandy clay, heating the molds up horizontally and shaping the dough in advance into elongated pieces.

“In my dream, similarly, there were three openwork baskets on my head. In the uppermost basket were all kinds of food for Pharaoh that a baker prepares; and the birds were eating it out of the basket above my head,” Pharaoh’s chief baker tells Joseph in the biblical book of Genesis, as the two find themselves in prison together along with the king of Egypt’s chief cupbearer. Were some of the foods he prepared for Pharaoh baked in a conical mold? This mystery might remain hard to solve.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Ancient Egypt, Archaeology, Exodus, Hebrew Bible

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7