A 4,500-year-old strain of yeast sampled from ancient Egyptian pottery has been used to bake bread.
Physicist Seamus Blackley sampled yeast from bread- and beer-making objects from the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, which he combined with oil, water and sterilised flour to create the dough.
“The idea is to make a dough with identical ingredients to what the yeast ate 4,500 years ago,” Blackley said. “We took many samples and will continue to build our sample library over the next year or so.”
Using UV sterilizers and autoclaved containers in simulated lab conditions, Blackley produced a loaf that he said had a “light and airy crumb” and a sweet, rich aroma.
Blackley said that he used modern contaminants in order to feed the sample. He is working with microbiologist Richard Bowman of the University of Iowa, who will determine which strains are modern contaminants and which are ancient yeasts, in order to produce a more authentically Egyptian loaf in the future.