A white, powdery discovery in 3,000-year-old Armenian ruins isn’t as it first appears

At first glance, the flour residues looked like ash. Photo Patryk Okrajek

In the ancient ruins of a 3,000-year-old building in Metsamor, Armenia, archaeologists stumbled upon an unexpected find — heaps of what appeared to be a mysterious white powder. Initial perceptions hinted at ashes, but further investigation revealed a culinary treasure: remnants of ancient wheat flour.

This discovery was made last fall by a Polish-Armenian archaeological team in western Armenia. As they delved deeper, they uncovered several furnaces and concluded that the structure was once a prominent bakery. According to reports from Science in Poland, remnants of the ancient flour were scattered across the site, marking their presence on numerous furnaces.

Professor Krzysztof Jakubiak from the University of Warsaw, who spearheaded the excavation, remarked, “Initially, it seemed like ashes. However, knowing it was organic, we collected around four to five sacks of it.” After in-depth chemical testing, it was confirmed as wheat flour used for bread-making.

The expansive 82-by-82-foot building, supported by 36 wooden columns beneath a reed roof with wood beams, was believed to store roughly 3.5 tons of flour during its prime. The bakery’s operational timeline is placed between the 11th and ninth centuries B.C., in the early Iron Age.

Highlighting the significance and condition of the find, Jakubiak commented, “It’s one of Metsamor’s oldest identified structures. The preservation of the flour, given a roof fire that should have destroyed it, is remarkable.” He further speculated that before its transition into a bakery, the building might have been a ceremonial or meeting place, later repurposed for storage.

Historically, while details about Metsamor’s early residents remain scant due to the lack of written records, it’s understood that the fortified city later became part of the biblical kingdom of Urarat after King Argishti I’s conquest in the eighth century B.C. Before this event, Metsamor spanned 247 acres and featured temple complexes with seven sanctuaries, as per Science in Poland.

In past excavations, a walled settlement with a cemetery of 100 burials was discovered in Metsamor. Though many tombs were found empty, probably due to thefts over the ages, one tomb revealed a collection of gold pendants and approximately 100 jewelry beads, as reported by The Miami Herald.

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