The smell of freshly baked bread wafted through Egypt’s western desert more than 3,500 years ago, according to new findings at the El-Kharga Oasis announced on Wednesday.
During archaeology excavation work for the Theban Desert Road Survey, a project to map the ancient desert routes in the Western desert, a team of Egyptian and US archaeologists from Yale University stumbled upon the remains of what appears to be an ancient bakery town.
About 1 km (0.6 miles) long from north to south and 250 meters (820 feet) wide from east to west, the settlement dates to the Second Intermediate Period (about 1650-1550 B.C.).
According to John Coleman Darnell, who led the Yale mission, archaeological evidence indicates that the site was an administrative center along the bustling caravan routes which connected the Nile Valley and the western oasis with points as far as Darfur in western Sudan.
Indeed, the archaeologists unearthed large mudbrick structures similar to administrative buildings previously found in several sites in the Nile Valley.
But the most interesting features were the remains of a bakery. Making bread on a massive scale was the main occupation for the majority of the inhabitants, said Zahi Hawass, the head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.
The archaeologists unearthed two ovens and a potter’s wheel. This was used to make the ceramic bread molds in which the bread was baked.
The large debris dumps outside the bakery suggests that the settlement produced bread in such large quantities that it may have even been feeding an army, Hawass said in a statement.
Early studies on the site revealed that the settlement had quite a long life. It began during the Middle Kingdom (2134-1569 B.C.) and lasted to the beginning of the New Kingdom (1569-1081 B.C.).
However the site was at its peak from the late Middle Kingdom (1786-1665 B.C.) to the Second Intermediate Period (1600-1569 B.C.).
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