How would you like 250-year old pretzels to go along with your 170-year old beer? Well, German archaeologists (from Bavarian State Department of Monuments and Sites) can surely fulfill your first demand, as is evident from their recent discovery of what is touted as the world’s oldest two pretzels. Found at the site of Donaumarkt, a now public square in Regensburg, Germany, the pretzel contents were salvaged from underneath a floor inside a what seemed to be a bakery. And interestingly, the discovery was not only about pretzels, but also entailed other ‘delectable’ finds like a croissant-shaped bread and even three tiny bread rolls.
Now of course, the question that lingers pertains to – how were the pretzels, assumed to be baked in the 18th century, still preserved after 250 odd years? Well, the answer is – the remains are carbonized. This chemical process turned deposited their edges with blackened sediments. In any case, these salvaged items seemed to have been originally discarded after the baker forgot about them (by keeping them inside an oven for a long time), and later throwing them away inside a hole in the floor.
As for the historical origins of the pretzel themselves, these culinary delights surely go beyond the epoch of 18th century. According to The History of Science and Technology, by Bryan Bunch and Alexander Hellemans, the baked bread product probably made its debut in 610 AD –
…an Italian monk invents pretzels as a reward to children who learn their prayers. He calls the strips of baked dough, folded to resemble arms crossing the chest, ‘pretiola’ (“little rewards”).
Historians have also found illustrations of pretzels from the 12th century, as can be seen below from the medieval manuscript of Hortus deliciarum that depicts the banquet of Queen Esther and King Ahasuerus.
Feature Image Credit: Thomas Stöckl / Bavarian State Department of Monument and Sites.