This Bread Recipe Is Older Than the Colosseum

On August 24 in 79 A.D., just before Mount Vesuvius destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum and preserved their ruins in ash, a baker put his last loaf of bread into the oven. The baker would not live to see the final product. But now, millennia later, archaeologists discovered it in an oven. With the help of the British Museum’s instructional video, you can re-create this ancient loaf of bread and eat like the ancient Pompeians.

The British Museum commissioned this re-creation from Giorgio Locatelli, an Italian chef based in the United Kingdom. His recipe calls for three kinds of flour, yeast, salt, water and gluten. Unless your oven measures in centigrade, you may need some help converting.

The video was created as part of the promotional effort for “Pompeii Live from the British Museum,” an event that explored the life, culture and history of ancient Pompeii and Herculaneum. Among the other bits of daily life showcased in the exhibition were furniture, medical instruments and charm-bracelet charms. Other historical recipes the British Museum has published include traditional Native American pancakes and a look at Mesopotamian cuisine.


400g biga acida (sourdough)

12g yeast

18g gluten

24g salt

532g water

405g spelt flour

405g wholemeal flour

Carbonised loaf of bread, AD 79, Roman, Herculaneum. © Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei


Melt the yeast into the water and add it into the biga. Mix and sieve the flours together with the gluten and add to the water mix. Mix for two minutes, add the salt and keep mixing for another three minutes. Make a round shape with it and leave to rest for one hour. Put some string around it to keep its shape during cooking. Make some cuts on top before cooking to help the bread rise in the oven and cook for 30–45 minutes at 200 degrees.

This Bread Recipe Is Older Than the Colosseum

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