German archaeologists announced this week they have discovered what could be the world's oldest pretzel.
Unearthed during a large excavation on the "Donaumarkt" in Regensburg, an area nearby the Danube which was destroyed in the 1950-60s, the charred pretzel fragments are believed to be 250 years old. They were recovered beneath a floor in a structure long known to be a bakery.
"We found the remains of two pretzels, a piece of bread shaped like a croissant and three small bread rolls," Silvia Codreanu-Windauer, of the Bavarian State Department of Monuments and Sites, told Discovery News.
Photos: Archaeologists Find 250-Year-Old Pretzel
All the baked goods were totally carbonized, which is why they have been preserved for so long.
"We suppose the baker forgot the pieces in the oven and afterwards he threw them away in a hole under the floor," Codreanu-Windauer said.
Carbon dating showed the pastries were made between 1700 and 1800. Indeed, the archaeologists found written evidence that in 1753 a baker named Johann Georg Held was living at the site.
"As far I know these are the world's oldest pretzels, although we know from 12th century miniature pictures and from a pretzel shaped fibula that these dough products were baked since the early Middle Age," Codreanu-Windauer said.
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It is believed pretzels were invented sometime between the 5th and 6th centuries by monks who twisted leftover strips of dough to look like arms crossed in prayer.
Even though they are 250 years old, the pretzel fragments are similar to today's product.
"They look the same. The fragments are just a little bit smaller because of the carbonizing process," Codreanu-Windauer said.
The baked goods represent the first archaeological proof of a typical Bavarian bakery assortment.
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"It is lucky for archaeologist to find such organic pieces. You know, we always find tons of ceramics, glass, metalworks or bones, but such glimpses of everyday life are extremely rare," Codreanu-Windauer said.
Image: The remains of the 250-year-old pretzel fragment found in Germany. Credit: Thomas Stöckl/Bavarian State Department of Monument and Sites.