Podcast Season 2, Episode 9 – Rolling in the Dough: Bread-Making and Roman Bakeries with Jared Benton

Dr. Jared Benton standing in the middle of an excavation trench.
Dr. Jared Benton

On this episode of the Peopling the Past Podcast, we sit down with Dr. Jared Benton, an assistant professor in the Department of Art at Old Dominion University. Dr. Benton is the author of a recent book titled “The Bread Makers: The Social and Professional Lives of Bakers in the Western Roman Empire” and he is the field director of the Contrada Agnese Project at Morgantina in Sicily, as well as the director of the Urban Economy of the Volubilis Project in Morocco.

Listen in, as we discuss all aspects of Roman bakeries, including the process of making bread and the people who worked in these environments, as well as the sights and smells you would encounter when visiting a bakery in a Roman city.

Interested in learning more? Check out these related publications by Dr. Benton:

Benton, J., 2020. The Social Construction of Roman Industrial Space: The Limits of Chaînes and the Nature of Roman Baking, in: Kamermans, H., Van der Meer, L.B. (Eds.), Designating Place: Archaeological Perspectives on Built Environments in Ostia and Pompeii. Leiden University Press, 153–168.

Benton, J., 2021. The Bakeries of Volubilis: Process, Space, and Interconnectivity. Mouseion 17, 241-272.

Looking for a transcript of this episode? Click here.
Relief from the Tomb of Eurysaces in Rome depicting 4 men shaping loaves of bread, while another man oversees their work to the left of the scene.
Shaping of Loaves from the Frieze on the Tomb of Eurysaces, Rome
Drawing of a woman and a smaller individual using a large, round upright oven.
A Woman and Child using a Tannūr-Style Oven, from Tunisia (by Dan Weiss)
Aerial photo and drawing of a bakery in  the Maison au Buste de Bronze at Volubilis.
The tracing of Plan from an Aerial Ortho Photo of the Bakery in the Maison au Buste de Bronze at Volubilis
3D reconstruction of an ancient Roman dough mixer, which takes the form of a cylindrical vat, turned by four bars at the top in the shape of an 'X'.
Reconstruction of a Dough Mixer from Volubilis (by Giancarlo Filantropi)
Additional Resources Related to this Podcast

Bakker, J.T. 1999. The Mills–Bakeries of Ostia: Description and Interpretation. Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben.

Leduc, M. 2008. “Les Pistrina Volubilitains, Temoins Majeurs du Dynamisme Economique Municipal,” in L’Africa Romana. Le Ricchezze dell’Africa Risorse, Produzioni, Scambi. Atti del XVII Convegno di Studio. Sevilla, 14–17 Dicembre 2006. Rome: Carocci. 475–505.

Leduc, M. 2011. “L’artisanat au Coeur de la ville: l’exemple des pistrina de Volubilis,” in S. Fontaine, S. Satre, and A. Tekki (eds.), La ville au quotidien: regards croisés sur l’habitat et l’artisanat antiques: Afrique du Nord, Gaule et Italie: actes du colloque international, Maison méditerranéenne des sciences de l’homme, Aix-en-Provence, 23 et 24 novembre 2007. Aix-en-Provence: Publications de l’Université de Provence. 181–189.

Mauné, S., N. Monteix, and M. Poux (eds.). 2013. Gallia. Archéologie de la France antique, vol. 70, no. 1. Paris: CNRS.

Mayeske, Betty Jo B. 1972. “Bakeries, Bakers, and Bread at Pompeii: A Study in Social and Economic History.” Ph.D. dissertation, Ann Arbor.

Monteix, N., 2009. Pompéi, Pistrina : recherches sur les boulangeries de l’Italie préromaine. Mélanges de l’école française de Rome 322–335.

Monteix, N., 2016. Contextualizing the operational sequence: Pompeian bakeries as a case study. Urban craftsmen and traders in the Roman world. 153–179.

Monteix, N., 2018. Using the chaîne opératoire to interpret the layout of Roman workshops, in: Bentz, M., Helms, T., Habelt, R. (Eds.), Craft Production Systems in a Cross-Cultural Perspective, Studien Zur Wirtschaftsarchäologie. Habelt, Bonn, 133–150.

Online resource: Bakker, Jan Theo. 2000. “The mills-bakeries of Ostia and the distributions of free grain”

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