Experimental archaeology

The Quern and the loaf – or –  Bread out of a stone! 

The other day our leader thought it would be an exercise in experimental archaeological if I worked with Katie (from Texas) and use our quern stone to grind some corn and record how long it took to produce enough flour to make a loaf. 

As the capstone tended to slip off downhill we had to borrow Richards little spirit level and use bits of stone and useless tiles to get it on an even keel. 

First we cleaned the stones and put them in working mode.  Then we poured some corn into the top and started turning, and turning and turning and turning. You get the picture. 

Actually Katie did the turning and me being a professed weakling poured in the corn.  It was also the hottest day of the year but being a tough Texan, Katie seemed to take it in her stride. 

Every few minutes the flour stopped appearing and we discovered that the wooden spindle holding the top stone on was loose and the corn just disappeared into the hole and the spindle popped up to the surface.  

Keith came to the rescue and wound some gaffer tape round it to stop it slipping which seemed to do the trick and so after TWO AND A HALF HOURS  of turning (Katie timed all the stops and starts) we managed finally to produce 1lb 4oz of something that looked like flour. 

We borrowed a fine sieve from a kind neighbour across the road and sieved out the rough stuff and then ground it again to finally produce our 1lb 4oz. 

During all this effort we had several groups of visitors who thought it was great fun to turn the stone thus giving Katie a break.  One strong looking man was drafted in to lift the stones for a second clean.  Those stones are extremely heavy. 

During all this effort we decided that the phrase “Daily Grind” must have come from this activity.  It fell to me to make some bread from this rather sad second rate wheat seed (Chicken feed grade from the pet shop).   

As far as I know the ancients didn’t have yeast as we know it and as I happened to have some fresh yeast to hand, that is what I used and in due course a not very ancient looking  loaf emerged from the oven. 

The loaf was delivered back to the dig site, photographed and much admired, to my surprise, and demands were made as to where was the butter and jam.  If they are daft enough to eat it they can have it I thought and found some.   

Katie had wisely gone back to Texas.   

I had a bad night but they all survived and I understand our leader took some home and finished it off with some soup.  How brave is that?  

Conclusion – We don’t appreciate how lucky we are – Thank the stars all of you, for Tesco, Sainsbury and any other supermarkets I haven’t mentioned. 



This post is in: Digger's diary