Saint Hildegard and “Labors of the Months”

English Fleta and other European manuals on model agricultural practices for landlords and manorial managers appeared widely in the late thirteenth century, followed by others like Pietro de Crescenzi’s exceptional fourteenth century Agricultural Calendar. Although many of these manuscripts were heavily influenced by the classic Latin treatises of Varro and Columella, that they were penned […]

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North African Threshers and Gallic-Roman Reapers

“Wonders never cease,” as is often said and I’m always amazed how archaeological discoveries in the past century have revealed more about life in ancient times than the past thousand years of evidence. I hope this is encouraging to young people contemplating careers in history and related fields. A team of Italian archaeologists excavating near […]

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Eat Your Barley! Whole Grains and Gladiators

Humble barley and oats generally give way to wheat berries, lentils, and chickpeas as principal ingredients in modern recipes calling for grains and legumes. But the Italian “farro” grains emmer and spelt were staples of Roman legionnaires who made nutritious soups from the cracked kernels and likely spread it and other Roman varieties throughout the […]

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Liberty Hyde Bailey: American Prophet of Agrarianism

Agricultural laws that guided ancient Hebrew spiritual and civil life are described in the third century AD Mishnaic collection of oral traditions and include blessings for foods and landowner obligations to provide produce for the Levites of the temple, priests, and the poor. In a medieval commentary on Jewish piety, Hokhmat ha-Nefesh, Rabbi Elezar Ben […]

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Emmer, “Mother Wheat” of the Ancient World

Ancient grains like emmer have become quite popular these days for both nutritional and culinary reasons. Northwest artisan bakeries sell breads made from emmer while several regional craft breweries market einkorn ales. While nutritious wheats were free-threshing grains that more easily surrendered their fibrous hulls when threshed, the “pre-wheats” like emmer and einkorn required more […]

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Mayor and Commissioner, Ulysses and Hector

Next time you drive by a city hall county courthouse, or state legislative building, consider that historians trace the origins of civil government to the orderly distribution of bread in ancient Egypt. Anthropologist Clark Wissler observes that this function was the principal reason civil administration first developed, and that association of life-giving bread with spirituality […]

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