This was a beehive- or barrel-shaped container of baked clay, usually divided into two by a central horizontal partition.
At some stage in the Neolithic era people had learned that if, instead of using ordinary grain, they used grain that had been sprouted and then dried, it made a bread that kept unusually well. The Egyptian process was to sprout the grain, dry it , crush it, mix it to a dough and partially bake it.
The loaves were then broken up and put to soak in water, where they were allowed to ferment for about a day before the liquor was strained off and considered ready for drinking." ---Food in History, Reay Tannahill [Three Rivers Press: New York] 1988 (p.48) "Leavening, according to one theory, was discovered when some yeast spores--the air is full of them, especially in a bakehouse that is also a brewery--drifted onto a dough that had been set aside for a while before baking; the dough would rise, not very much, perhaps, but enough to make the bread lighter and more appetizing than usual, and afterwards, as so often in the ancient world, inquiring minds set about the task of reproducing deliberately a process that had been discovered by accident.
The upper part, accessible from the top, was the baking chamber.
An oven of similar shape, but often constructed of hollowed stone instead of clay, was used by the early Jews.
The Jews also had fixed ovens in some of their houses, frequently in the main rooms.
These ovens or hearths took the form of clay-covered hollows in the floor which were heated with burning wood.51-52) "The brewing of beer may well have occurred soon after the production of cereal crops, and no doubt for a long time beer was home-produced and in the hands of housewives responsible for preparing the gruel or bread..first production of beer may be reasonably considered as an accidental discovery resulting for the malting of grain for other purposes." ---Food in Antiquity: A Survey of the Diet of Early Peoples, Don Brothwell and Patricia Brothwell, expanded edition [Johns Hopkins: Maryland] 1998 (p.166) On the Web Recommended reading: English Bread and Yeast Cookery, Elizabeth David Six Thousand Years of Bread, H. Jacob The Story of Bread, Ronald Sheppard and Edward Newton Ancient ovens & baking "The most important part of the baker's equipment is, and always has been, his oven.When the heat was sufficient the embers were raked out and the pieces of dough placed in the hollows and covered over.In Jerusalem there was a bakers' quarter where bread was baked in tiers of stone-built ovens, or furnaces as they were called in the Bible.Indeed, there are scholars who have theorized that a taste for ale prompted the beginning of agriculture, in which case humans have been brewing for some 10,000 years...