Sunday 28 September 2014

Lavash, the Armenian bread... and Ethnoarchaeology

Hi all,
today we start officially a new collaboration regarding a very important topic in archeology: the food. As archaeologists, often working in our country or in missions abroad, we have the opportunity to collect many interesting data and to  live important experiences related with food and drinking culture (both in Italy or in foreign nations). For this reason we decided to collaborate with an expert in this field, Dr. Lucia Galasso (you can find her websites under the twin blog section of ATOR) , who is working since many years on this important theme and who can use, reuse and analyze the informations we can collect under a different professional perspective and integrate our archaeological point of view.
As you read in this post, +Alessandro Bezzi collected some interesting material about lavash, the typical Armenian bread, and gave us some first overview. In the post I translate today (Italian readers can find the original text here), +Lucia Galasso gives us more information:

Preparation of lavash (photo by Alessandro Bezzi)

"With this post begins a collaboration between the blog ATOR (Arc-Team Open Research), edited by the archaeologists of Arc-Team, and Cultural Evolution. With cross blogging we will work on what is (IMHO) the closest topic to archeology (from an ethnological point of view): ethnoarchaeology and food. I already started this path a few months ago, approaching disciplines such as historical reenactment and experimental archeology, organizing events like "Ancient streets, ancient flavors. Food and hospitality along the way of the Abruzzi ".
According to the Mediterranean tradition (but not only), we will start this adventure through a sacred gesture, sharing the main food, the bread, becoming in this way "compagni" (Italian for comrades), a word derived from "companatico" (Italian for pottage"), which means to be friends who eat the same food.
Arc-team works very often in the Caucasian countries (Armenia and Georgia in particular), being able not only to support the archaeological excavations, but also to get involved in local traditions, which are often related to food and drink.
In Armenia they had the opportunity to observe and to document the process of bread-making of lavash, in a bakery of Yerevan. Lavash is the most popular bread, not only in Armenia, but also in other Caucasian countries, and its origin is very old. It s enough to look at its preparation to understand how this thin and soft bread without leavening, made of wheat flour, water and salt, can help archaeologists through ethnographic analogy, to understand not only the use of related archaeological finds, but also the historical context of the bread-making in these areas (although it must be said that many archaeologists have rejected the use of ethnographic analogies as a source of error and an incorrect analysis of the data). 
However the bread-making of lavash is fascinating: its thin shape (and we know that in bread the shape is always linked to a strong symbolism, or, as the great Alberto Cirese said, "shape does not feed: it conveys informations and not calories") is the result of the work of preparing the dough which is then further flattened against the hot walls of a clay buried oven, called "tonir" in Armenian. The cooking process lasts a few seconds, and gives a bread to be consumed every day as well as on special occasions; during weddings, for example, it is placed on the shoulders of bride and groom to wish fertility.
I leave you with a short movie the archaeologists of Arc-Team provided us, waiting for more news on this fascinating country and customs and eating habits that characterize it."

Author: Lucia Galasso
Translation: Luca Bezzi

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