Many archaeologists, historians, and even casual Bible readers become curious about foods mentioned in ancient sources. Often these folks have a desire to taste the foods and compare them with modern cuisine. However, this presents a difficulty as there are few recipes for ancient dishes, and when there are recipes they are often merely a list of ingredients without specifying amounts or methods of preparation. Sometimes the name of an ingredient cannot be translated as the modern equivalent is unknown. And of course the recipes do not contain cooking temperatures or times as ancients did not have the means to measure these.

mersuBut some are not deterred by these problems, and seek to recreate ancient foods by reconstructing recipes using information gained by archaeologists and cultural historians combined with personal knowledge of cooking techniques. One example is the Babylonian stew described in a post below. Another is the attempt by Megan Sauter (Associate Editor at the Biblical Archaeology Society) to make mersu, a type of cake or pastry. Ms. Sauter used a receipt recreated by Adam Maskevich who based his work on a recipe originally translated from the Babylonian by Jean Bottéro. The Babylonian recipe came from the site of Mari in Syria and dates from c. 1775 to 1761 B.C.E.).

Mersu is made of a basic dough using flour and a liquid. The dough is shaped into a ball and hollowed out. The center of the ball is filled with a mixture of fruit and nuts, and then baked. It sounds similar to a modern pie (with crust all around) or a popover (with a harder crust). It also sounds like it would be quite tasty. You can read Ms. Sauter’s article with full details for the recipe here.