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In Ancient Rome bread ovens in the public bakeries were originally hewn from solid rock.
These ovens were heated by the familiar method of burning wood in the baking chamber, raking out the ashes and putting in the dough to bake.
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.
The oven opening was closed with a large stone, sometimes sealed with clay.
Most archaeological evidence, however, suggests that fermentation was being used in one manner or another by around 4000 to 3500 B. Some of this evidence-from an ancient Mesopotamian trading outpost called Godin Tepe in present-day Iran- indicates that barley was being fermented at that location around 3500 B. Additional evidence recoverd at Hacinegi Tepe (a similar site in southern Turkey) also suggest that ancient Mesopotamians were fermenting barley at a very early date...
For six thousand years and more it is the oven, however crude or complex, which has transformed the sticky wet dough into bread.
It is the oven which influences the final character of the loaf; the effieciencycy of an oven, or lack of it, can determine the success or failure of any bread baker's business. It was the Egyptians who first used a manufactured portable 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.
The fact ovens based on this simple design formed the majority of those in use throughout Europe until little more than two centuries ago.