Bread Stamps

The Show


Bread stamps 9th–12th centuries, Fustat (medieval Cairo), Egypt Hand-tooled clay Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, 1972.1.32 and 1972.1.33

Bread stamp

KM 1972.1.32

Bread stamp

KM 1972.1.33

When pressed into soft dough, these small clay stamps create a decorative star design baked into bread. The production of patterned bread was common in Coptic Egypt and thus well established by the Islamic period. In medieval Cairo, individuals had their daily bread baked in communal ovens. Therefore, one of the functions of such stamps was to help distinguish different loaves as they came out of the oven to be retrieved by customers. It also is possible that bread stamps were used as a means of marking or recording bread quotas in the marketplace. While these radial patterns were quite popular, other motifs were applied as well. Among them are animal designs and inscriptions, including the well-wishing exhortation: "Eat well!"

Bibliography: Kühnel 1939; Grabar 1992, 98; and Galavaris 1990, 8–9.

Return to the Show