These Are the Oldest Recorded Recipes

  • Cuneiform tablet
Cuneiform tablet
Credit: Gorodenkoff/ Shutterstock

Determining the oldest recipe in history seems like it would be tricky right from the outset — anyone who’s ever asked an older relative for a recipe knows that often, the ingredients and instructions for a favorite meal have never even been written down. Yet historians do have a fairly clear answer for what the oldest known written culinary recipes are, and they date back more than 3,700 years. 

In 1911, Yale University purchased four clay tablets that had been unearthed from Mesopotamia, the ancient valley between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates (around modern-day Iraq). The tablets were inscribed in the cuneiform Akkadian language, and scholars estimate that three of them date back to around 1730 BCE. Since Akkadian is an extinct language, the actual content of the cuneiform was a mystery at the time the university acquired the tablets. It wasn’t until 1933 that any conclusions were made as to the contents of the script — and even then, the curator of the Yale Babylonian Collection misinterpreted the texts as recipes for medicinal remedies. 

You may also like