DES MOINES, IA—Heralding the discovery as the most complete specimen of its kind, a team of archaeologists from the University of Iowa announced Thursday that they had managed to reconstruct more than 75 percent of a Snyder’s of Hanover pretzel from fragments found at a Des Moines–area Stop ’N Go.
According to researchers, the pretzel—the remains of which were discovered scattered across three spaces in the store’s parking lot, with secondary sites found just inside the automatic doors and underneath the hot dog roller grill—has required thousands of man-hours to painstakingly collect and categorize, and is the most thorough reconstruction of a baked snack to date.
“We knew we had something special when we found the largely intact section of the pretzel’s upper-left arc, but it wasn’t until we arranged it alongside several smaller fragments that we realized just how significant this find was,” said lead researcher Dr. Brian Michener, describing the process by which his team methodically mapped and staked off the nearly 30-square-foot expanse of asphalt across which most of the snack’s remains were spread. “Of course, it’s important to understand that there is a lot we still don’t know. Had this pretzel ever been slathered in some kind of processed cheese sauce? Was it a stand-alone snack or part of some kind of party mix?”
“It’s really an incredible find—the biggest discovery of its kind since a fully intact Goldfish cracker was found stuck in the treads of a Wawa floor mat in 2006.”
“These are the kinds of questions we hope to answer in the months and years to come,” he added.
Michener explained that, after larger debris such as Yoo-hoo caps and empty 24-oz. Monster Energy drink cans were cleared from the worksite, great care was taken to brush away layers of cigarette ash and Dorito dust from the pretzel fragments without causing damage to their golden-brown crust. The remains of the snack were reportedly further covered in a hardened mixture of powdered sugar from Hostess Donettes, jerky grease, and other sediments that naturally occur in environments such as the one where the pretzel was discovered, and had to be thoroughly cleaned before further study.
Researchers said each remnant was then photographed, labeled, and treated with acrylic polymers to prevent further corrosion of the snack’s extremely delicate and crunchy remains. Magnified images of the pretzel’s surface reportedly showed hundreds of small pockmarks, revealing that salt at one time covered its exterior, which led team members to speculate that the snack may have possessed a savoriness of greater magnitude than a Cheddar Cheese Pringle.
“The pretzel’s larger size clearly sets it apart from the smaller, or ‘mini’ variety, which are generally found in groups,” said Dr. Bethany Folta, who worked on the laboratory team that was tasked with classifying the discovery within the broader pretzel taxonomic category. “At the same time, it’s not nearly as mammoth as members of the fresh-baked soft pretzel family, while the absence of a honey-mustard coating was enough for us to rule out all known subtypes of Rold Gold and Gardetto’s pretzels. Only after laboratory testing of its gluten content were we able to determine that it was a Snyder’s and not its close cousin, the Utz Sourdough Special.”
Folta said that archaeologists had to take precautions to ensure they were not led astray by the remnants of other snacks found in the same area. For example, researchers initially believed that some shards of what later turned out to be Combos could have been the specimen’s anterior nubs due to similarities in their external appearances, but eventually eliminated that possibility after noting that they contained a pepperoni pizza–flavored center—an impossibility in terms of pretzel composition.
“We had to make some basic assumptions about the specimen’s morphology because several pieces were pulverized beyond recovery due to tremendous pressure from what we believe was a size-10 Reebok sneaker delivering over 250 pounds of downward force,” said Folta, adding that additional marks on the pretzel point to squirrels or possibly pigeons having also contributed to the snack’s degradation. “Even so, you can see how its loops clearly show it to have been much more advanced than its primitive relative, the ‘rod’ variety of pretzels. Due to this complexity, we at first thought we were dealing with two separate, unrelated pretzels, but the central braided section proved they were actually pieces of the same intertwined snack.”
“It’s really an incredible find—the biggest discovery of its kind since a fully intact Goldfish cracker was found stuck in the treads of a Wawa floor mat in 2006,” Folta continued.
The reconstructed specimen will reportedly be displayed for public viewing in the university’s archaeological department for the next several weeks, after which time it will be moved to a designated spot between the faculty room’s couch cushions for long-term safekeeping.