The charring that occurred helped the knot shaped bread products to survive the centuries. Archaeologists believe the oldest pretzels ever found were discarded from a bakery that was once on the site. Carbon dating places their creation between 1700 and 1800.
Apparently, the form of the pretzel represents the crossed arms of monks.
The mayor of Regensburg, described the discovery as extraordinary because it depicts a snippet of everyday life. Source Telegraph.
There are numerous accounts on the origin of pretzels, as well as the origin of the name; most agree that they have Christian backgrounds and were invented by German monks. Likely, in 610 AD an Italian monk invented pretzels as a reward to children who learned their prayers.
He called the strips of baked dough, folded to resemble arms crossing the chest, 'pretiola' (little rewards).
I guess learning must have been boring back in the day. No kind teacher to make the subject enjoyable. No laughs or fun—just head down and study. Children needed something to look forward to. Um … Pavlov's dog comes to mind.
But should reward come in the form of food?
We have few pleasures in life, food, encouragement, satisfaction, and love being the most important. I write because doing so gives me a sense of achievement. I experience the same warm glow after I've completed a difficult cleaning task and I step back to view the twinkling chandelier of my achievement. That far outweighs the reward of a pretzel.