A 2,000-year-old fast food stand excavated from the ashes of Pompeii has given researchers new clues about the snacking habits of the ancient Romans.
The ornate snack counter, decorated with polychrome patterns and frozen with volcanic ash, was partially exhumed last year, but archaeologists expanded work on the site to reveal it in all its glory.
Pompeii was buried in a sea of boiling lava when the volcano erupted on nearby Vesuvius in AD 79, killing between 2,000 and 15,000 people.
Archaeologists continue to make discoveries there.
The Thermopolium – from the Greek “thermos” for hot and “poleo” for sale – at a busy intersection of Silver Wedding Street and the Alley of Balconies was the equivalent of a fast food stand from Roman times.
The team found fragments of duck bones and the remains of pigs, goats, fish and snails in clay pots. Some of the ingredients had been cooked together like a paella from Roman times.
Crushed fava beans, used to change the taste of wine, were found at the bottom of a glass.
The counter appears to have been closed in a hurry and abandoned by its owners – perhaps when the first rumble of the outbreak was felt – Massimo Osanna, director general of the Pompeii Archaeological Park, told Ansa news agency.
Testimony of antiquity
Amphorae, a water tower, and a fountain were found alongside human remains, including that of a man believed to be around 50 years old who was discovered near a cot.
“It is possible that someone, perhaps the oldest man, stayed behind in the first phase of the outbreak and perished,” Osanna told Ansa News Agency.
Another person’s remains were also found and could be an opportunistic thief or someone who fled the breakout and “was surprised by the burning fumes when he had his hand on the lid of the pot he had just opened,” added Osanna added.
In the final stage of their work, archaeologists discovered a number of still life scenes, including depictions of animals believed to have been on the menu, particularly mallards and a rooster, to be served with wine or hot drinks.
A fresco with the image of a Nereid nymph on a seahorse and gladiators in battle had previously been unearthed.
“This thermopoly is not only a testimony to daily life in Pompeii, it also offers exceptional analytical capabilities, as it is the first time we have excavated an entire construction site,” said Massimo Osanna, General Director of the Pompeii Archaeological Park.
The thermopoly was very popular in the Roman world. Pompeii alone had around 80.
The vast site, stretching over 44 hectares, is what remains of one of the richest cities of the Roman Empire. Layers of ash buried many buildings and objects in near-pristine condition, including the curled up corpses of victims.
Pompeii is the second most visited place in Italy after the Coliseum in Rome and attracted around four million tourists last year.
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