It seems the people living in the ancient city of Pompeii in Italy dined well, as the residents’ diet included, among other exotic breeds, giraffe legs. They also partook of exotic flamingo meat and sea urchins, and they didn’t even need to be rich to dine this way.
The ruins of Pompeii, buried by the volcanic emissions of Mount Vesuvius many years ago, have been a fascination for archaeologists and many other people for decades, but research is finding out more about the ancient city every day.
A brand new excavation in the volcano-struck city has revealed a lot more recently, as it gave a view on to the rather unusual and unexpected dietary choices of the Romans who lived there.
The excavation was run by Steven Ellis of the University of Cincinnati and he presented their findings on Sunday at a conference of the Archaeological Institute of America in Chicago.
The research has taken around 10 years, spent analyzing 20 plots in Pompeii, which are believed to have originally been shops and restaurants in the city.
The buildings in the area of the city concerned are believed to date back to the 6th century B.C.
The researchers examined at length the charred and mineralized remains of food which they found in the toilets and drains of that part of the city to make their surprising discovery.
It wasn’t all fancy food like giraffe, of course, as they did find the remains of normal fish, fruits, olives and nuts in the residue too. However, it was surprising to them to find the more exotic fare, as the street they were excavating was populated not by the elite of Pompeii, but by the less entitled crowd, the “99 percent” if compared to today’s society.
Ellis said in a statement at the conference that the traditional view of “hapless lemmings” scrounging for scraps or begging for a bowl of gruel needs to be changed as the everyday residents of Pompeii definitely enjoyed a higher standard of living than expected.
The surprising find of the giraffe bone indicated that the residential area had access to imported food, and imported from very far away.
Ellis said of the remains that the fact that a butchered leg of a giraffe came to be an ordinary kitchen scrap in what appears to be a very standard Pompeian restaurant, speaks of long-distance trade in both wild and exotic creatures, and reveals the richness and variety of the non-elite diet of the city.
The ancient city of Pompeii is said to have been buried in volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius in around 79 A.D. At the time the city was thought to have around 20,000 residents. The well preserved remains of many buildings have been found including an advanced water supply system, a sea port, gymnasium and sports amphitheater. The area also revealed great Roman villas and the traditional Roman bathhouses.
According to the history of Pompeii, when the volcano erupted, covering the city in volcanic ash, many hundreds of residents died in their homes and the streets of the city, while the balance ran towards the sea for safety.
As archaeologists continue their research on Pompeii more details are sure to come to light, but the findings that the diet of the everyday residents included exotic giraffe and other breeds is a new and fascinating insight into this ancient world.
By Anne Sewell