News / Science & Technology

Ancient Romans Had a Complex Diet, Including Giraffe

The neighborhood of Pompeii where archeologists found out about the diet of ancient Pompeiians is seen in this photo provided by the University of Cincinnati.
The neighborhood of Pompeii where archeologists found out about the diet of ancient Pompeiians is seen in this photo provided by the University of Cincinnati.

Related Articles

Neanderthals May Have Dined on Animal Stomachs

Eating stomach contents is still practiced today in parts of Greenland and Australia

Study: Exercise Lowers Risk of Dementia

Physical activity is just one of five healthy behaviors recommended to stave off chronic disease

Study: Fathers Need to Eat Healthy Before Conceiving

Vitamin B9, also called folate, is found in green leafy vegetables, cereals, fruit and meats and appears to be particularly important for would-be dads
VOA News
The middle and lower classes of the Roman city of Pompeii had a surprisingly rich and varied diet, including such exotic fare as giraffe, according to newly published research.

According to a University of Cincinnati press release, archeologists spent more than a decade looking at "two city blocks within a non-elite area of the city," which was buried in lava and volcanic ash after Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.
 
"The area covers 10 separate building plots and a total of 20 shop fronts, most of which served food and drink," the university said. "The waste that was examined included collections from drains as well as 10 latrines and cesspits, which yielded mineralized and charred food waste coming from kitchens and excrement." 
 
"Among the discoveries in the drains was an abundance of the remains of fully-processed foods, especially grains," Steve Ellis, a University of Cincinnati associate professor of classics who was part of the excavation team, said in the press release.
 
"Findings revealed foods that would have been inexpensive and widely available, such as grains, fruits, nuts, olives, lentils, local fish and chicken eggs, as well as minimal cuts of more expensive meat and salted fish from Spain," the press release said. "Waste from neighboring drains also turned up a less diverse variety of foods, revealing socioeconomic differences between neighbors."
 
"A drain from a central property revealed a richer variety of foods, as well as imports from outside Italy, such as shellfish, sea urchin and even delicacies like the butchered leg joint of a giraffe,"  the university said.
 
"That the bone represents the height of exotic food is underscored by the fact that this is thought to be the only giraffe bone ever recorded from an archaeological excavation in Roman Italy," Ellis said in the press release. "How part of the animal, butchered, came to be a kitchen scrap in a seemingly standard Pompeian restaurant not only speaks to long-distance trade in exotic and wild animals, but also something of the richness, variety and range of a non-elite diet."
 
"Deposits also included exotic and imported spices, some from as far away as Indonesia," the press release said.
 
"The ultimate aim of our research is to reveal the structural and social relationships over time between working-class Pompeian households, as well as to determine the role that sub-elites played in the shaping of the city, and to register their response to city-and Mediterranean-wide historical, political and economic developments. However, one of the larger datasets and themes of our research has been diet and the infrastructure of food consumption and food ways," Ellis said.
 
He added that as a result of the discoveries, "The traditional vision of some mass of hapless lemmings - scrounging for whatever they can pinch from the side of a street, or huddled around a bowl of gruel - needs to be replaced by a higher fare and standard of living, at least for the urbanites in Pompeii."
 
The university archeologists presented their discoveries on January 4 at the joint annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America and American Philological Association in Chicago. 
 
Editor's note: A previous version of this story did not properly reflect attribution to a University of Cincinnati press release.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: ping from: china
January 07, 2014 3:33 PM
Thank you for interesting article VOA^_^

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid