A thermopolium, a sort of street “fast-food” in ancient Rome, was unearthed in Pompeii, decorated with polychrome motifs and in an exceptional state of conservation, the site officials announced on Saturday.
The counter frozen by volcanic ash had been partly unearthed in 2019 but the work was extended to preserve the entire site as well as possible, located in a district that was very busy at the crossroads of the rue des Noces d’Argent and rue des Balcons.
In addition to an already known fresco representing a Nereid (sea nymph) on a horse, the researchers found, painted in bright colors, animals, in particular poultry and mallard ducks that were to be consumed with wine or hot drinks. .
And above all, scientists have found in the hollows of the table food reliefs that could provide valuable information on gastronomic habits in Pompeii at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.
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A fragment of duck bone, but also remains of pork, goat, fish and snails were recovered from the terracotta pots. Several ingredients were cooked together, much like a paella. At the bottom of a jar were found pounded beans, which were used to modify the taste of the wine.
“In addition to being a testimony to daily life in Pompeii, the possibilities for analyzing this thermopolium are exceptional, because for the first time an entire environment has been unearthed”, rejoiced Massimo Osanna, Director General of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii.
Amphorae, a cistern and a fountain, as well as human bones, were found nearby, including those of a man in his 50s near a crib.
“The stall appears to have been hastily closed and abandoned by its owners, but it is possible that someone, perhaps the oldest man, remained and perished during the first phase of the eruption, in the attic collapse “, explained Massimo Osanna.
The other body could be that of a thief or a hungry fugitive “Surprised by the fiery vapors with the lid of the pot he had just opened in his hand”, he added.
Thermopolium (from the Greek “thermos” which means hot, and “pôléô” which means to sell) were very popular in the Roman world. Pompeii had 80 by itself.
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Pompeii, buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, is the second most visited site in Italy after the Colosseum in Rome, with nearly four million visitors in 2019. Only a third of the site, which extends currently on 44 hectares not far from Naples, has been unearthed by archaeologists.