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Elites of Pompeii dined on giraffe leg and flamingo

Washington, Jan 05 : Archaeologists have found that the people of the ancient city of Pompeii may have eaten a varied diet, with the rich enjoying delicacies such as flamingos and the poor scrounging for soup or gruel.


Steven Ellis from University of Cincinnati and his team of archaeologists have spent more than a decade at two city blocks within a non-elite district in the Roman city of Pompeii, which was buried under a volcano in 79 AD.

The excavations are uncovering the earlier use of buildings that would have dated back to the 6th century.

"The material from the drains revealed a range and quantity of materials to suggest a rather clear socio-economic distinction between the activities and consumption habits of each property, which were otherwise indistinguishable hospitality businesses," Ellis said.

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.

Waste from neighboring drains would also turn up less of a variety of foods, revealing a socioeconomic distinction 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 including the butchered leg joint of a giraffe.

The researcher 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.

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.

Ellis added that one of the deposits dates as far back as the 4th century, which he said is a particularly valuable discovery, since few other ritual deposits survived from that early stage in the development of Pompeii.

The study will be presented at the joint annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) and American Philological Association (APA) in Chicago.

--ANI (Posted on 05-01-2014)

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