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Monday, January 06, 2014


Elite of Ancient Pompeii Dined on Sea Urchin, Giraffe

Pompeii was a bustling Roman city that was buried in ash after the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Ellis and his colleagues excavated about 20 shop fronts near one of the once-bustling gates of Pompeii known as the Portia Stabia. The latrines and cesspits behind the food sellers revealed charred food waste from the kitchens, as well as human waste, that dated as far back as the fourth century B.C., when Pompeii was still in an early stage of development. [Preserved Pompeii: Photos Reveal City in Ash]

Along with grains, the waste revealed that the commoners of Pompeii ate a simple, but fairly varied, Mediterranean diet that included lentils, olives, nuts and fish, as well as the odd scrap of salted meat.

More upscale restaurants could be distinguished by the wider array of delicacies they served.

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

For instance, the drains at a more central property contained traces of imported foods such as shellfish, sea urchin and even a giraffe's leg.

"This is thought to be the only giraffe bone ever recorded from an archaeological excavation in Roman Italy," Ellis said. "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 nonelite diet."

I have read that in medieval times the wealthy ate peacock.  Not that peacock tasted good; I'm told it's dry and tough, but it was a pretty bird and so it was served with its plumage on the platter making for a very impressive presentation.  So people ate it as a status symbol and pretended to like it.

Why does this remind me of Obama and the press?

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