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Archaeologists unearth ancient Pompeii snack bar complete with food residue

Rome, Dec 26 (efe-epa).- A snack bar replete with decorative paintings and traces of food residues has been unearthed in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, which was buried under volcanic ash from Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79.

The archaeological team said the thermopolium of Regio V was one of the oldest snack bars discovered at the ancient site.

The bar itself, which would have been used to serve hot food and drinks to the lower classes of Pompeii, is decorated with a well-preserved painting of a sea nymph riding a seahorse.

Other artworks at the old Roman canteen include a cockerel, a dog on a leash and two mallard ducks.

One of the most surprising discoveries for the archaeologists was food residue and animal bones in the containers, which revealed traces of goat, fish and snails, a hint as to what kind of snacks the citizens at that time enjoyed in their takeaways.

It was customary for residents of Pompeii to eat and drink al fresco.

“As well as being another insight into daily life at Pompeii, the possibilities for study of this Thermopolium are exceptional, because for the first time an area of this type has been excavated in its entirety, and it has been possible to carry out all the analyses that today’s technology permits,” Massimo Osanna, Interim Director General of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, said in a statement.

“The materials which have been discovered have indeed been excavated and studied from all points of view by an interdisciplinary team composed of professionals in the fields of physical anthropology, archaeology, archaeobotany, archaeozoology, geology and volcanology.

“The finds will be further analyzed in the laboratory, and in particular those remains found in the dolia (terracotta containers) of the counter are expected to yield exceptional data for informing an understanding of what was sold and what the diet was like.”

Archaeologists also discovered different materials used for the storing and transport of food, including amphoras, a bronze container, jars and a ceramic pot.

Fragments of waterproof terracotta and polychrome marble comprise the flooring of the snack bar.

As the name of Greek origin suggests, the thermopolium served hot food that was stored in jars embedded into the counter.

There are around 80 such examples of these ancient snack bars at Pompeii, but this is the only one with the counter decoration still preserved, according to a statement from the archaeologists.

An initial study of the paintings inside the snack bar revealed they represent, to some extent, the produce that was on offer.

“The paintings on the counter include two mallard ducks, and indeed a fragment of duck bone was in fact found inside one of the containers,” the statement ran.

Early archaeobotanical analysis identified traces of deciduous oak, which is thought to have comprised the structural element of the counter.

The statement added: “At the bottom of a dolium — which has been identified as a container for wine on the basis of the bottle for drawing the liquid that was found inside it -— the presence of beans was detected, which had been intentionally broken apart or ground.

“In his De re Coquinaria (I,5), Apicius explains the reason for this, asserting that they were used in order to modify the taste and color of the wine, bleaching it.”

Human remains were also found at the site, although they had been disturbed by tunnels dug by illicit treasure hunters.

Data suggests one body belonged to a 50-year-old man who was likely laying down on a bed when the pyroclastic flow came down on the city. EFE-EPA

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