Pompeii ‘hot snack shop’ unearthed by archaeologists

Scientists at Pompeii unveiled a street food snack stall decorated with colorful frescoes on Saturday. Image courtesy of Pompeii Archaeological Park.

Dec. 27 (UPI) — Pompeii archaeologists on Saturday unveiled the site of a snack shop covered with colorful frescoes in the ancient city.

Scientists excavating the thermopolium, or street shop for hot foods, also found food residues, animal bones, graffiti and original victims of the 79 A.D. volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, the Archaeological Park of Pompeii staff said.

Colorful decorations on the counter included a sea nymph riding a seahorse, along with still-life scenes of animals including two mallard ducks hanging upside down, a rooster and a dog on a leash, vandalized with obscene graffiti.

“As well as being another insight into daily life at Pompeii, the possibilities for study of this thermopolium are exceptional,” said Massimo Osanna, interim director general of the site. He said food left in terracotta containers found in the shop’s counter, including duck bones and food remains from swine, goats, fish and land snails, would likely “yield exceptional data for informing an understanding of what was sold and what the [Roman] diet was like.”

The team also found bones of two residents of the ancient city, possibly moved by illegal plunderers in the 1700s. One person was a male in his 50s, who was thought to have been lying in a bed when the volcano’s first pyroclastic current of 700°C gas, ash and rocks arrived. The other person’s remains were found in a tunnel built by the site’s first excavators.

Scientists also found the skeleton of a dog, which was significantly smaller than the dog depicted on the shop’s outer counters. The toy-breed dog indicates that “intentional selection (breeding) took place in the Roman age in order to obtain such a result,” said Valeria Amoretti, an anthropologist on the team.

The dog depicted in a fresco on the shop’s outdoor counter had been marked with a mocking inscription carved in the wood frame, “NICIA CINAEDE CACATOR,” which means “Nicias (probably a freedman from Greece) Shameless Shitter!”

“This was probably left by a prankster who sought to poke fun at the owner, or by someone who worked in the thermopolium,” the scientists said.

The shop was discovered in the archaeological park’s Regio V, which was partially excavated in 2019 and is not open to the public. About two-thirds of the total 165-acre Unesco World Heritage site have been excavated.

Scientists excavating the thermopolium also found a bronze patera, or sacrificial libation bowl, and multiple flasks, amphorae and an olive oil dispenser. The floor of the snack shop was constructed of waterproof terracotta tiles, researchers said.

Romans in the ancient city of 13,000 near Naples would snack on meals (prandia) outside the home from more than 80 walkup snack shops in Pompeii alone, scientists said.


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