Pompeii, the ancient Roman city buried by a volcanic eruption in the year 79 AD, continues to impress and dazzle archaeologists. Recently, they’ve uncovered a frescoed hot food stand that would have been the Roman equivalent of a street food shop, complete with advertisements and actual remains of food.
The fast-food eatery is the first intact structure of its type to be excavated, said Pompeii Archaeological Park’s longtime chief, Massimo Osanna. It’s called a thermopolium, and it’s essentially a hot-food-and-drink stand, covered by attractive frescoes that would appeal to Roman passersby.
The thermopolium is basically a multi-sided counter, with wide holes inserted into the top where the vessels for hot food would be stored (not unlike some modern hot food or soup stands). Aside from the stand itself, remains of the food itself have also been found. Traces of pork, snails, beef, and fish have been uncovered, something which Valeria Amoretti, a site anthropologist, calls a “testimony to the great variety of animal products” that Romans used.
“Our preliminary analyses shows that the figures drawn on the front of the counter, represent, at least in part, the food and drink that were sold there,” said Amoretti for Reuters.
“We know what they were eating that day,” said Osanna, referring to the day of Pompeii’s destruction in 79 A.D. The food remains indicated “what’s popular with the common folk,” Osanna told Rai state TV, noting that street-food places weren’t frequented by the Roman elite.
A segment of the structure was first discovered in 2019, and since then, archaeologists kept digging until they dug up the entire structure.
The stand features several remarkable frescoes, including images of two upside-down mallards and a rooster, likely an advertisement for the menu. Another fresco depicted a dog on a leash, perhaps reminding walkers to keep their pets on a leash. The painting also features vulgar graffiti, which Romans seem to have been quite fond of.
Nine amphorae were also uncovered, with analysis hopefully revealing their content.
There were also a few surprises about the dig, such as the complete skeleton of a dog — a small dog, about 20-25 cm (8-10 inches) tall at shoulder level. Remains such as this are very rare in Ancient times, and the find suggests that Romans were already mindful of selective breeding for dogs. A bronze ladle, presumably used by the shop owners, was also uncovered.
Pompeii was destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius, near present-day Naples in Italy. It was sealed by the ash and lava, remaining almost like a time capsule offering a peek into the life of the Romans. The eruption covered the city, hiding it up until the 16th century. By the 1700s, clandestine digs started on site with people looking for valuables and in 1750, archaeological digs also started. So far, about two thirds of the entire city has been uncovered.