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Earth Science

Ancient Pompeii Diet Consisted of Giraffe and Other "Exotic'" Delicacies 172

Philip Ross writes "New research into Pompeiians' daily lives is broadening our understanding of this ancient Roman culture, particularly their eating habits, before Mt. Vesuvius brought it all crumbling down nearly 2,000 years ago. Over the past decade, archaeologists excavating a row of building plots discovered remnants of food that would have been widely available and inexpensive in ancient Italy, like grains, fruits, olives, lentils, local fish, nuts and chicken eggs. They also uncovered evidence that Pompeiians enjoyed a variety of exotic foods, some of which would have been imported from outside Italy, including sea urchins, flamingos and even the butchered leg joint of a giraffe."
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Ancient Pompeii Diet Consisted of Giraffe and Other "Exotic'" Delicacies

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  • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @09:21PM (#45874725)
    I think you're onto something. TFA says this was in the section of the city that was "non-elite." I guess it's human nature to want to buy silly things to make yourself look like you're higher in society than you actually feel.

    Unrelated question, anyone have a reccomendation for the best fake-diamond studded case for my iphone?
  • exotic (Score:5, Informative)

    by belmolis ( 702863 ) <billposer@a l u m . m it.edu> on Sunday January 05, 2014 @10:16PM (#45875123) Homepage
    Sea urchins aren't exotic for Italy. They may be considered an exotic food in North America, but they're indigenous to the Mediterranean and eaten in the region.
  • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @10:44PM (#45875257)

    It didn't matter if it tasted good, the point was you were showing off your ability to buy meat from an animal that lived thousands of miles away.

    No refrigeration.

    So if there was a butchered leg joint, chances are that is all there really was. Just a souvenir joint, perhaps for bone carving. Seems unlikely you would butcher and salt a Giraffe, AND take the bones with you. Too heavy. No food value.

    Well, you could just, you know, bring captured live animals back with you to sell as a delicacy or for use as a pet/in the arena. Simply google "giraffes in the coliseum" and the very first hit has a list of exotic animals shown in the Coliseum, as well as documents in a particular festival where 19 giraffes were killed. So if a giraffe bone made it to Pompeii, it was very likely alive when it got there.

  • by jonze ( 73484 ) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @10:57PM (#45875317)

    Any Roman city with self esteem had an arena for gladiator games. Part of these was the mass slaughter of 'exotic' animals. Not just predators such as Lions and Tigers but Flamingo's, Giraf's, Anteloupes and the like. In fact, the capture and import of these animals was big business and Rome emptied entire regions of its wildlife. Lions, for instance, are still extinct in Syria as a result of the capture and transport of Lions to the arena's of Rome. Quite a bit of the meat from these games found it's way to the market and was even given to the poor to show the generosity of the games organizers.

  • by immaterial ( 1520413 ) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @11:03PM (#45875337)
    It is important to note that in ancient Roman times, many species that are now confined to sub-Saharan Africa were living in North Africa (and some all the way into Greece) because of the wetter climate. This includes elephants, lions, and giraffes. These "exotic" animals weren't as far away as it seems.
  • what ??? (Score:4, Informative)

    by giampy ( 592646 ) on Sunday January 05, 2014 @11:23PM (#45875439) Homepage

    ... I hear they taste like chicken.

    WHAT ??? Sea urchins taste like chicken ?? No way!! If you have to find a comparison perhaps caviar is the closer (but still far) one, since you basically eat the eggs of the female urchin.

    In any case sea urchins are more of a delicacy or condiment at best, not a consistent source of proteins. If anything because finding them, fishing them (and opening them) requires some dedicated manual effort, which is not easy to scale or automate.

  • by mi ( 197448 ) <slashdot-2017q4@virtual-estates.net> on Monday January 06, 2014 @12:00AM (#45875613) Homepage Journal

    If the history's first FDA-like authority approved of giraffe [telegraph.co.uk] even for the Chosen, why should we be surprised, the unenlightened pagans ate it?

    What is interesting in the article is that the Romans possessed the technology — and the economy — to bring such exotics foods into Italy from thousands of miles away in a manner, that, while possibly expensive, was still affordable for the citizenry.

    But we've known of such achievements for ages — Romans, for example, have largely stopped growing wheat in Italy long before Julius Caesar. Because it was cheaper to bring stuff over from Africa. (This made Egypt the place of strategic importance in the later civil wars.)

"What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying." -- Nikita Khrushchev