Mallard to go? Dig of Pompeii fast-food place reveals tastes

ROME (AP) - A Pompeii fast food restaurant was excavated to reveal dishes popular with the citizens of the ancient Roman city who loved to dine out.
Massimo Osanna, longtime head of the Pompeii Archaeological Park, said Saturday that while around 80 such fast foods have been found in Pompeii, it is the first time that such a hot food and drink restaurant known as Thermopolium has been fully excavated.
A portion of the fast food counter was partially excavated during the works in 2019 to prop up the often crumbling ruins of Pompeii. Since then, archaeologists have continued to dig and uncovered a multi-sided counter with typical wide holes in the top. The worktop contained deep vessels for hot meals, similar to soup containers embedded in modern salad bars.
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Plant and animal specialists are still analyzing remains of the site, the counter-fresco of which is decorated with a figure of an underwater nymph on a horse. Pictures of two upturned mallards and a rooster, whose plumage was painted in the typical vibrant color of Pompeii red, also brightened up the place and probably served to promote the menu.
Another fresco showed a dog on a leash, perhaps no different than modern memories of pets on a leash. Vulgar graffiti was inscribed on the frame of the painting.
Valeria Amoretti, an anthropologist from Pompeii, said: "Initial analyzes confirm how the painted pictures represent, at least in part, the food and drinks sold in them." Her statement stated that fragments of duck bones, as well as remains of goats, pigs, fish and snails, were found in one of the containers. At the bottom of a wine container there were traces of ground fava beans that were added to wine in ancient times to improve the taste and lighten its color, Amoretti said.
"We know what they ate that day," said Osanna, referring to the day when Pompeii was destroyed in AD 79. The food continues to be referred to as "what is popular with the common people," not by the Roman elite visited.
The complete skeleton of a dog was a surprise find. The excavators were fascinated by the discovery because it was not a "large, muscular dog like the one painted on the counter, but an extremely small example" of an adult dog whose height at shoulder height was 20 to 25 centimeters (8-). up to -10 inches), said Amoretti. It is quite rare, Amoretti said, to find remains from ancient times of such small dogs, discoveries that "confirm the selective breeding in the Roman era to achieve this result".
Also unearthed were a bronze ladle, nine amphorae, which were popular food containers in Roman times, a couple of bottles, and a ceramic oil container.
Successful restaurateurs know that a good location can make all the difference, and the operator of this old fast food seemed to have found a good spot. Osanna noticed that right in front of the restaurant there was a small square with a fountain and another thermopoly nearby.
Pompeii was destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius near what is now Naples. Much of the ancient city has not yet been excavated. The place is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy.
Human remains were also discovered when the restaurant was excavated.
These bones were apparently disrupted during secret excavations in the 17th century by thieves looking for valuables, the authorities in Pompeii said. Some of the bones belonged to a man who appeared to be lying on a bed or cot when Mount Vesuvius erupted after nails and pieces of wood were found under his body, authorities said. Other human remains have been found in one of the counter's ships, possibly placed there centuries ago by those dredgers.

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