Original Article

Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 409-419

First online:

Roman food refuse: urban archaeobotany in Pompeii, Regio VI, Insula 1

  • Charlene MurphyAffiliated withInstitute of Archaeology, University College London
  • , Gill ThompsonAffiliated withDivision of Archaeological, Geographical and Environmental Sciences, University of Bradford
  • , Dorian Q. FullerAffiliated withInstitute of Archaeology, University College London Email author 

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Although world-renowned as an archaeological site, there have been few research projects in Pompeii looking at the spatial and chronological patterning of plant food use from an archaeobotanical perspective. The recent 12 years of archaeological excavations (1995–2006) by the Anglo-American Project in Pompeii have provided a rare opportunity to investigate a whole city block (Regione VI, Insula 1). This included a blanket sampling strategy of all contexts where archaeobotanical macro-remains, both carbonised and calcium phosphate replaced material, have been recovered, the results from which are reported here. The low density scatters of recurrent taxa from the majority of contexts examined in this study suggest that they were composed of table waste and kitchen food preparation waste and represent an expected ‘background noise’ of Roman cooking and consumption. This includes the standard ‘Mediterranean package’ of olives, grapes, figs, cereals and pulses. The general lack of evidence for crop-processing within the insula suggests that this was probably carried out elsewhere, probably within the city’s hinterland. These results support the established view that Pompeii was a fully urbanised city in the 1st century b.c. There appears to be an increase in olive consumption in the 1st century a.d., which may be suggested to correlate with ‘Romanisation’ and an increase in olive growing in the region.


Crop-processing Agriculture Trade Olives Spatial distribution Italy