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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the directors of the AAPP Rick Jones and Damian Robinson for the use of Insula VI.1 images and archaeological advice. Thanks also to the other staff working on the AAPP, in particular other environmental specialists (Andrew Jones, Jane Richardson, and Robyn Veal), project manager Hillary Cool, coin specialist Richard Hobbs, and field director Michael Anderson. Thanks to Arthur and Jennifer Stephens for the kind permission to use their photomosaic image of Insula VI.1. Finally, we wish to thank Pietro Giovanni Guzzo (Soprintendente), Antonio D’Ambrosio, the helpful custodi and laboratory staff of the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Pompei, particularly Annamaria Ciarallo for the kind use of the laboratory facilities over the course of the AAPP field seasons in Pompeii. Thanks to Michèle Wollstonecroft for her helpful comments and corrections on an early draft of this article. Finally, we would like to offer our thanks to the editor and reviewers for their helpful comments.

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Communicated by M. van der Veen.

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Murphy, C., Thompson, G. & Fuller, D.Q. Roman food refuse: urban archaeobotany in Pompeii, Regio VI, Insula 1. Veget Hist Archaeobot 22, 409–419 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00334-012-0385-8

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Keywords

  • Crop-processing
  • Agriculture
  • Trade
  • Olives
  • Spatial distribution
  • Italy