A snack bar has been fully excavated, complete with food residues, vibrant images, and victims of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 C.E. It is re-opening to serve food to a new generation.
Before Mt. Vesuvius erupted, the city of Pompeii housed 10,000 to 20,000 people, including many wealthy Romans who owned summer homes there. Among the other activities of daily life, the residents of Pompeii would often eat out. There were as many as 80 Thermopolia (snack bars) in the city.
The Archaeological Park of Pompeii has announced that the Thermopolium of Regio V, a snack bar located between Vicolo delle Nozze d’Argento and Vicolo dei Balconi, has been fully excavated. The decorations include an image of a Nereid (sea nymph) astride a sea-horse, and an illustration that appears to be a trademark picture of the shop itself. Amphorae (two-handled clay jar) found in front of the counter are decorated with smaller versions of the same image.
The last section of the counter shows pictures of the animals that were sold there, mallard ducks and a rooster. Laboratory analysis confirmed a fragment of duck bone in one of the dolia jars found embedded in the counter. Other jars contained goats, fish, pig, and land snails. A wine jar was found to contain broken or ground beans, which researchers believe were used to bleach the wine and alter its taste.
As Hershel Shanks wrote in “The Destruction of Pompeii—God’s Revenge?” (Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2010), Mt. Vesuvius eruption came only nine years or so after the Romans had destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Though a substantial Jewish community had been in Rome itself for some two hundred years, as well as large communities in other Mediterranean holdings of the Roman Empire, most Romans would not have made any connection. However, the Sybilline Oracles did reference smoking ashes and showers falling from heaven as “the wrath of the heavenly God.” And at least one Pompeiian, returning to survey the destruction of his home city, scratched “SODOM GOMOR[RAH]” on a surviving wall.
Massimo Osanna, Interim Director General of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, explained the importance of the recent excavations: “The possibilities for study of this Thermopolium are exceptional, because for the first time an area of this type has been excavated in its entirety, and it has been possible to carry out all the analyses that today’s technology permits.” He believes analysis will reveal much more about the normal diet of the people of Pompeii.
Among the other finds was a complete skeleton of a dog. Unlike the intimidating guard dog depicted on the Restaurant’s image, the bones were of an adult dog whose shoulder was only eight to ten inches high. This is a rare indication that the extreme breeding of pet dogs was undertaken in Roman society 2,000 years ago.
There were also human bones found, though those had been moved by lawbreaking 17th-century tunnelers who had been looking for precious objects to sell. One individual, at least fifty years old, had been in bed when Pompeii was destroyed. Another individual’s bones were apparently moved into a large jar by the earlier tunnelers.
The Archaeological Park of Pompeii is continuing laboratory analysis, and will probably continue to announce further discoveries. Read their announcement here. In August of 2021, the Guardian reported that the Thermopolium would be opening to the public, serving food to tourists, just as it did in Pompeii before the eruption of Vesuvius.
This post first appeared in Bible History Daily in December, 2020.
Biblical Archaeology 101: The Ancient Diet of Roman Palestine
The Roman Amphora: Learning from storage jars
How to Find a Brothel in Pompeii
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PLEASE consider using “B.C.” and “A.D.” The pc tidal wave of a volcanic eruption is confusing to many and obnoxious to many also. Thanks for any consideration.
BAS has been honoring scholars’ use of “B.C.E.” and “C.E.” for several decades now. It’s not my decision, but I suspect we will continue to use that widely-accepted demarcation system for many decades to come.
As a scholar, I completely understand the reasons why much of the scholarly community has adopted the designations of BCE and CE to indicate dates on the calendar. The BCE and CE designations are more inclusive because they do not specifically relate to Christianity. However, I have also noticed that many highly influential scholars have chosen to continue the use of BC and AD. These scholars are not just stubborn holdouts. They see very good reasons to maintain the use of the former designations.
Perhaps Greek scholar Vincent Taylor said it best:
“We are bound to consider how we think of time, whether past events are only isolated points in a series, or whether God invades history with abiding consequences. This issue seriously engages the attention of theologians today. It is best considered by reflecting upon (1) events as points in the time-series; (2) events with permanent significance; and (3) events as divine invasions in time.”
I do not believe the advent of God’s Son was part of a mere point-in-time series. I see the birth of the Savior as an invasion of time by God himself. Thus, despite scholarly arguments that Christians should adopt the BCE/CE dating system, it appears to me that many in the scholarly community have completely missed the point. They have either not appreciated or not understood that incredible moment that, when God invaded time in the little town of Bethlehem, He was not simply staging a timeshare for multiple religious communities.
I am with Ed on this request. After all, what is the demarcation point for the ‘common era?” Isn’t if the birth of Jesus Christ? Why try to pretend it is not by giving the epochs new names?