Analysis of a fresco depicting a still life discovered recently in new excavations at Pompeii, the southern Italian city destroyed by the volcano Vesuvius in AD 79. C., has shown a surprising discovery, since appears what could be an ancestor dish of the current pizza, reported today the archaeological area in a note.
It is clear, they emphasize, that what is seen in this Pompeian fresco from 2,000 years ago is not a pizza, “obviously it cannot be, since some of the most characteristic ingredients are missingsuch as tomato and mozzarella” but yes that “what was represented on the wall of an old Pompeian house could be a distant ancestor of the modern dish, elevated to World Heritage in 2017 as traditional art of the Neapolitan pizza maker”.
As explained by archaeologists from the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, “it is supposed that together with a glass of wine, placed on a silver tray, a ‘focaccia’ is represented, a type of flatbread that serves as a support for various fruits, identifiable is a pomegranate and perhaps a date, seasoned with spices or with a kind of pesto (moretum in Latin), indicated by yellowish and ocher dots. In addition, present on the same tray, nuts and a garland of yellow strawberry trees, along with dates and pomegranates.
They explain that “this type of image, known in antiquity under the name of ‘xenia’, they were inspired by the gifts offered to the guests according to a Greek tradition dating back to Hellenistic times (3rd-1st centuries BC)”.
Of the cities under Vesuvius, they explain, “About three hundred of these representations are known, which often also allude to the sacred sphere, in addition to that of hospitality” but highlight the “remarkable quality of execution” of the new fresco found in the new excavations of Regio IX, as the Pompeian houses are called.
“In addition to the precise identification of the foods represented, we find in this fresco some themes of the Hellenistic tradition, elaborated later by authors of the Roman-imperial era such as Virgil, Martial and Philostratus. I think of the contrast between a frugal and simple meal, which refers to an area between the bucolic and the sacred, on the one hand, and the luxury of silver trays and the refinement of artistic and literary representations”, commented the director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, Gabriel Zuchtriegel.
The fresco was found in the atrium of a house in Insula 10 of Regio IX, which has an attached bakery, already partially explored between 1888 and 1891 and whose investigations were resumed last January.
The structures excavated in the 19th century and partially exposed already suggested the presence of a large atrium with the classic succession of rooms on the east side and, on the opposite side, the entrance to the productive sector of the kiln.