Researchers said on Saturday that they had discovered a fresco-painted thermopole, or fast food counter, in an exceptional conservation condition in Pompeii.
The ornate snack bar bench, decorated with polychrome patterns and frozen in volcanic ash, was partially excavated last year, but archaeologists expanded the work on the site to reveal it in its full glory.
Pompeii was buried in a sea of boiling lava when the volcano on nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. and killed between 2,000 and 15,000 people.
Archaeologists, however, continue to discover there.
Thermopolium by #RegioV, a bar in #Pompeii, complete with a picture of a Nereid riding a seahorse, had previously been partially excavated in 2019. It now appears in its entirety with rich decorative still life frescoes, food scraps, animal bones and victims of the eruption . pic.twitter.com/OEqh2sbAmm
– Pompeii Websites (@pompeii_sites) December 26, 2020
The Thermopolium of Regio V at a busy intersection between Silver Wedding Street and the Alley of Balconies was the Roman era’s equivalent of a fast food stop.
Earlier, a fresco was discovered with a picture of a Nereid nymph riding a seahorse and gladiators in battle.
In the final phase of their work, archaeologists uncovered a number of still life scenes, including depictions of animals believed to have been on the menu, especially mallards and also a rooster, to serve wine or hot beverages.
Researchers were also able to retrieve valuable new information on gastronomic habits in the city from the eruption, which engulfed Pompeii and the nearby city of Herculaneum as they tried to flee only to be engulfed by pyroclastic lava flows or falling buildings.
The team found duck bone fragments as well as the remains of pigs, goats, fish and snails in pots of earthenware. Some of the ingredients had been prepared instead of a paella from Roman times.
Crushed fava beans, which are used to modify the taste of the wine, were found at the bottom of a jar.
Witness to antiquity
“In addition to testifying to the daily life of Pompeii, the possibilities for analyzing this thermopolium are exceptional because, for the first time, we have excavated a site in its entirety,” said Massimo Osanna, Director General of the Pompeii Archaeological Park.
Amphorae, a water tower and a fountain were also found next to human remains, including those of a man believed to have been 50 years old and discovered near a child’s bed.
“The counter seems to have been shut down in a hurry and abandoned by its owner, but it is possible that someone, perhaps the oldest man, stayed behind and disappeared during the first phase of the outbreak,” Osanna told the news agency Ansa.
The remains of another person could be either an opportunistic thief or someone fleeing the eruption who “was surprised by the burning fumes just as he had his hand on the lid of the pot he had just opened”, Osanna added.
Thermopoly – the word comes from the Greek “thermos” for hot and “poleo” to sell – was very popular in the Roman world. Pompeii alone had about 80.
Pompeii is Italy’s second most visited place after the Coliseum in Rome and last year attracted about four million tourists.