Archaeologists Uncover a Fresco in Pompeii with a Cheesy Pizza-Like Dish Served on a Silver Platter

June 28, 2023

Grace Ebert

All images courtesy of Archeological Park of Pompeii

Pompeiians—they’re just like us! Hungry for pizza.

Earlier this year, archaeologists excavating a block of houses in Regio IX of the Vesuvian city uncovered a fresco that shows a round, doughy dish resembling the modern favorite. Researchers were quick to point out that pizza, as we know it today, hadn’t been invented when the 2,000-year-old painting was created, although the ancient civilization did enjoy foccacia, a cousin of the tomato and cheese-covered pie.

This dish appears topped with pomegranate, spices, and a cheesy pesto known as moretum. Served on a silver platter accompanied by dried fruit, yellow strawberries, and a chalice filled with wine, the focaccia likely represents a “gift of hospitality,” according to the Archeological Park of Pompeii. These offerings to guests emerged from the Hellenistic period and the Greek practice of Xenia, which also describes the genre of paintings depicting this tradition.

Approximately 300 frescoes of ancient food have been found around Pompeii, although this still life is particularly well executed. While the work offers insight into what the buried civilization ate, director Gabriel Zuchtriegel says it also has implications for how we understand the evolution of food and wealth, sharing:

I think about the contrast between a modest and simple meal that reminds us of a sphere that stands between the pastoral and the sacred on one side, and the luxury of the silver trays and the refinement of the artistic and literary representations on the opposite side. When considering this matter, how can we not think about pizza, also born as a ‘poor’ dish in southern Italy that has now conquered the world and is served in Michelin star restaurants.

This discovery comes three years after archaeologists in Pompeii uncovered an impeccably preserved snack shop that served up fish, fowl, and of course, plenty of wine.




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