The ancient Romans seem to have had a passion for pizza — or at least something close to it. Archaeologists in the ancient city of Pompeii said Tuesday they have uncovered an ancient fresco depicting a precursor to modern-day pizza. A topped flatbread, but without tomatoes and cheese, can be seen in the 2000-year-old painting. The curious image was discovered during recent excavations on a half-collapsed wall. You can see a silver plate with the round flatbread next to fresh fruit and dried fruit such as pomegranate and dates as well as a goblet with red wine.
"What is pictured here on the wall of an ancient house in Pompeii could be a distant ancestor of the modern dish," say experts at the archaeological site in southern Italy, referring to the pizza that is now popular around the world. However, "a few of the most typical ingredients such as tomatoes and mozzarella" were missing. Tomatoes originated in Central America with the Aztecs and only came to Italy long after the destruction of Pompeii.
Archaeologists assume that the fresco shows gifts that were given to guests at the time. This custom dates back to ancient Greece and was described by Roman authors such as Virgil and Philostratus. "How could we not think of pizza," explained the German director of the archaeological site, Gabriel Breeding Bar. He recalled that pizza was invented in southern Italy as a poor man's food and has now "conquered the world and is also served in starred restaurants". Italy's Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano said: "Pompeii never ceases to amaze us, it's a jewel case that always reveals new treasures."
The new excavations also revealed the atrium of a house, which included an annex with a bakery. The skeletons of three people were found in the work area near the furnace. Pompeii was buried by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, but is unusually well preserved by the volcanic ash. The archaeological remains have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. Archaeologists assume that 15 to 20 percent of the population of Pompeii died in the volcanic eruption. About a third of the 22-hectare archaeological site is still buried under volcanic ash.