In the year 79, Pompeii was a prosperous city. The economy is stable, the high standard of living and it benefits from an ideal location, being open on the Mediterranean. On October 24, Pompeii is destroyed by the eruption of mount Vesuvius, which then causes a subsequent burial of the city under tons of pumice and ash. The people – except the lucky few who manage to escape are doomed. Since then, the archaeologists found in Pompeii a playground and idyllic, the city was frozen as such by the lava.
The excavations carried on the site have brought to light many data about ancient life daily, which was taking place within the city. Proof is with the last exhibition immersive devoted to Pompeii at the Grand Palais, and offers a virtual ride in the past. Beside it, the museum of Man – institute laboratory, in collaboration with the national archaeological museum of Naples, the B-side of this great retrospective. A scientific exhibition and archaeobotany baptized Last Meal in Pompeii. A trip back in time, to the discovery of organic remains charred, found at Pompeii and Herculaneum. Typically kept in the reserves of the museum of Naples in the collezione of commestibili, these food products go out for the first time in Italy.
The prism of food and of natural history
Number of exhibitions have been about Pompeii. After Naples last year, which was in Res Rustica, the museum of the Trocadéro is only the second to shed light on the ancient city by studying the food practices that take place there, how the Pompeians lived, as well as the traditional rites of various meals. "This exhibition, originally scheduled in march, is very important for us in order to revive the museum after this period of crisis. After having been stuck in Italy, Covid-19 forces, objects on loan from Naples were finally able to get to Paris. In addition, nobody is interested in power at the time of Pompeii. The subject is highly interesting to the museum as a laboratory of research ", underlines André Delpuech, the director of the institution.
Ruins of Pompeii © Manuel Cohen / Manuel Cohen
Last Meal in Pompeii is part of the great exhibit at the museum of Man, I eat therefore I am, opened last October and will continue until the end of August. The power supply is, in effect, a prism through which the natural history dangled the facets of botany or archaeology. It also helps to shape the organization of our societies through natural constraints (physiological or environmental) or cultural (norms, rituals and values), as evidenced by the retrospective.
Lenses carbonized © GIORGIO ALBANO/national archaeological Museum of Naples
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Resurrect the daily life and the culinary heritage roman
Presented at the Balcony of the science museum, the visitor is immersed in the heart of an important collection of foods frozen by the lava and ash. The first showcase offers a view on a great loaf of bread charred, yet intact. The bread was a commodity of fundamental importance in the daily diet of the inhabitants of the Ancient world. Nearly forty bakeries were open in Pompeii. "And for people who do not have enough to make their own bread, offered by the city of kitchen street in order to make his bread and sell it," explains Véronique Zech, scientific advisor of the exhibition and an archaeologist at the Museum and the CNRS. "Many kinds existed since, at the time, dozens of wheats like emmer – now gone – were grown ", supports the archaeologist. Follow the other basic food consumed by the Pompeians.
Figs carbonized © national archaeological Museum of Naples
Nuts carbonized © GIORGIO ALBANO/national archaeological Museum of Naples
The plan of the exhibition is inspired by that of a pompeian house, the Villa of the Mysteries, famous for its frescoes dedicated to the cult mysteries. We enter through the kitchen (culina), "a piece often of very small size which followed the entrance of a villa," said Magdalena Ruiz Marmolejo, curator of the exhibition and curator of the heritage museum. The dining room (Triclinum), which gave on an ancient garden, was also a central place of the house. It is here that the inhabitants expose their glasses. Rare products from the coast of syro-palestinian according to Pliny the Elder, the Pompeians were very fond of. "This is also where you place the Lares (laranium) or the worship of the gods of the home and family life. The father was of the offerings on a small altar of etruscan origin and often related to the fire, where its proximity with the kitchen. This cult is one of the oldest in Italy, " says the curator of the exhibition, which reminds us that the people at the time segmentaient as today their day into different meals. Breakfast is often very light, which a cup of cool water and a piece of bread. A breakfast consisting of bread, cheese, fruit and olives. The true and expected time of the day was the dinner (Cena). He began to 16 hours and was five hours before the bellaria, service of fruits, pastries, honey and jams.
Book of ancient recipes © national archaeological Museum of Naples
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Often, fantasy, scenes of banquets the romans were strictly governed by codes of good manners. The exhibition informs the public about the rules of hospitality that structured the life in Pompeii. According to authors such as Pliny the Younger, Cicero, or Apuleius and according to the inscriptions still visible on the walls of the city, the behaviours of the master of the house and of the guests were obeying a code of civility. Guests should provide gifts, meals or dishes – at the end of a meal or does not humiliate or treat him with cruelty to the guests, while the latter had to exercise control and do not collapse under the effects of drink or not to exclude arbitrarily any person. "If bad attitudes were found, the inhabitants could, in the manner of graffiti, today, to denounce on the walls of the city's bad practices," says Magdalena Ruiz Marmolejo.
bread, a staple food in the lighthouse of the ancient city, © GIORGIO ALBANO/national archaeological Museum of Naples
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archaeobotany, a discipline unknown
Last Meal in Pompeii is created thanks to a scientific discipline unknown to the general public, archaeobotany. Derived from the archaeology, it is to be studied from the remains of plant origins from archaeological excavations, the nature and culture interactions between the human societies of the past and the plant world, from prehistoric times until today. The latter also allows you to compile a history of the biodiversity, of past environments and the history of societies, exploring in particular the exploitation of plant resources and their evolution. The field, that the men of science are place into the bio-archaeology, is positioned between the paleobotany, in other words, the study of plant fossils, and the ethnobotanical, or human relationships-plants in contemporary societies.
Last Meal at Pompeii, until January 4, 2021 at the musée de l'homme, 17, place du Trocadéro, 75006 Paris. Every day except Tuesday, from 11 hours to 19 hours. Tel. 01 44 05 72 72.