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This article has been translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors can occur due to this process.
This Saturday the discovery of an old fast food street stall in Pompeii was unveiled. Buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius almost 2,000 years ago, Thermopoly was a fast food restaurant that served food and drinks. The counter, which is in an exceptional state of preservation, still shows the original decoration and even leftovers.
The facility was partially discovered in 2019 but has so far been shown to the public. Bright frescoes hang on the walls that include an image of a nereid on a seahorse, drawings of animals (which were likely part of the menu), and an illustration that researchers believe could be the store's brand.
#RegioV's Thermopolium, a bar in #Pompeii, with the image of a nereid riding a seahorse, was partially excavated as early as 2019. Animal bones & victims of the outbreak. pic.twitter.com/OEqh2sbAmm
– Pompeii websites (@pompeii_sites) December 26, 2020
The terracotta jars in which ingredients and food, kitchen utensils, animal bones and leftovers were kept have been preserved. Traces of pork, fish, duck, goat, snails and veal as well as ground beans and wine were found. All of this gives indications of the gastronomic habits of the ancient inhabitants of Pompeii.
These stalls were very popular in Roman cities and were used to serve hot food to the lower classes of the city. As archaeologists explain, they could explain the origins of "takeaway" and fast food. More than eighty thermopoles have been discovered in Pompeii alone, but this is the first to be fully shown.
"The opportunities to analyze this thermopoly are not only a testimony to daily life in Pompeii, but also extraordinary, as a complete set has been discovered for the first time," said Massimo Osanna, Director General of the Pompeii Archaeological Park, in a statement.
The top of the bar is filled with recessed containers that can be used to store wine or food. They were covered with a lid to protect the product. Beans that were used to bleach wine were found in one of them. pic.twitter.com/AlAOsfYyEO
– Fernando Lillo Redonet (@LilloRedonet) December 26, 2020
In the same room, behind the counter, human bones were found, including those of a man in his fifties near a cot, as well as amphoras, a cistern, and a well.
"The Thermopoly looks like it was hastily closed and abandoned by its owners, although it is possible that someone, perhaps the older man, stayed in the first phase of the outbreak and died when the attic collapsed," explained Osanna in an interview with the local agency Ansa.
Another skeleton found could be that of a thief or a hungry refugee, "surprised by the burning fumes holding the lid of the container he had just opened in one hand," he added.
In addition, it is likely that this particular location was very popular as it is at the intersection of Bodas de Plata and Los Balcones streets, an area very busy in its day.
Thermopolia (a word from the Greek thermopōlion, which means "hot food for sale") was very common in the Roman world. Jennifer Viegas, a Rome expert at the University of Buffalo, described it in a 2019 ABC News article as a cross between "Burger King, a British pub and a Spanish tapas bar".
The "Thermopolia" (the compound word comes from the Greek "Thermopōlion", which means "hot food") were very common in the Roman world, with only about 80 in Pompeii. Pic.twitter.com/1Lm2PuSf6l
– Telam Agency (@AgenciaTelam) December 26, 2020
Pompeii, located about 23 km southeast of Naples in Italy, was buried in 79 AD after the surprising volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The thick layer of ash helped preserve the city and the remains of its inhabitants, making it an exceptional source of archaeological information. So far, archaeologists have only managed to uncover a third of the 44 hectares of the site.
The archaeological zone of Pompeii is the second most visited place in Italy after the Roman Colosseum with nearly four million visits in 2019. It is currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but is expected to be open to the public again by Easter 2021.