Archaeology of food

Vessels of Poggio Civitate

Archaeologists continue to make fascinating discoveries regarding ancient foodways, and it is particularly exciting to see the younger generation involved in this research. Among the highlights of the recent meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Toronto were two posters presented by young scholars: 

Andrew Carroll gave a lesson in Etruscan cheese-making with his theory that some curious perforated ceramic vessels from Poggio Civitate (Murlo, Italy) were for heating milk to make cheese.  Found more than 30 years ago, these vessels had been interpreted as flower pots! Poggio Civitate is the findspot as well of numerous sheep bones, suggesting that the cheese was an early pecorino.  

At the other end of the food production spectrum, Caroline Cheung and Gina Tibbott’s poster focused on the repair of dolia, the Roman storage vessels for a variety of foodstuffs both solid and liquid including wine, oil, grain, and fish sauce. These massive, heavy vessels were obviously so expensive that if it was worth repairing their cracks with lead tenons and staples.