No, That's Not an Ancient Pizza

2K-year-old Pompeii fresco looks like pizza, but the ingredients weren't around at the time
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 28, 2023 12:08 PM CDT
No, That's Not an Ancient Pizza
This picture provided on Tuesday, June 27, 2023, by the Pompeii Archaeological Park shows the wall of an ancient Pompeian house with a fresco depicting a table with food. The fresco was found in the atrium of a house in Insula 10 of Regio IX under excavation, to which a bakery was annexed.   (Pompeii Archaeological Park via AP, ho)

A still-life fresco discovered recently in Pompeii looks like it depicts a pizza, but it doesn't, experts at the archaeological site said Tuesday. They noted that key ingredients needed to make Italy's iconic dish—tomatoes and mozzarella—were not available when the fresco was painted some 2,000 years ago. As the AP reports, tomatoes were only introduced to Europe from the Americas a few centuries ago, and some histories have it that the discovery of mozzarella led directly to the invention of pizza in nearby Naples in the 1700s.

The image is instead believed to be a focaccia covered with fruit, including pomegranate and possibly dates, finished with spices or a type of pesto, experts said. In the fresco, it is served on a silver plate and a wine chalice stands next to it. The contrast of the frugal meal served in a luxurious setting, denoted by the silver tray, is not unlike modern-day pizza, "born as a poor-man's dish in southern Italy, which has won over the world and is served even in starred restaurants," said Gabriel Zuchtriegel, director of the Pompeii archaeological site. Today, pizza represents one-third of the food budget of foreign visitors and generates total annual revenues of $16.4 billion in Italy.

(More pizza stories.)

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