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Pompeii Food and Drink: Purpose of Project

Would you like to investigate what daily life was like in the early Roman empire? Have you read novels about the last days of Pompeii and want to know more? Would you like to walk the streets of this ancient city with experts who know its history, and not as a fleeting tourist? The Pompeii Food and Drink Project offers an unequaled opportunity to explore the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, Italy, as a research participant in an ongoing noninvasive (that means no digging) study with a staff of historians, architects, and classicists.

measuring team, Pompeii Food and Drink ProjectThe opportunity to engage in this research may soon disappear. Pompeii is one of 100 most endangered cultural sites listed by the World Monuments Fund. Pollution is rapidly causing the crumbling of stone structures, the fading of frescoes, and the destruction of magnificent mosaic floors.

Our next trip to Pompeii, in June and July 2014, will be our thirteenth season of on-site research in Pompeii. Join us as a volunteer team member or help our work as a sponsor.

Project Schedule for 2014

Learn About Opportunities for Team Members

Learn About Opportunities for Sponsors

Read about our beautiful accommodations at Villa dei Misteri. The hotel takes its name from the ruins of an ancient Pompeian villa located on the same street. The villa is known for a fresco portraying the initiation rites (or "mysteries") of the Dionysian cult.

Week 1 June 22 to June 28
Week 2 June 29 to July 5
Week 3 July 6 to July 12
The cost is $1600 per week. All team members may sign up for one, two, or three weeks. Details...

Background

In 79 C.E., an eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius buried the thriving 600-year-old Roman city of Pompeii and surrounding villas with 20 feet of pumice, volcanic ash, and other pyroclastic materials. The city remained almost forgotten until 250 years ago, when excavations began to uncover many buildings and their contents that were preserved in a remarkable manner. Within the wall of this 157 acre city are houses, shops, temples, baths, markets, and sidewalks that attest to Pompeii's social and economic vibrancy.

While early discoveries focused on public buildings, temples, theaters, and lifestyles of the affluent, modern scholars have become more interested in down-to-earth topics. Wilhelmina Jashemski excavated and documented all the gardens and plant life of the ancient city. Her students include the Principal Researchers of our Pompeii Food and Drink Project and they have continued her approach. Betty Jo Mayeske has concentrated on Pompeian bakeries; Robert Curtis and Benedict Lowe are experts on all aspects of garum manufacture and trade.

Oven in Commercial Bakery, Pompeii
Oven in Commercial Bakery

Research Objectives

The research goal is to analyze the patterns of daily life by a noninvasive study of the structures that are associated with the storage, distribution, preparation, serving, and consumption of food and drink. Our objectives are:

  • To identify rooms and spaces associated with food and drink in the following structural categories: Residential, Commercial, Public, Religious, and Other. Over 1435 structures will be examined.
  • To document the rooms, spaces, and features of structures in all categories, by measurements, sketches, and photographs. See a graphical summary of our activities from 2001-2012.
  • To organize and preserve the massive amount of collected information so that it can be analyzed and be made available to others. A comprehensive electronic database, Food and Drink in Ancient Pompeii Codex, includes the structure address, floor plans, features shown in original drawings, video, and digital, color, black/white photographs. A printed guide will also be prepared. See our online demonstration of the database here.
  • To determine the spatial relationships of structures to one another, and the patterns of daily life, by using a Geographic Information System (GIS).
  • To present city-planning lessons learned from the analysis of ancient Pompeii about building an enduring and healthy urban environment in the 21st century.

Why Is This Research Important?

Vesuvius in ActionThe historical context of Pompeii remains unique and permits an analysis of daily Roman life of great scope, complexity, and variety. In particular, there are many questions to be answered about food and drink production, storage, preparation and consumption and yet we can't be certain how long we can continue this research.

Pompeii is protected and cared for, but is under stress from pollution, weather, vandalism, and the more than 2 million tourists each year have further imperiled the site. Vesuvius remains an active volcano; earthquakes are not uncommon. The Pompeii Food and Drink Project urgently needs to continue its research before valuable information and artifacts are irretrievably lost. You can help as a volunteer team member or support our work as a sponsor.

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