National Geographic : 2015 May
PHOTOS: SAMUEL MAGAL, SITES & PHOTOS LTD/BRIDGEMAN IMAGES (TOP); ANNA-MARIE KELLEN, EGYPTIAN MUSEUM, CAIRO Ancient Worlds EXPLORE MEAT MUMMY Prepared as food for eternity, beef ribs in a coffin were buried with King Tut’s great-grandparents in Egypt in about 1350 B.C. Now a study has identified the resin used to preserve the meat: sap from trees related to the pistachio. The sap may also have served as flavoring. “This mummy may show the origins of using it in food,” says study co-author Salima Ikram. Today a type of the smoky resin, called mastic, spices up dishes and drinks in countries around the Mediterranean. —ARW Pheasant dumplings. Ostrich stew. Roasted flamingo. Recipes surviving from ancient Rome suggest that such delicacies may have been served at posh ban- quets. However, archaeologists who’ve picked through the trash heaps of his- tory—dumps, sewers, and cesspits—say such exotic treats were rare then, and Romans generally ate locally sourced foods very similar to what Italians eat today. At the coastal site of Herculaneum, in a sewer that was in use until the cat- astrophic volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D . 79, archaeologists have found a wealth of clues to the locals’ diet. Sifting through the remains of scraps flushed down the drains of shops and apartments, they’ve identified 114 different foods—45 species of fish alone, as well as traces of pigs, sheep, and chickens and a variety of herbs, fruits, nuts, and grains. In the ruins of nearby Pompeii, the University of Winnipeg’s Michael MacKin- non has studied the leftovers of Romans’ favorite meat: pork. Rich and poor ate it, fixed according to their means, he says: “They’ll both have a pork chop on their plate, but the rich will probably put more expensive spices on it.” —A . R . Williams Feasts of the Romans The kitchen in this mural from a villa in Pompeii is stocked with a rare food, thrushes, and a common one, eggs.