ROME – Wine turned white with crushed fava beans. A soupy concoction of snails, sheep and fish.
They appear to have been all the rage in ancient Pompeii — evidenced by ancient leftovers found during excavations at the archaeological site of the former Roman city. They were found in a thermopolium — or snack bar — serving street food popular in A.D. 79.
Archaeologists began to excavate the interior of the shop in October, two years after it was partly unearthed. In December, they found food and drink residue, which offers "another insight into daily life at Pompeii." It also represents the "first time an area of this type has been excavated in its entirety" and analyzed with modern technology, said Massimo Osanna, the departing director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii.
Life in Pompeii came to an abrupt halt nearly 2,000 years ago, when Mount Vesuvius spilled tons of lapilli, ash and rock onto the city. Over the centuries, Pompeii became a symbol of the transience of life and human impotence when nature unleashes its power.
Since excavations began in 1748, fragments of that civilization have continued to emerge. About 80 thermopolii have been found at Pompeii, where residents could choose their edibles from containers set into street-front counters, but this one was the first completely unearthed, Osanna said.
The one excavated in December included a large dolium, or earthenware vessel, that had contained wine.
"It was full of lapilli, and removing them released a very intense aroma of wine," archaeologist Teresa Virtuoso said. "It was so strong we could smell it through our masks."
At the bottom of a container were traces of ground fava beans, which in ancient times were added to wine for flavor and to lighten its color, said Valeria Amoretti, the anthropologist who heads Pompeii's applied research laboratory.
The contents of two other jars remain to be analyzed, but archaeozoologist Chiara Corbino said it appeared they contained two kinds of dishes: a pork and fish combination and another involving snails, fish and sheep, perhaps a soup or stew. Further analysis is expected to determine whether vegetables were part of the recipe. "We will analyze the contents to determine the ingredients and better understand what kind of dish it was," she said.
Amoretti said the thermopolium provides information that "had never been detected at Pompeii."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.