Archaeologists at the excavations of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii found a wall painting depicting a flatbread that looks so similar to Italian pizza that there were suggestions that it was its ancestor.
The discovery was proudly announced by the Italian Ministry of Culture.
However, to be considered a true classic pizza, the tortilla lacks the main ingredient: tomato sauce. This, however, is not surprising because the ancient Romans did not suspect the existence of tomatoes. The vegetable, which has become a symbol of Italian cuisine, was born in South America and appeared on the Apennine Peninsula only in the middle of the 16th century.
A fresco with “pizza” was found during recent excavations in the hall of a house located next to the Pompeian bakery. Archaeologists divided the entire city into nine districts, and the painting was found in District IX.
The building was partially excavated back in the 19th century, but work resumed only in January of this year – almost 2,000 years after the volcanic eruption that buried the city.
Cakes smeared with cheese paste were a widespread snack for the poorer segments of the population of the Roman Empire. This pasta was called momentum and consisted of salted cheese, garlic, and herbs. Some culinary historians consider it the ancestor of the Italian pesto sauce, which also includes cheese, garlic, and fragrant herbs.
The main difference from momentum is that in ancient Rome, the most common cheeses were goat and sheep, while in pesto, there was “Parmesan” made from cow’s milk.
Director of the Pompeii Archaeological Park Gabriel Zuchtrigel said that the most remarkable thing about this fresco is the contrast between “humble and simple food” and “the luxury of a silver plate.”
“Involuntarily, pizza comes to mind, born as a dish of the poor in southern Italy, which has now conquered the whole world and is even served in expensive restaurants,” he said.
The Italian Ministry of Culture also said that the remains of three people were found next to the stove in the kitchen of the excavated house.
The eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD covered Pompeii with ashes, “mothballing” the city and its inhabitants at the time of death.
Pompeii is located just 23 km from Naples, the birthplace of modern Italian pizza.