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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Investigating Food Preparation Strategies Within the Pompeian Home in the First Century CE

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Between July and September of 2019, I conducted dissertation research supported by a grant from the Stahl Endowment of the Archaeological Research Facility investigating how the inhabitants of 1st-century CE Pompeii (Italy) prepared their daily meals and what factors influenced their choice of cooking techniques. Through an examination of the frequencies of particular types of vessels (bronze and ceramic) and utensils used for food and drink preparation recovered in the course of earlier excavations from a series of properties in Pompeii, my research reconsiders what constituted the standard batterie de cuisine within the Pompeian kitchen and how this could be modified according to the needs and preferences of the one stocking the shelves. I also attempt to reconstruct the various cooking methods employed and preferences exhibited by the cooks who used these cookwares through an analysis of use alterations (e.g. sooting/fire blackening, scratching, denting, etc.) exhibited by these objects. My research in 2019 was principally devoted to documenting such signs of use. The properties selected for my study represent a range of property types – modest and grand houses, commercial food establishments, and suburban villas – allowing us to better appreciate how food preparation strategies differed between households, as well as residential and more commercial properties. These differences can be seen as indicators of the socioeconomic priorities and individual tastes of those who prepared and consumed the meals within these different contexts.

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