Diet at the docks: Living and dying at the port of ancient Rome

phys.org | 9/22/2011 | Staff
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Portus Romae was established in the middle of the first century AD and for well over 400 years was Rome's gateway to the Mediterranean. The port played a key role in funnelling imports—e.g. foodstuffs, wild animals, marble and luxury goods—from across the Mediterranean and beyond to the citizens of Rome and was vital to the pre-eminence of the city in the Roman Mediterranean.

But, what of the people who lived, worked and died there?

Study - Today - Antiquity - Team - Researchers

In a study published today in Antiquity, an international team of researchers present the results of the analysis of plant, animal and human remains, reconstructing both the diets and geographic origins of the Portus inhabitants. The findings suggest that the political upheaval following the Vandal sack of Rome in AD 455 and the 6th century wars between the Ostrogoths and the Byzantines may have had a direct impact on the food resources and diet of those working at Portus Romae.

Lead author, Dr. Tamsin O'Connell of the Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge said, "The human remains from the excavations at Portus belong to a local population involved in heavy, manual labour, perhaps the saccarii (porters) who unloaded cargoes from incoming ships. When looking isotopically at the individuals dating to between the early second to mid fifth centuries AD, we see that they have a fairly similar diet to the rich and middle-class people buried at the Isola Sacra cemetery just down the road. It is interesting that although there are differences in social status between these burial populations, they both have access to similar food resources. This contradicts what we see elsewhere in the Roman world at this time. But, later on, something changes."

Dr - O'Connell - End - Mid - Century

Dr. O'Connell continues, "Towards the end of the mid fifth century we see a shift in the diet of the local populations away from one...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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