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From the Waters to the Plate to the Latrine: Fish and Seafood from the Cardo V Sewer, Herculaneum


Abstract and Figures

The excavation of an ancient sewer in the town of Herculaneum, Italy, provided the opportunity to study Roman diet in the Bay of Naples, including the marine component. The sewer served an apartment block which was buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79 and retained human and kitchen waste of the non-élite individuals living above. The remains showed a high degree of dietary diversity with around 70 fish, 48 marine mollusc and three marine arthropod taxa being identified. The fish were mostly small individuals which were probably netted in fairly shallow, coastal waters. The marine invertebrates included species of sandy shores, rocks and the sea bed but the majority could have been collected very close to the water’s edge. Both the fish and the shellfish would have been available locally in large quantities and probably represented cheap and nutritious dietary fare. Some of the consumed fish was probably salted (salsamenta) or fermented (as fish sauces such as garum), but it is thought that most of the fish and shellfish originated in the Bay of Naples and would have been purchased fresh. The difficulty of identifying preserved fish within the mixed sewer assemblage is discussed.
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Journal of Maritime Archaeology (2018) 13:263–284
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From theWaters tothePlate totheLatrine: Fish andSeafood
fromtheCardo V Sewer, Herculaneum
RebeccaNicholson1· JenniferRobinson2· MarkRobinson3,4· EricaRowan5
Published online: 21 November 2018
© The Author(s) 2018
The excavation of an ancient sewer in the town of Herculaneum, Italy, provided the oppor-
tunity to study Roman diet in the Bay of Naples, including the marine component. The
sewer served an apartment block which was buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD
79 and retained human and kitchen waste of the non-élite individuals living above. The
remains showed a high degree of dietary diversity with around 70 fish, 48 marine mol-
lusc and three marine arthropod taxa being identified. The fish were mostly small individu-
als which were probably netted in fairly shallow, coastal waters. The marine invertebrates
included species of sandy shores, rocks and the sea bed but the majority could have been
collected very close to the water’s edge. Both the fish and the shellfish would have been
available locally in large quantities and probably represented cheap and nutritious dietary
fare. Some of the consumed fish was probably salted (salsamenta) or fermented (as fish
sauces such as garum), but it is thought that most of the fish and shellfish originated in
the Bay of Naples and would have been purchased fresh. The difficulty of identifying pre-
served fish within the mixed sewer assemblage is discussed.
Keywords Herculaneum· Roman· Fish· Molluscs· Diet· Sewer
Herculaneum was a small Roman town situated on the Bay of Naples, Italy. It was buried
by the great eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79 which also covered Pompeii. In 2007 the Her-
culaneum Conservation Project excavated the NE-SW branch of the Cardo V Sewer which
runs beneath Insula Orientalis II.6–14. This sewer was part of the Palaestra development,
* Rebecca Nicholson
1 Oxford Archaeology South, Janus House, Osney Mead, OxfordOX20ES, UK
2 c/o Mark Robinson attheNatural History Museum, Oxford University Museum ofNatural History,
Parks Road, OxfordOX13PW, UK
3 Oxford University Museum ofNatural History, Parks Road, OxfordOX13PW, UK
4 School ofArchaeology, University ofOxford, South Parks Road, OxfordOX13TG, UK
5 Department ofClassics, Royal Holloway, University ofLondon, Egham,SurreyTW200EX, UK
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Journal of Maritime Archaeology (2018) 13:263–284
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which comprised a ground floor of shop units, including a taberna vinaria (wine shop) and
a bakery, with two floors of rental apartments above for domestic accommodation (Cama-
rdo 2008; Wallace-Hadrill 2012: 271–85). It provided a unique opportunity to examine sea-
food procurement and consumption for an assemblage of precise age and provenance. The
sewer system contained thick deposits of unexcavated sewage and general food-preparation
waste which would have been thrown down the latrine shafts from the ground floor shops
and apartments above the sewer in about the 10years prior to the eruption. In contrast to
the pit latrines at Pompeii, the Cardo V Sewer collected waste horizontally rather than ver-
tically, and this, together with the lack of an outflow for solids, resulted in the accumulation
of over 1m of material over a length of 53m which was sealed by ash from the eruption.
In effect this sewer system acted as a large cesspit, the remains of fish and shellfish found
within which reflect foods prepared and eaten by the inhabitants of this district.
Since the faunal remains were recovered from areas directly beneath apartments used
for domestic and commercial activities it was hoped that spatial analysis would help further
to refine the investigation of the dietary habits and social status/wealth of the inhabitants
living above or close to the sampled quadrants. In addition, the remains testify to the fish-
ing and shellfish collection strategies practised by the townsfolk and, potentially, to wider
procurement through trade.
Method andMaterials
The sewer was excavated in 53 one metre quadrants (designated Q1-53). Each quadrant was
divided into layers (US) based on the stratigraphy of the whole sewer, each layer receiving
identical identification numbers (Fig.1). Samples were selected and processed by a team
from the University of Oxford led by M. Robinson: 10 litres of sediment from each layer, in
alternating quadrants, was wet-sieved, starting with Q1–2. In total 11,625 litres of material
was removed in 799 sample bags, of which 1140 litres was processed on site. In each case,
after flotation the heavy residues were dried and sieved into size fractions, and the > 2mm
residues from selected samples entirely sorted. Additionally, for many samples, 25% of the
1–2mm residues was also sorted as a check on the recovery of tiny remains. Full details
of the excavation, sampling and sample processing methodologies, as well as archaeobot-
anical investigations and very preliminary findings from the ichthyofaunal study, have been
presented elsewhere (Rowan 2014a, b, 2017). This paper presents a summary of the results
of more detailed work, by Nicholson and J. Robinson respectively, on the fish remains and
shellfish recovered. In time a full report on the assemblages will be produced as part of the
archaeological study.1
Owing to the richness of the samples and the time available for study, it was not possible
to identify the fish remains from every processed sample and instead bones and scales from
34 samples were recorded, comprising all samples from six quadrants evenly spaced along
the length of the sewer as well as a selection of samples from six intervening quadrants
chosen for more detailed work if less common taxa were seen after a quick scan. Identifica-
tions were undertaken with the aid of comparative fish reference collections (of Nicholson
and Hamilton-Dyer) as well as illustrated manuals (particularly Roselló-Izquierdo 1986) and
1 Further details about the distribution of fish within the sewer can be found in the site archive and report
prepared for eventual inclusion in the publication of the Cardo V excavation.
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Journal of Maritime Archaeology (2018) 13:263–284
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nomenclature follows Fishbase (Froese and Pauly 2000, 2018).2 Quantifications are by num-
ber of identified specimens only, since cranial elements were absent or rare for some taxa
rendering the calculation of minimum numbers of individuals (MNI) fairly pointless. It is
important to note here that the great majority of bones were extremely small and often frag-
mented, necessitating the use of a low-power stereo microscope. This, as well as the diver-
sity of fish remains in the samples, has led to a significant proportion of the bones being
identified only to family level, remaining tentatively identified or unidentified. Also because
of the very small size of the great majority of bones, as well as crushing/fragmentation,
bone measurements were not taken. Where fish sizes are indicated these are estimates of the
total length of the fish based on visual comparison with modern reference material, coupled
with a subjective estimate of the size of the fish in relation to the size-ranges exhibited by
the species (i.e. tiny, small, medium, large). It should be noted that in future otolith measure-
ments could be utilised for size reconstruction particularly for the Sparidae. Investigation of
the otoliths was undertaken separately, by Rowan (2014a) and was limited to the use of the
AFORO online image-analysis database (Lombarte etal. 2006).
In contrast to the methodology used for the fish assemblage, shells from all the pro-
cessed samples were identified. This was undertaken using a reference collection (of
Fig. 1 Location of Cardo V and the sewer at Herculaneum
2 https ://www.fishb Accessed June 2018.
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Journal of Maritime Archaeology (2018) 13:263–284
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J. Robinson) gathered in the Bay of Naples, together with a published guide (Parenzan
1970–76). Quantification is by minimum numbers of individuals for gastropods and
bivalves (the greater of the numbers of left and right valves). Nomenclature follows Sabelli
etal. (1990–92).
Description ofAssemblages
The studied fish assemblage comprised an estimated 2500 identified bones from about
70 species of fish (Table1). Apart from cranial and post-cranial bones, otoliths (distinc-
tive calcium carbonate structures in the inner ear) were extremely common in the samples
and many were identified by Rowan (2014a). Curiously, few non-bony scales of fish were
found, although they are sometimes abundant in samples from Pompeii.
The assemblage is typified by high species diversity and is highly dominated by the
remains of small (under ca. 25cm) and tiny (under ca. 15cm) fish, particularly juveniles
of Sparidae [sea breams and picarel, formerly Centracanthidae(see Santini etal. 2014)]
as well as Trachurus sp. (horse mackerels), Sardina pilchardus (sardine), Conger conger
(conger eel), Muraenidae (moray eels), Labridae (wrasses), Triglidae (gurnards) and small
flatfishes. Although a few clupeid vertebrae were more similar to Clupea harengus (Atlan-
tic herring) than to Sardina pilchardus (sardine), the identification of these as an imported
fish (herring) is unconfirmed since clupeid vertebrae can be difficult to speciate. While
virtually all the identified fish bones came from marine taxa, a very few bones from small
cyprinids (Cyprinidae) including Rutilus rutilus (roach) and probably Abramis brama
(bream) demonstrate limited consumption of freshwater fish, as may the few bones from
the catadromous Anguilla anguilla (eel) although some of these fish spend their entire life
in coastal or estuarine waters. A fragment of Salmonidae (salmon or trout) vertebra is most
likely to have come from an imported, preserved fish.
Generally, the fish remains are more abundant and diverse in samples taken from the
southern end of the sewer, but this is likely to reflect the drift of sewer contents to this end
of the sealed system, with smaller and lighter elements moving more easily. The very few
bones from larger fish (here defined as fish with total lengths of at least est. 40cm) mostly
came from samples from the middle to northern end of the sewer. Zeus faber (john dory),
large gurnard, Lophius sp. (anglerfish) and small tuna (i.e. Auxis sp.), for example, were
identified in quadrants 33–34, 45–46 or 49–50.3 There are no examples of particularly large
Shellfish were identified in all 76 samples that were processed. Table 2 provides the
minimum number of individuals for gastropods and bivalves. In addition, fragments of
the internal shell of the cephalopod Sepia sp. (cuttlefish) were found in several samples.
The only remains of a non-molluscan marine invertebrate found in abundance were test
fragments and spines of the echinoderm Paracentrotus lividus (Lam.) (rock or purple
3 See footnote 4.
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Table 1 Fish NISP (number of identified specimens)
Taxon English name Number of iden-
tified specimens
Pleurotremata Shark unspecified 1
Squalidae Dogfishes 2
Elasmobranchii Shark or Ray 67
Rajidae Rays unspecified 17
cf. Raja undulata (Lacépède) ?Undulate ray 1
Raja clavata L. Thornback ray 13
Anguillidae Eel unspecified 5
Anguilla anguilla (L.) European eel 4
Conger conger (L.) Conger eel 114
Muraena helena L. Moray eel 43
Clupeidae Herrings unspec. 406
Sardina pilchardus (Walbaum) Sardine 141
cf. Clupea harengus L. ?Atlantic herring 23
Engraulis encrasicolus (L.) Anchovy 211
Salmonidae Salmonid unspec. 1
*Cyprinidae, cf. Abramis brama (L.) ?Bream 1
*Rutilus rutilus (L.) Roach 1
Belone belone (L.) Garfish 33
Belonidae Garfish/Saury 2
Atherina presbyter Cuvier Sandsmelt 1
Lophius sp. Anglerfish 2
Gadidae Cod family unspec. 9
Trisopterus sp. Poor cod/pout 16
Merluccius merluccius (L.) Hake 13
Phycis blennoides (Brünnich) Forkbeard 2
Zeus faber (L.) John dory 1
Sygnathidae Pipefishes 2
Scorpiaenidae Scorpion fish unspec. 17
Scorpaena scrofa L. Red scorpion fish 1
Triglidae/Peristediidae Gurnards unspec. 39
Peristedion cataphractum (L.) Armoured sea robin 8
Chelidonichthys cuculus (L.) Red gurnard 1
cf. Chelidonichthys obscurus (L.) Long finned gurnard 1
Eutrigla gurnardus (L.) Grey gurnard 2
Lepidotrigla cavillone (Lacépède) Large scaled gurnard 11
Cottidae? Cottids 6
Dicentrarchus labrax (L.) European sea bass 5
Epinephelus sp. Grouper 1
cf. Epinephelus marginatus (Lowe) ?Dusky grouper/merou 3
Serranidae Combers 10
Serranus sp. 7
Serranus atricauda Günther Blacktail comber 2
Serranus cabrilla (L.) Comber 1
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Table 1 (continued)
Taxon English name Number of iden-
tified specimens
Serranus scriba (L.) Painted comber 1
Blennidae Blenny unspec. 2
Parablennius cf. sanguinolentus (Pallas) ?Rusty blenny 2
Parablennius gattorugine (Brünnich) Tompot blenny 1
Carangidae Jacks 4
Lichia amia (L.) Leerfish 1
cf. Lichia amia ?Leerfish 1
Trachurus trachurus (L.) Atlantic horse mackerel 93
Trachurus sp. Horse mackerels 59
Gobidae Goby unspec. 20
Gobius niger (L.) Black goby 1
Labridae Wrasses unspec. 41
Coris julis (L.) Rainbow wrasse 14
Symphodus mediterraneus (L.) Axillary wrasse 4
Ctenolabrus rupestris (L.) Goldsinny wrasse 2
Labrus mixtus L. Cuckoo wrasse 3
Symphodus melops (L.) Corkwing wrasse 2
Mugilidae Grey mullets unspec. 15
cf. Chelon labrosus (Risso) ?Thick lipped grey mullet 1
Mullus sp. Red mullet/goatfish 13
Mullus surmuletus L. Red mullet 1
Chromis chromis (L.) Damselfish 11
cf. Chromis chromis ?Damselfish 2
Scaridae Parrotfishes unspec. 2
Sciaenidae Drums/Croakers 1
Umbrina cirrosa (L.) Shi drum 1
Sparidae Seabreams and picarels unspec. 200
Boops boops (L.) Bogue 65
Diplodus cf. annularis (L.) ?Annular seabream 2
Diplodus sargus (L.) White seabream 3
Diplodus sp. 15
Oblada melanura (L.) Saddled seabream 9
Pagellus bogaraveo (Brünnich) Red seabream 17
Pagellus erythrinus (L.) Pandora 6
Sarpa salpa (L). Saupe 2
Sparus aurata L. Gilthead seabream 1
Pagrus pagrus (L.) Red porgy 2
Pagellus/Pagrus/Sparus sp. Sea bream 19
Spondyliosoma cantharus (L.) Black seabream 16
Spicara maena (L.) Blotched picarel 1
Spicara sp. Picarel 109
Sphyraena spyraena Barracuda 7
Trachinidae Weevers unspec. 18
Trachinus draco L. Greater weever 45
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sea urchin), which were present in most samples. There were also several fragments of
Sessilia indet. (barnacle) and a chellicera of Eriphia verrucosa (Forsk.) (warty crab).
Most of the mollusc shells represented kitchen or table waste but there was a signifi-
cant presence of taxa with an adult size below 12mm which would now be regarded as
too small to collect for food. The assemblage was very species-rich but shells of just six
taxa made up 83% of the individuals (Fig.2): Donacilla cornea (corneous wedge shell),
Patella sp. (limpet), Mytilaster cf. minimus (dwarf mussel), Pecten jacobeus (pilgrim
scallop), Bolinus brandaris (purple dye murex) and Aequipecten opercularis (queen
scallop). The Italian word ‘tellina’ describes seafood comprising wedge shells (Donax)
and similar species. The tellina Donacilla cornea was the most frequent and numer-
ous yet also conspicuously small as a common foodstuff, typically 10–22mm long.
The tiny Mytilaster, too small for food, was rare except in one quadrant with 52 shells.
Apart from Tonna galea (dolium shell), which has a fragile shell, remains from large
shells were absent and there were no finds of the very large species such as Charonia
nodifera (Triton’s trumpet) which feature prominently amongst the early records from
Pompeii. A few shells were plainly harvested after the death of the mollusc, notably
Table 1 (continued)
Taxon English name Number of iden-
tified specimens
Uranoscopus scaber L. Stargazer 15
Scombridae Mackerels/Small tunas unspec. 130
Auxis thazard (Lacépède)/rochei (Risso) Frigate/bullet tuna 5
cf. Euthynnus alletteratus (Rafinesque) ?Little tunny 1
Scomber colias Gmelin Spanish/chub mackerel 7
Scomber sp. Mackerel unspec. 11
Pleuronectiformes Flatfish unspec. 53
Citharus linguatula (L.) 4-spot flounder 16
Bothidae/Scopthalmidae Left-eyed flatfish unspec. 8
Bothidae Left-eyed flatfish 8
Arnoglossus sp. Scaldfish unspec. 10
Arnoglossus laterna (Walbaum) Mediterranean scaldfish 4
Scophthalmidae Turbots unspec. 16
cf. Scophthalmus maximus (L.) ?Turbot 1
Lepidorhombus whiffagonis (Walbaum) Megrim 2
Lepidorhombus sp. 4
Pleuronectidae Right eyed flatfish unspec. 12
Platychthys flesus (L.) Flounder 1
Soleidae Soles unspec. 8
Solea cf. solea (L.) Sole 2
Balistidae Triggerfish 8
Unidentified 3025
Total 5434
*Freshwater fish
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Table 2 Marine gastropod and bivalve MNI (minimum number of individuals)
Taxon English name Minimum num-
ber of individuals
Patella sp. Limpet 254
Diodora italica (Def.) Italian keyhole limpet 15
Calliostoma granulata (von B.) Granular topshell 1
Gibbula albida (Gmel.) Whitish gibbula 15
G. philberti (Récl.) 4
Gibbula sp. 4
cf. Cerithium sp. Cerith 1
Bittium sp. Needle whelk 3
Cerithiidae indet. Needle shell 1
Turritella communis Riss. Common tower shell 4
Naticidae indet. Necklace shell 1
Tonna galea (L.) Dolium shell 8
cf. Narrimania concinna (Syk.) 1
Bolinus brandaris (L.) Purple dye murex 42
cf. Bolinus brandaris (L.) Purple dye murex 4
Hexaplex trunculus (L.) Banded dye murex 20
cf. Hexaplex trunculus (L.) Banded dye murex 2
Ocenebra erinaceus (L.) Sting winkle 2
Ocinebrina aciculata (Lam.) Sharp dwarf winkle 1
O. edwardsii (Pay.) Edwards’ dwarf winkle 1
Fusinus pulchellus (Phil.) Spindle shell 1
Nassarius cf. corniculus (Olivi) Horn nassa 1
N. mutabilis (L.) Changeable nassa 1
N. cf. costulatus cuvierii (Pay.) One-banded nassa 3
Stramonita haemastoma (L.) Red mouthed rock shell 1
Muricidae indet. Murex 2
Columbella rustica (L.) Rustic dove shell 3
Conus mediterraneus Hwass in Brug. Cone 1
Odostomia eulimoides Han. 2
Arca noae L. Noah’s ark shell 15
Glycymeris insubrica (Broc.) Dog cockle 1
Glycymeris sp. Dog cockle 10
Mytilus galloprovincialis Lam. Mediterranean mussel 3
Mytilaster cf. minimus (Poli) Dwarf mussel 71
Gregariella cf. petagnae (Sca.) Half hairy mussel 2
Lithophaga lithophaga (L.) Date mussel 1
Modiolula phaseolina (Phi.) Bean horse-mussel 1
Mytilidae indet. Mussel 5
Pecten jacobeus (L.) Pilgrim scallop 38
Aequipecten opercularis (L.) Quin scallop 52
Spondylus gaederopus L. Thorny oyster 1
Ostrea edulis L. Common oyster 3
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Table 2 (continued)
Taxon English name Minimum num-
ber of individuals
cf. Ostrea edulis L. Common oyster 4
Ostreidae indet. Oyster 5
Lucinella divaricata (L.) 1
Acanthocardia spinosa (Sol.) Sand cockle 2
A. tuberculata (L.) Warty cockle 9
cf. A. tuberculata (L.) Warty cockle 3
Cerastoderma edule (L.) or glaucum (Poir.) Common cockle 2
cf. Cerastoderma edule (L.) or glaucum (Poir.) Common cockle 7
Acanthocardia or Cerastoderma sp. Cockle 2
Donacilla cornea (Poli) Corneous wedge shell 768
Ensis minor (Che.) Razor shell 2
cf. Tellina tenuis da C. Thin-walled tellin 1
Donax trunculus L. Abrupt wedge shell 29
Chamelea gallina (L.) Striped Venus 9
Timoclea ovata (Pen.) Oval Venus 1
Tapes decussatus (L.) Carpet-shell 28
Paphia aurea (Gmel.) Golden carpet-shell 1
Total minimum number of individual gastropods & bivalves 1476
Sepia sp. cuttlefish 4
Fig. 2 Percentages of the most abundant taxa of marine molluscs from the Cardo V Sewer and their habitats
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the Lithophaga lithophaga (date mussel), and so were fishing waste rather than food
remains. Shells seem not to have moved along the sewer.
Seafood intheRoman World
That fish were a regular feature of Roman dining is well known and there is no doubt that
some fish were an expensive food or status symbol ̵ many classical scholars allude to fish
as being an élite or luxury foodstuff (e.g. Pliny HN 9.27-32)4 and both fish-eating and fish-
rearing have been considered to be symbols of wealth. Fresh and salt water Piscinae were
built at some villas around Herculaneum and Pompeii as a demonstrable status symbol
(Reese 2002a) and fish feature on mosaics and wall paintings around the Roman Empire
(Marzano 2013: 21–27). However, while there are hints that some fish are less favoured—
e.g. mud and coastal mullet and perhaps some sea bream (Pliny HN 9.30),5 Pliny the elder
and other scholars do not focus their attention on foods for the general masses and con-
sequently there has been little discussion about the role of fish in the diet of the general
population in Roman Italy. Archaeological evidence is fairly scant too: Reese (2002a) com-
mented that for the Pompeii area mosaics and wall paintings provide more information
regarding fish than do preserved bones and while early excavations at Pompeii refer to the
finding of fish bones these were not saved or identified. More recently, where excavations
have taken place fish remains seem infrequent or often absent. Even at Pompeii, apart from
the well-known deposits of bones associated with garum production (Carannante 2008–9),
assemblages tend to be quite small (Locker 1999)6 and this is true for deposits that were
wet sieved as well as those that were not and probably reflects the kinds of deposits. Few
latrines have been excavated at Pompeii; they tend to be dangerous deep shafts where it is
difficult to reach the sewage deposits. No sewer deposits comparable to those at Hercula-
neum have been discovered.
Marine molluscs and other marine invertebrates were a customary, albeit relatively
minor, part of the diet in the Roman Mediterranean world. Classical authors do not give
them the same attention as fish but they are often depicted in the same mosaics and wall
paintings at Pompeii that show fish. The shells of marine molluscs are usually robust and
survive well in the calcareous soils of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Larger shells are con-
spicuous items which tend to be collected during excavations and shells were sometimes
used to decorate fountains or mounted as garden ornaments. By the late 19th century,
sufficient shells had been found at Pompeii for their occurrence to be usefully reviewed
(Tiberi 1879). As excavation continued, so shells continued to be saved, though rarely with
detailed context information. Reese (2002b) reports on specimens of 51 taxa from Pompeii
and Herculaneum. Over the past 25years, there have been many more excavations below
the AD 79 ground level at Pompeii and large-scale sieving which has recovered even the
smallest of shells but few results have been published.
4 In Rackham 1983: 203–205.
5 In Rackham 1983: 207.
6 Also unpublished assemblages from the house of Potsumi (report by RA Nicholson), from Houses 11 and
12 (report by A Locker).
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Compared to larger oceans the Mediterranean is relatively poor in marine life, nevertheless
about 700 species of fish are listed as inhabiting the Mediterranean Sea today, 447 in the
southern Tyrrhenian Sea, including all of the marine taxa identified in the Herculaneum
assemblage,7 with the exception of Cottidae (cottids) (Psomadakis etal. 2012).8 Many of
the identified taxa are also included in recent lists of fish found in and around the seagrass
(Posidonia) beds located in the Bay of Naples and close to the island of Ischia. In a survey
of these seagrass beds by Zupo and Stübing (2010), 28 species of fish were identified all
of which, with the exception of eels and pipefish, were under 15cm long, and many of
which were under 10cm long. These fish included several Labridae (wrasses), Chromis
chromis (damselfish), Scorpaenidae (scorpion fishes), Serranidae (combers), Gobiidae
(gobies), Syngnathus acus (pipefish), Mullus surmeletus (red mullet), Conger conger (con-
ger eel), Diplodus annularis (annular sea bream), Spicara maena (picarel), Arnoglossus
kessleri (scaldfish) and Bothus podas (wide-eyed flounder). Other fish identified in the
Herculaneum assemblage that may have frequented these habitats include small groupers
(Epinephelus sp.) and possibly Scaridae (parrotfish) and Balistidae (triggerfish) although
parrotfish are rare in the north-western Mediterranean today9 (Kruschel et al. 2012) and
triggerfish do not typically feature in archaeological assemblages from this region (Mylona
pers. comm.) although Balistes capriscus (grey triggerfish) is present in the Tyrrhenian
Sea (Psomadakis etal. 2012). Although the volcanic eruptions have altered the coastline
around Herculaneum it is very likely that these coastal seagrass beds existed or were even
more extensive at the time of the AD 79 eruption and that many of the fish identified in the
sewer samples came from this environment or from rocky inshore waters. Juvenile fish,
including Dicentrarchus labrax (sea bass), combers, groupers and Merluccius merluccius
(hake), as well as dogfish, flatfish and rays would also frequent shallow coastal waters,
around rocks or man-made structures such as the harbour wall.
The other main category of fish identified in the Herculaneum material are pelagic
and shoaling species including sardine, Engraulis encrasicolus (anchovy), horse mack-
erel, Belone belone (garfish) and Boops boops (bogue) which would have been netted sea-
sonally, in quantity, probably during the summer months when they are found in coastal
waters. Juvenile horse mackerel may shoal with pilchards (sardines) and bogue to form a
mixed catch (Louisy 2015: 65). These fish are those most likely to be constituents in fish
sauces (see below) but they may also have been marketed as fresh fish.
7 With the exception of Cottidae (cottids): Taurulus bubalis (sea scoropion) is found in the Ligurian Sea
but not currently in the Tyrrhenian Sea (Psomadakis etal. 2012).
8 The possible significance of cottid bones was not recognised when the assemblage was identified and
since none of the more diagnostic jaw elements were present the species identifications are considered ten-
9 Regarding parrotfish, Pliny the Elder recorded that Tiberius had wrasse (thought to be probably parrot-
fish, Sparisoma cretense) transported alive from the Carpathian Sea, an area of water between Crete and
Rhodes, to restock the waters between the mouth of the Tiber and Ostia (Pliny 9.29 cited in Rackham 1983:
205; Boetto 2010: 247).
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1 3
As small individuals the few freshwater fish were probably caught locally, perhaps from
a small-scale riverine fishery upstream in the River Sarno.10 Similarly, a single Tinca tinca
(tench) bone was recovered from an unstratified context at the House of Amarantus at Pom-
peii.11 Several species identified at Herculaneum including flounders, grey mullet and sea
bass, tolerate brackish water and may have frequented the Sarno Estuary.
The molluscs and other invertebrates were all Mediterranean species which occur in habi-
tats to be found in the Bay of Naples. The majority are inhabitants of shallow water, in
some instances almost to the limit of the slight tidal range. They reflect the range of habi-
tats along the Roman coastline. The species of rocky habitats included Patella sp. (limpet)
which adheres to rocks, Mytilaster cf. minimus (dwarf mussel) which clings to rocks with
byssus threads, Lithophaga lithophaga (date mussel), which bores into calcareous rocks
and the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus, which lodges in holes in soft rocks. Sandy shores
were represented by Donacilla cornea (corneous wedge shell) which is a shallow burrower
where the waves break, Chamelea gallina (striped Venus) which favours slightly deeper
water and Ensis minor (razor shell) which burrows deeply in sand. Other species occur in
water 1m or more deep on firm substrates, be they rocks or muddy sand with some shin-
gle, over which they glide, such as the murexes (purple-dye shellfish) Bolinus brandaris
and Hexaplex trunculus, or to which they attach themselves such as Arca noae (Noah’s
ark shell). The scallops Pecten jacobeus and Aequipecten opercularis rest on areas of flat
seabed but readily swim, Sepia sp. (cuttlefish) is adept at swimming. Unlike for the fish,
Posidonia beds were not a major habitat for the molluscs, probably because there are few
economic species which live there although some of the small gastropods such Columbella
rustica (rustic dove shell) crawl on the leaves of Posidonia and A. noae attaches itself to
the rhizomes. P. lividus also occurs in Posidonia beds. There was one freshwater mollusc,
cf. Anodonta cygnea (swan mussel).
Some indication of the size of the catchment for the shellfish at Herculaneum is given
by a comparison with the composition of a large assemblage of molluscs identified from
the Porta Stabia excavations at Pompeii, 13km SE along the coast (J. Robinson, unpub-
lished). The assemblages are broadly similar with limpets and tellina particularly abundant
in both. However, the tellina Donacilla cornea was absent from Pompeii, its place being
taken by Donax trunculus. D. trunculus was found in the Herculaneum sewer but only
comprised 3.6% of the combined total of individuals of the two species. Both have appar-
ently similar ecological niches, occurring in shallow water up to the water’s edge where
the bed is sandy, and they can be extremely abundant. However, their abundance on sandy
beaches and therefore their competitive advantage against each other is determined by sub-
tle habitat differences including the grain size of the sand and the degree of wave action
(de la Huz etal. 2002; la Valle etal. 2011; Mavidis etal. 2006). Presumably, the beaches
around Herculaneum favoured D. cornea whereas the coast at Pompeii favoured D. truncu-
lus, possibly due to the supply of fine sand from the mouth of the River Sarno which gave
rise to extensive dunes between Pompeii and Stabia.
10 Although it is worth noting that the native distribution of freshwater fish in southern Italy is not well
understood, particularly due to the widespread introduction of species (Gallo etal. 2012).
11 Undated report by Alison Locker, cited in Reese 2002b. This record does not appear in Locker 1999,
which details the rest of the fish from the House of Amarantus (I.ix.11-12).
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1 3
Methods ofCapture
In the coastal waters of the Mediterranean even small-scale fishing could produce quite
large catches and Roman fishers utilised a variety of equipment adapted to different aquatic
environments and types of fish, pelagic, benthic or migratory (Bekker-Nielsen 2010: 188).
A wide range of net types were available suited to the size and behaviour of the targeted
fish, water depth and current, and some of these were described in Oppian’s Haleutica
(Bekker-Nielsen 2010: 201). Most of the fish from the sewer samples were probably caught
in nets similar to the carbonised example previously found from Herculaneum (Bekker-
Nielsen 2010: 201) with fishermen operating from small boats like the gozzos used today
and a vessel recovered from the ancient shoreline at Herculaneum. The recovery of the
fishing boat Fiumicino 5 (late 2nd century AD) from the harbour at Ostia confirms literary
evidence for the use of fish-well vessels to land living fish for the markets. It is likely that
the rare examples of larger and solitary fish, such as john dory, may have been caught on
a baited hook. Apart from the boat and carbonised net, finds recovered during excavations
at Herculaneum include various sizes of hooks and lead fishing weights in addition to a
wicker vessel containing the coiled remains of a long line, with many hooks attached (Bek-
ker-Nielsen 2010: 201). Beach seines or dragnets hauled in by teams of fishers were prob-
ably used to capture a wide range of coastal species including inshore shoaling fish, such
as Scomber scombrus (mackerel) and sardines, as well as bottom-dwelling fish including
flatfish, Uranoscopus scaber (stargazer) and Trachinus draco (weever fish) which frequent
sandy or muddy seabeds. The venomous nature of some of these fish was well known to
the Romans: Pliny the Elder mentions the sting of weever fish (Pliny NH 9.72 in Rackham
1983: 268).
Molluscs forConsumption
Various means would have been needed to procure the shellfish that were being targeted for
consumption. Others were probably bycatches of fishing which, depending on their utility,
were either consumed or discarded. Patella sp. (limpets) can easily be prised off rocks in
and just below the splash zone by clambering along the water’s edge. Paracentrotus (sea
urchin) can be grasped from below the water by using a long pole splayed at the end into
four springy tines. Where there was a vertical cliff to the water, access could have been
facilitated by boat.
Donacilla cornea (corneous wedge shell) can reach population densities of 2000
individuals per square metre under favourable conditions in the mid-tidal zone of sandy
beaches (Mavidis etal. 2006: 192). It could readily be harvested by raking or digging over
such localities at low tide. This would also retrieve other bivalves, such as Donax truncu-
lus (abrupt wedge shell) and Tapes decussatus (carpet shell), which could be added to the
catch. It is possible that there were also habitats on gently sloping sheltered beaches which
could be raked over for Acanthocardia and Cerastoderma spp. (cockles).
The purple dye shellfish (known as murex) Bolinus brandaris and Hexaplex trunculus
live in water too deep to be collected readily from the shore. Pliny describes their cap-
ture using baited wicker traps (Marzano 2013: 144–5) and Ruscillo (2005: 101–2) found
a basket baited with rotting fish to be very effective in a harbour on Crete. They are also
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Journal of Maritime Archaeology (2018) 13:263–284
1 3
often dragged up by nets. The scallops Pecten jacobeus and Aequipecten opercularis were
perhaps caught by using a simple dredge from a boat. This would also have served to har-
vest some of the other larger bivalves such as Ostrea edulis (oyster). The scallops along
with Sepia sp. (cuttlefish) could also have been useful bycatches of netting for fish. Perhaps
Tonna galea (dolium shell) was caught by diving.
Small Molluscs asContamination
Some of the species identified either do not grow large enough to be considered for con-
sumption or were only represented by small shells. Species such as Diodora italica (Ital-
ian keyhole limpet), Fusinus pulchellus, Modiolula phaseolina (bean horse-mussel) and
the barnacles possibly entered the sewer because they were attached to larger shells being
prepared for consumption in the apartments. Another possible source would arise if fish or
shellfish were sometimes transported in baskets lined with Posidonia leaves to keep them
cool and moist. Mytilus minimus (dwarf mussel) is a common member of the fouling com-
munity (Sarà etal. 2007: 68–69). Its occurrence in high numbers in two samples from the
same quadrant suggests events of cleaning marine equipment at that location.
Preserved Fish andSome Taphonomic Considerations
A thick deposit of ash from the pyroclastic surges that destroyed Herculaneum filled the
latrine shafts and sealed the organic remains within the sewer but was not sufficiently hot
to cause charring. In this sealed environment bones discarded during meal preparation or
as table waste are likely to have survived largely intact. However, although one of the pri-
mary constituents of material within a sewer will be human faeces, many fish bones that
have been through the human digestive tract are likely to have been lost to the archaeologi-
cal record, particularly if from fish with smaller and softer bones. Experiments have shown
that bones which survive human digestion are biased towards denser elements (such as
prootics and, potentially, otoliths) and are often significantly distorted or corroded (Jones
1986; Nicholson 1993). Although a proportion of bones within the sewer clearly arrived in
sewage—a few fish were evidently eaten bones and all, as evidenced by numbers of chewed
and corroded bones and otoliths with smoothed surfaces (Fig.3)—many more must have
come from plate scrapings and food preparation, since bone and otolith preservation was
often excellent and most parts of the skeleton were present for many of the fish.
In this kind of depositional environment, it is worth considering how we might iden-
tify fish that had previously been salted or otherwise preserved. Large fish such as the
bigger tunas were absent from the identified remains but may be under-represented in
the sewer assemblage because the meat was sold to households as portions or steaks.
Fig. 3 Chewed and digested fish
remains: a conger eel (Con-
ger conger) vertebra showing
characteristic distortion b hake
(Merluccius merluccius) otolith,
showing edge and surface ero-
sion when compared with a mod-
ern specimen (right) [photograph
byR. Nicholson]
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1 3
Pliny the Elder described the neck and belly of tuna as being eaten fresh, as delicacies
while the body of the fish was preserved in salt (Pliny HN 9.18). In this scenario it is
possible that only the larger scales (found in a band around the body behind the head)
would be present. Although fish scales were rarely preserved in the Herculaneum mate-
rial, a few heavily mineralised Scombridae scales or fragments of Scombridae scales
were found in most quadrants (Fig. 4) and may have come from salted fish portions
(similar to the ones found in the 4th century Merchant’s House in Corinth, Theodoro-
poulou 2014 and this volume). The representation of body parts suggests some eels may
possibly have been purchased as beheaded, salted fish, since cranial elements were rela-
tively scarce although they are typically fairly robust and readily identifiable (Table3).
This suggestion should be qualified, however, because eels have considerably more ver-
tebrae than most other fish.
Any fish that were eaten whole (anchovies, small sardines etc.) or their bones con-
sumed in products such as allec, are likely to be under-represented in the sewer samples,
and the consumption of garum and liquamen will, of course, leave no trace as far as
the fish bones are concerned (for further details of these products see Grainger, this
volume). Even without consumption, it seems likely that the process of producing fish
sauce would cause compositional changes to the hard tissues which would affect their
chances of long-term survival. Both bones and scales (ctenoid and cycloid scales are a
mineral composite made up of a layer of calcium-based salts and a fibrous layer largely
made of collagen) are disrupted both by heating (e.g. during cooking or prolonged
immersion in a warm liquid) and the action of enzymes during autolysis. The extent to
which they survive these processes depends on the duration of exposure and this can be
illustrated during the preparation of fish skeletons by immersion in water with the addi-
tion of proteases such as pepsin, or by boiling. In both cases scales are lost and bones
become chalky if left too long. Whether bones used for fish sauce manufacture would be
similarly degraded by the autolysis of fish tissues due to digestive proteases during the
manufacturing of fish sauces is therefore an interesting avenue for research. Inspection
by Grainger of the residues of herring and mackerel fermented during the preparation of
fish sauce (Grainger 2013, 2014) indicated no macroscopically detectable effect on the
bones, although the otoliths were not preserved. This is in sharp contrast to the condi-
tion of fish remains recovered archaeologically, from fish processing vats at the Casa do
Fig. 4 Mineralised fish scale
from the Cardo V sewer (right)
compared with a reference scale
from frigate mackerel (Auxis
thazard) [photograph byR.
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1 3
Table 3 Distribution of skeletal elements from selected Insula Orientalis II sewer samples
Belonidae Carangi-
Labridae Mugildae Mullidae Pleu-
Sparidae Trachini-
Dentary 2 2 5 3 2 2 10 1 6 13 2 6 44 4 1
Articular 1 5 5 5 3 8 2 1 46 10 3
Premaxilla 2 1 3 14 1 5 2 4 36 2 2
Maxilla 1 9 1 3 3 16 1 1 49 1 1
Quadrate 2 2 7 19 1
1 2
Ceratohyal 1 1 6
Vomer 1 1 2 1 1 1 6 1 3 4
Basioccipital 3
Otic bulla 19 1
Opercular 4 5 3
Preopercular 1 1 1 1 1
Cleithrum 3 2
1 1
Post temporal 5 4 2
Urohyal 3 11
Atlas verte-
1 27 3 3 5 49 6 1
Abdominal &
24 8 9 109 13 15 2 5 2 9 12 7 56 16 13
70 9 34 75 15 4 2 7 1 51 10 2 66 10 4
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1 3
Table 3 (continued)
Belonidae Carangi-
Labridae Mugildae Mullidae Pleu-
Sparidae Trachini-
58 12 1 314 175 1 1 10 4 60
Total Result 159 35 53 570 210 36 62 15 14 143 33 28 443 64 32
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Governador, Portugal (Gabriel etal. 2009): these remains, almost entirely of sardines,
comprise chalky textured vertebral centra and occasional otic bullae, the more fragile
cranial bones and scales having entirely disappeared (R Nicholson: pers. obs.).
The difference in preservation between these two assemblages seems likely to relate
both to the much greater age of the Portuguese specimens and, perhaps critically, con-
ditions in the base of the processing vats which had a large surface area and may have
been exposed to the elements after the vats were emptied. The corroded condition of the
archaeological examples may also be related to the length of time taken to produce the
sauces, and the likelihood that vats were not entirely emptied between batches (Grainger
pers. com.). Given the rapid burial of the Herculaneum sewer fills and the subsequent pro-
tected burial environment, it is possible that any bones derived from the bony residues of
fish sauces—i.e. allec—would not exhibit the extensive damage evident on the bones from
the Casa do Governador. Nevertheless, some difference in condition between fermented
fish and fresh fish could be anticipated, but in fact almost all of the bones in the sewer
assemblage were in a similar condition and none appeared particularly corroded or chalky.
Consequently, while many of the fish identified in the sewer samples are typical ingredients
in fish sauces (sardines, anchovies and other small fatty fish such as mackerel, horse mack-
erel and garfish as well as picarel and small sea breams), it is uncertain whether any of the
remains found in the sewer derived from these products.
The possible identification of herring in the assemblage is potentially significant since
herrings are not found in the Mediterranean and if confirmed would indicate the importa-
tion of what might be a fairly low quality fish sauce from the northern Roman provinces
(as described by Van Neer and Lentacker 1994).12 This aspect would benefit from further
consideration if the fish assemblage is subjected to further study.
Marine Food andtheConsumer: Procurement, Preparation andStatus
It seems likely that the small mixed fish which comprise most of the Cardo V fish assem-
blage were purchased quite cheaply, probably as mixed fish in the markets or direct from
fishing boats and cooked by frying (frittata) or by boiling as stews. The larger and more
expensive fish were probably reserved for wealthier tables than those of the inhabitants of
Insula Orientalis II. The preparation method used for small fried fish today is to remove the
head, spine and guts in a single stroke—these remains would then be discarded and could
well be those so common in the sewer. The greatest concentration of fish bones was recov-
ered from quadrants from the SW end of the sewer, but this probably reflects the downward
movement of the sewer contents rather than the fish-eating habits of the residents above.
However, the identification of bones from john dory, Lichia amia (leerfish) and angler fish,
as well as frigate mackerel and other small tunas, indicates that the residents of Apartments
11–14 may have been more affluent.
Given the wealth of documentary evidence and the huge processing vats that were used
to supply processed fish products to the Roman world it is highly likely that fish sauces
and pastes were commonly used in cooking by the residents of the apartments above the
sewer. It is also obviously possible that some fish—such as anchovies, mackerel, scom-
brids, small sparids, clupeids and salmonid—may have been part of either locally produced
or imported fermented and/or products, but as with the shellfish, the majority of fish are
12 I am indebted to Arturo Morales for this point.
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1 3
much more likely to have originated in the Bay of Naples and been purchased fresh, prob-
ably at the local fish market or fishmonger. At nearby Pompeii, a taberna in the south-east
corner of the macellum (VII.9.7) has been interpreted as a fishmonger’s shop on the basis
of its design and the presence of associated fish bones and scales (Marzano 2013: 289).
Although the physical remains of fish and shellfish have provided a valuable insight into
the diet of ordinary townsfolk, the overall contribution of seafood to the diet is difficult
to establish from this evidence from fish bones and sea shells alone. Here isotopic analy-
sis of human skeletal remains has proved to be informative: recent isotopic investigation
into the diet of Herculaneum residents killed by the Vesuvian eruption has been under-
taken by Craig etal. (2013). By investigating the input of ‘old’ marine derived carbon into
human skeletons found near the harbour they concluded that, with a δ13C range of − 20.2
to − 18.2‰, up to 30% of the carbon in collagen (mean 15%) was derived from marine
foods (Craig etal. 2013), with a much greater proportion coming from terrestrial foodstuffs
of a similar carbon isotopic composition, probably cereals. Although the authors suggest
these results indicate that marine foods were only a minor foodstuff, males appear to have
consumed greater quantities than females (Martyn etal. 2018). When considered alongside
the physical evidence from the Cardo V sewer, it is clear that seafood was eaten regularly,
even if only as a relatively minor dietary component, which is what would be anticipated
given the coastal location of the town.
All the shellfish could presumably have been collected by local fishermen13 but some of
the most abundant species could also readily have been gathered by the occupants of the
apartments themselves provided they had a right to exploit the shoreline.14 Limpets can be
procured with only a stone or knife and a basket, many of the bivalves including Donacilla
cornea (corneous wedge shell) can be harvested with a rake or shovel and a basket while it
would not take long to cut sea urchin prongs.
The gonads of the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus are commonly eaten raw and need to
be very fresh. Otherwise, the shellfish were probably boiled alone or with grain. Most mol-
lusc assemblages were mixed and it is likely that a range of species were cooked together.
However, some quadrants contained groups of valves of Donacilla cornea, some of which
could be paired. These possibly represented waste from plates of telline. The main shell-
fish groups eaten were tellini, limpets and (since many shells exceeded 50mm) purple
dye-murexes, followed by scallops. Cockles (Acanthocardia spp. and Cerastoderma spp.)
were few. Smaller mollusc taxa (limpets, tellini and cockles) reflected the size range sold or
growing locally today. Of larger taxa, only immature shells or fragments entered the sewer.
Limpets are currently seen by Northern Europeans as a famine food. However, current
inhabitants in the Pompeii area explained that they liked variety in texture in mixed sea-
food dishes, so included limpets because even when cooked they are tough and rubbery.
The occurrence of their shells throughout most of the sewer therefore does not have status
implications. Their absence from several quadrants including those of Houses 12–14 might
reflect personal taste.
13 For further discussion of the professional organisation of fishermen and fishmongers and sale of fish see
Marzano 2013: 38–50, 288–9; also Marzano this volume.
14 For a discussion of this topic see Ørsted (1998).
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1 3
Secondary Uses ofMolluscs
Although primarily a food resource, seashells had connotations of beauty and fertil-
ity. A Pecten jacobeus (pilgrim scallop) valve was food-waste reused as a cosmetics
container (Roberts 2013: 135). A Columbella rustica (rustic dove shell) pierced with
2 holes for suspension would, as a shell commonly found cast up on the strand, have
been a cheap alternative to the cowries recorded as amulets from Pompeii (Tiberi 1879:
148–9). Similarly, the sea-worn Glycymeris (dog cockle) valve with a typical erosion
hole through the umbone was not food-waste but would have been collected after the
death of the mollusc.
The marine food remains from the Cardo V Sewer offer a glimpse of the fish and shell-
fish consumption of the townsfolk of Herculaneum. Although it is very likely that pre-
served fish, both salted and fermented (as fish sauces) were eaten, it has not been pos-
sible to demonstrate this unequivocally. It seems likely that almost all of the fish would
have been caught in and around the Bay of Naples, using small boats similar to the goz-
zos in use today and using similar equipment, some of which has been preserved archae-
ologically (Bekker-Nielsen 2010; Marzano 2013: 28-32), or by seine netting from the
shore as occurred into the 20th century. Shellfish were probably mostly gathered from
the shore but boats were also used. It has been suggested that overfishing had caused
fish stocks to be depleted even in Roman times. Although fish often appear as a luxury
resource, gracing the tables of the élite (for examples see Marzano 2013: 287-9), the
small and tiny fish typically found in the sewer samples must have been relatively cheap,
since these kinds of fish could be caught in large quantities and the assemblages do not
indicate significant selection in terms of size or species. Juvenal (Sat. 5. 92–96 in Green
1974) comments that the Mediterranean was overharvested so that fish in Italian waters
were not reaching large sizes, and (as mentioned above) according to Pliny the Elder,
the emperor Tiberius was engaged in fisheries management, having wrasse (parrotfish?)
transported alive to restock the waters between the mouth of the Tiber and Ostia (Pliny
HN 9.29; Boetto 2010: 247). Although it would be tempting to use the Cardo V Sewer
assemblage as evidence of over-fishing since the vast majority of bones were from small
and in many cases juvenile fish perhaps indicating that larger fish were scarce, the fact
that these fish appear to have been available in quantity suggests a sustainable resource
with a similar range of species to that found in these waters today. As Koutrakis points
out (this volume), despite systematic fishing and large-scale fish processing, the avail-
able evidence indicates that prior to the industrial era fish stocks were resilient and the
level of fishing was sustainable.
Acknowledgements This research was carried out in the context of the Herculaneum Conservation Project
(HCP: www.hercu laneu, an initiative of the Packard Humanities Institute (and its Italian arm, the Isti-
tuto Packard per i Beni Culturali) in collaboration with the Soprintendenza Pompei. We are grateful for the
access they provided to the material which was studied in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History
and at Oxford Archaeology. We would like to thank Andrew Wallace-Hadrill and the HCP team, especially
Sarah Court, for their continued assistance. Some of the fish remains were identified with the aid of Sheila
Hamilton Dyer’s reference collection and her generous help is gratefully acknowledged, as is the construc-
tive advice provided by Dimitra Mylona and the referees of this paper.
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... Buildings are often preserved up to the second floor, as well as wooden furniture, mosaics, frescoes, sculptures and other bronze and iron objects [46,[56][57][58][59][60]. Even diverse organic material such as food (e.g., bread, cheese, olives, garum, grains, lentils, beans, fresh and dried fruit such as pomegranates, figs, walnuts, almonds) [46,[61][62][63] and remains of human faeces [64,65] are well-preserved. Thus, the singularity of the circumstances of burial of these two cities, together with the exceptional nature of the cause of death of its inhabitants and ...
... Buildings are often preserved up to the second floor, as well as wooden furniture, mosaics, frescoes, sculptures and other bronze and iron objects [46,[56][57][58][59][60]. Even diverse organic material such as food (e.g., bread, cheese, olives, garum, grains, lentils, beans, fresh and dried fruit such as pomegranates, figs, walnuts, almonds) [46,[61][62][63] and remains of human faeces [64,65] are well-preserved. Thus, the singularity of the circumstances of burial of these two cities, together with the exceptional nature of the cause of death of its inhabitants and the extraordinary state of preservation of the archaeological and biological material found, has provided researchers with an opportunity, unique in its kind, to reconstruct the life and ways of living of its inhabitants. ...
... More than 60 structures plausibly identified as fishponds or tanks have been discovered in gardens and courtyards in Pompeii and Herculaneum [137]. Numerous remains of fish and seafood from the Cardo V sewer were found in Herculaneum, showing a high diversity of fish, marine mollusc and marine arthropod taxa [64]. There are also numerous artistic works depicting many fresh and sea fish well attested as being farmed or fished by the ancients, and frescoes and mosaics featuring scenes of seafood or of fishing [137]. ...
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There is no doubt that the cultural and urban environments contributed to the animal–human interaction in the daily life of the ancient Roman world. The singularity of the circumstances of the burial of Pompeii and Herculaneum, together with literary sources and the extraordinary state of preservation of the archaeological and biological material found, has provided researchers with an opportunity, unique in its kind, to reconstruct the life and ways of living of its inhabitants. This study illustrates the main drivers and mechanisms for the distribution and transmission of zoonotic diseases in these ancient Roman populations, such as (i) the large number and role that different animal species played in the ancient Roman world; (ii) the environmental conditions for the survival of parasites, pathogens and vectors; (iii) the great variety and intensity of commercial activities and occupations that presented certain risks of infections; (iv) the absence of adequate safety controls during processing, distribution and preservation of foodstuffs in unsuitable environments and some culinary habits; (v) the inadequate mechanisms of the disposal of human waste and the biotic contamination of watercourses and reservoirs; and finally (vi) the use of animals related to religious and cultural practices.
... En los peces, los huesos son más susceptibles a una deformación debido a la compresión mecánica de la masticación (Butler & Chatters, 1994;Butler & Schoeder, 1998;Guillaud et al., 2017;Nicholson et al., 2018). En el caso de los fragmentos afectados por ácidos digestivos (Figura 8), se mide la superficie dañada por cada nivel, junto a la intensidad de las perforaciones en la superficie ósea. 1) Ausente: El hueso no está alterado, 2) Mínimo: < 25% de la superficie ósea está dañada, aun así, la forma del hueso persiste y es todavía reconocible. ...
... Aunque las huellas de depredación en peces son bajas (2.4% respecto al NISP de Actinopterygii), es importante considerar los indicios de compresión mecánica en varios casos, lo que produjo la deformación de algunos centros vertebrales. Este efecto tafonómico ha sido registrado como producto de la masticación ejecutada por mamíferos, como en el caso de las nutrias (Guillaud et al., 2017;Nicholson et al., 2018). En TT-1 solo hay dos potenciales candidatos hasta ahora: L. culpaeus (Torés, 2007) y Homo Sapiens. ...
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El sitio arqueo-paleontológico de Taguatagua 1, es el asentamiento humano más antiguo de la zona central de Chile, con una cronología de 12.510-12.670 años cal AP. Este sitio fue descubierto y excavado en dos campañas separadas por casi 20 años, registrándose un contexto de megafauna (> 15 kg) directamente asociada a instrumentos líticos y óseos, junto a restos de vertebrados y también de invertebrados. Los autores lo interpretaron como un lugar en el cual se realizaron actividades de caza y faenamiento de fauna extinta y formatización de instrumental lítico. Sin embargo, entre los hallazgos más numerosos del sitio, se encuentra un conjunto muy diverso de restos óseos de animales pequeños. En el presente trabajo se evalúan los agentes acumuladores tanto naturales como culturales y la incidencia de la fauna menor (≤ 15 kg), en la economía de los cazadores recolectores del Pleistoceno terminal a través de un análisis taxonómico y tafonómico, identificando evidencias de su explotación. Los resultados señalan que algunos de estos recursos fueron parte de la subsistencia de los grupos del Pleistoceno terminal, quienes aprovecharon la abundancia que ofrece un ecotono lacustre como lo fue la laguna de Taguatagua
... Si a los 31 taxones marinoseliminando las dos especies de pulmonados terrestres-identificados en el caso de los 1 El estudio de las ictiofaunas arqueológicas está en fase de desarrollo y se publicará en el número de 2020 de la revista RAMPAS de la Universidad de Cádiz -Homenaje a Antonio Sáez Espligares-, e incluye evidencias de múltiples taxones no habituales en las cetariae al no ser especies salazonables, caso de diversas especies de roca y de pesca costera junto a otras menores (sardinas, boquerones, espáridos, serránidos, mugílidos, condrictios…), con una manifiesta ausencia de atunes. (Nicholson et al., 2018); y sin duda el más significativo, actualmente, de todo el Fretum Gaditanum. ...
Full-text available
BASES, ADVANCES AND CHALLENGES IN ARCHAEOMALACOLOGY. Archaeomalacology is a relatively recent discipline that is based on the study of molluscs in archaeological contexts. In this first work of the present special monography it tries to present an overview of its origins, in the 19th century, and how it has evolved and incorporated techniques and advances from archeology as well as paleontology, zoology or ecology, to create its own corpus, allowing to obtain a more complete vision of past societies and their relationship with their natural environment thanks to the study of mollusks and to a lesser extent other marine invertebrates (echinoderms, crustaceans and anthozoans, mainly).
... Si a los 31 taxones marinoseliminando las dos especies de pulmonados terrestres-identificados en el caso de los 1 El estudio de las ictiofaunas arqueológicas está en fase de desarrollo y se publicará en el número de 2020 de la revista RAMPAS de la Universidad de Cádiz -Homenaje a Antonio Sáez Espligares-, e incluye evidencias de múltiples taxones no habituales en las cetariae al no ser especies salazonables, caso de diversas especies de roca y de pesca costera junto a otras menores (sardinas, boquerones, espáridos, serránidos, mugílidos, condrictios…), con una manifiesta ausencia de atunes. (Nicholson et al., 2018); y sin duda el más significativo, actualmente, de todo el Fretum Gaditanum. ...
Full-text available
En este trabajo se presentan los resultados del estudio arqueomalacológico de una intervención arqueológica realizada en el Parque de las Acacias de Algeciras (provincia de Cádiz, España) durante el año 2015, la cual permitió exhumar parte de una de las fábricas de salazón del barrio industrial de Iulia Traducta, con contextos diversos datados entre momentos avanzados del s. II y el s. V d.C., bien fechados estratigráficamente, y con un amplio registro cerámico y numismático. Entre los diversos taxones de bivalvos y gasterópodos marinos destaca la elevada presencia de “corrucos” (Acanthocardia tuberculata), un tipo de bivalvo de gran tamaño que cuenta con un sistema de extracción singular, caracterizado por una perforación en una de las valvas. Abundan las ostras (Ostrea edulis), algunas procedentes de viveros, y los patélidos; y se ha documentado un posible buccinum realizado sobre una caracola con el ápice intencionalmente fracturado (Charonia lampas). El principal interés de este trabajo radica en comprobar la evolución de la explotación de los recursos malacológicos en un área de producción especializada en la economía marítima durante un período prolongado, y la confirmación del empleo de estos alimentos en la fabricación de conservas marinas, ya que se trata de restos desechados en estratos deposicionales en estas fábricas de producción esqueroconservera, sumándose a los hallazgos ya conocidos de las cercanas cetariae de la calle San Nicolás de Algeciras.
... Unfortunately, considerable variation in scale shape and size, even between different areas of the same individual fish, mean that these are not always the best indicator for identification (Patternson et al. 2002). Both bones and scales are disrupted by heating, such as during cooking or prolonged immersion in a warm liquid, and by enzymes if eaten (Nicholson et al. 2018), thus their presence in relatively high numbers would suggest that they were discarded before the fish were cooked or consumed. To date, no further analyses have been conducted on the fish bones and scales recovered. ...
Full-text available
Archaeobotanical investigations at the Roman town of Aelia Mursa, located near the Danube frontier in modern day Croatia, have revealed an extraordinary assemblage of food remains from a series of pits dated to the early 2nd century ad . The site yielded a wide array of economically important food remains, including staples such as Hordeum (barley), Panicum miliaceum (broomcorn millet), Triticum aestivum (bread wheat), Secale cereale (rye), Lens culinaris (lentil) and Vicia faba (broad bean). We also found a range of fruits, nuts, herbs and vegetables, such as Daucus carota (carrot), Cichorium intybus (chicory), Allium sativum (garlic), Ficus carica (fig), Vitis vinifera (grape) and Olea europaea (olive). Further, we found clearly identifiable remains of eggshell, fish bones and scales, unidentifiable fruit flesh and porridge or bread remains, as well as possible animal dung. The site provides important evidence of exotic foods including Piper nigrum (pepper), Oryza sp. (rice) and Punica granatum (pomegranate). This diverse and unique assemblage provides a tantalising insight into the character of food, farming and trade of the people living on the frontier of the Roman Empire.
... In fact, fresh seafood became a marker of the social status since its demand by wealthy citizens exceeded availability pushing up prices in the Forum Piscatorium, the most important fish market in Rome (around 210 BCE) (Déry, 1998). The bigger, the fresher, the scarcer, the rarer and the further away the fish was caught, the more priced it was (Marzano, 2018a;Nicholson et al., 2018). Roman mosaics of stunning seascapes decorated the villas of the elite and provided a complementary artistic backdrop for the abundant and extravagant banquets at which such expensive seafood was served (Ayodeji, 2009) (Fig. 1). ...
Full-text available
Olives, wheat and grapes have been the staple foods of the Mediterranean world, with seafood, above meat, as the preferred protein source. Fish and shellfish were used often since ancient times by wealthy classes as a kind of social marker, not only as a gastronomic delight, but also as a way to stay healthier. This paper reviews thoroughly how seafood has been present in the dietary practices of the Mediterranean people since ancient Egyptians up to the gastronomic discourse of some celebrated contemporary chefs. Preferences for particular tastes and flavors, local traditions, myths and religious rites (such Lent, Shabbat and Ramadan that prohibited eating some foods and allowed others) as well as cultural exchanges between countries and civilizations (with the incorporation of new ingredients and culinary techniques), have shaped the Mediterranean culinary customs along the history. Such traditions are reflected in many ancient writings, culinary literature and cookbooks. We will analyze some of these sources with special attention to those excerpts, anecdotes, cookbooks, recipes, cooks and even characters related to seafood. Knowledge and learning from our rich Mediterranean culinary heritage are important aspects to bear in mind. Whereas some contemporary celebrity chefs (and probably many diners) are not fully aware of such culinary legacy, others like Ferran Adrià have recently recognized the importance of studying the past as a driver for creation and gastronomic innovation.
Well‐preserved ancient human bodies, coprolites, and other faecal deposits can be found all over the world, from the frozen plains of the Artic to the temperate, tropical, and equatorial regions. This chapter considers historical perspectives and practical aspects of the analysis of faecal material before considering parasitic infections and provides a brief discussion of the impact of modern ancient DNA (aDNA) methods on such studies. Well‐preserved human gut contents are rare finds which elicit enormous scientific and public interest. Coprolites are individual fossil or subfossil faeces, preserved through charring, mineralization, or found as desiccated samples in caves and arid regions. The first archaeoparasitological analysis was undertaken by Ruffer on Egyptian mummies, but it was not until the 1960s and 1980s that standardization of the field took place. Over recent years the use of aDNA methods has been applied to the study of faecal‐derived deposits from communal and individual‐based.
Taguatagua 1 is a late Pleistocene open-air archaeological site located on an ancient lakeshore in central Chile and dated to around 12,600 cal BP. It presents clear evidence of human and megafauna (Equidae, Gomphotheriidae and Cervidae) interaction that includes burned, fractured and cut-marked bones, as well as tusk and bone-made instruments. Mixed with artefacts and megafauna bones, an outstanding small vertebrate record (Class Actinopterygii, Amphibia, Reptilia, Aves and Mammalia) has also been reported, which has remained largely unstudied. In this paper, we present the first comprehensive taphonomic study of a selected sample of this ensemble. Birds are the most common taxa, followed by anurans, fish and rodents. Surface modifications, bone breakage, skeletal frequencies and the sample's ecological/biological attributes indicate different taphonomic trajectories for an averaged sample. A portion of the ensemble entered the context via predators and natural deaths, but the presence of anthropogenic marks, especially in aquatic birds, and to a lesser extent in Myocastor coypus and Calyptocephalella sp., indicates cultural exploitation of these taxa. These results portray a more precise image of the late Pleistocene hunter-gatherer subsistence strategies in central Chile, which is consistent with the settlement's lacustrine context.
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Neste artigo vamos apresentar os resultados preliminares da pesquisa de doutorado, cujo tema principal é o garum romano. A ideia é fazer uma abordagem sobre as últimas novidades acerca da trajetória histórica do garum no entorno do Mediterrâneo, com especial atenção para a Hispânia no período do Principado. Nosso objetivo é oferecer um estudo de cunho multidisciplinar capaz de dar nexo à imensa quantidade de dados gerados sobre o tema nas últimas décadas, buscando mudar a persistente noção de que o consumo de garum estaria reservado às elites, apresentando evidências literárias e arqueológicas que comprovam que o produto foi um fenômeno técnico e comercial multifacetado, uma fonte de proteína de baixo custo para o povo romano, empacotada e despachada a longa distância, sob o bojo de um processo histórico cujos desdobramentos ainda podem ser sentidos.
Recent archaeological excavations in the Negev desert in the southern Levant have yielded a variety of mollusk shells originating from the Mediterranean Sea, the Nile River, and the Red Sea, uncovered in the trash mounds and settlements of Byzantine and Early Islamic sites. These remains indicate that aquatic products were among the merchandised comestibles transported across long distances. Three shellfish taxa manifest such transportation: (1) the small clam, Donax trunculus, commonly found in the exposed sandy wash zones of the Eastern Mediterranean coast; (2) the large freshwater mussel, Chambardia rubens, whose habitat stretches from the Nile River to western Africa; and (3) the large conch, Lambis truncata, commonly found in the shallow waters of the Red Sea. The breakage and abrasion patterns of the shell fragments of these three species suggest that they were collected as live specimens and not as empty shells washed ashore. The other taxa, however, were mostly collected as empty shells to be used, for example, as ornaments.
En este trabajo se exponen los resultados de experimentos realizados entre 2009 y 2011 para manufacturar salsas de pescado romano siguiendo las recetas antiguas. En concreto, se considerará la naturaleza del residuo de salsa de pescado conocido como allec, y se detallarán su génesis y sus características. El trabajo concluye que muchos pecios, actualmente reseñados como portadores de ánforas que contenían una salazón de caballas, podrían de hecho haber contenido una salsa de pescado a medio procesar que habría servido de base para producir una salsa de calidad tipo liquamen en destino. Este trabajo ofrece por tanto una nueva interpretación de los restos arqueológicos de peces recuperados en antiguas ánforas de transporte al tiempo que proporciona nuevas perspectivas en torno al comercio de productos procesados de pescado en el Mediterráneo romano.
Here we present a comparative study of stable carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotope data from 81 individuals from the catastrophic death assemblage at Herculaneum (79 CE) and compare these with the attritional sites of Velia (Salerno, Italy, 1st–2nd century CE) and Isola Sacra (Rome, Italy, 1st–2nd century AD). The instantaneous deposition of the Herculaneum assemblage highlights some interesting differences in our contextual and methodological understanding of stable dietary isotopes, suggesting that isotopic variation between sites may sometimes be a result of greater temporal variability rather than truly comparable differences. Our results suggest that the people of Herculaneum obtained a relatively small proportion (ca. 30%) of their dietary carbon from marine foods; the majority originating from terrestrial foodstuffs of a similar carbon isotopic composition, most likely cereals. Also observed is a generally greater dietary isotopic enrichment in male individuals than females. We infer that males had greater access to fish which may be reflective, in part, of the sociodemographic framework characteristic of Roman society. Finally, we highlight the methodological challenges which may be faced when undertaking comparisons of δ13C and δ15N data between the various age-related strata of a population, particularly due to the slow and variable rate of collagen turnover.
Due to its burial by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79, the level of biological preservation in the Roman town of Herculaneum is very high. The recovery and analysis of large quantities of material from the city's Cardo V sewer has provided the rare opportunity to study the diet of middle and lower class Romans living in an urban context in mid-1st century AD Italy. The sewer lacked an outflow point and instead functioned as a cesspit to collect the human and kitchen waste generated by those living in the multi-storey shop and apartment complex (Insula Orientalis II) situated above. In total, 220 l of soil was examined for carbonised and mineralised material, seashells, eggshells, otoliths and fish bones. 194 taxa were identified, including 94 botanical, 45 fish, 53 shellfish and two bird taxa. One-hundred and thirteen of the 194 taxa can be considered edible foodstuffs indicating a high level of dietary diversity. This article compares preservation conditions with those found in Pompeii and assess diet in relation to these findings. The level of preservation is found to be comparable between the two sites and no major taphonomic biases are observed. The diet of non-elite individuals in Herculaneum is found to consist of a few staple foods that are frequently supplemented by a wide range of other goods. Subtle differences in diet are observable within the sewer assemblage, most likely related to differences in wealth.
Donacilla cornea ( Poli, 1795) is the characteristic bivalve of the midlittoral sand assemblage in the Mediterranean Sea. In order to acquire information on the factors influencing its distribution, a detailed survey was carried out on 117 sandy beaches in eastern Mediterranean. In each station, samples were taken from the lower midlittoral zone. Donacilla cornea was found in 56 beaches moderately exposed to wave action and with a mean particle size ranging from 325 to 1866 mu m ( medium to very coarse sand). This species was not found in sheltered or extremely exposed beaches. The abundance of this species was correlated with exposure to wave action, mean particle size and sorting index of the sediment. The percentage of CaCO3 and the organic matter in the sediment were not correlated either with the presence or the abundance of this species.
In this paper I will report on the results of experiments, conducted from 2009 through to 2011, to manufacture Roman fish sauce, using the ancient recipes. More specifically, it will consider the nature of the fish sauce residue, known as allec, observe its formation and assess its qualities. The paper concludes that many shipwrecks currently identified as having transported amphorae that contained a salted fish product made from mackerel may in fact be shipping a semi processed fish sauce which will go on to produce a quality liquamen type sauce at its destination. This paper offers a new interpretation of the archaeological remains found in ancient transport amphorae and provides new insights into the commerce of processed fish products in the Roman Mediterranean.