By: Mary Smith - Staff Writer
Published: Jun 17, 2021

Sewer Reveals Ancient Roman Diet

Sewer Ancient Roman Diet: Long before scientific studies declared the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, ancient Romans dined on figs, sea urchins and dormice. The diet was revealed when a British archaeology team excavated over 750 bags of human waste from an ancient sewer in Herculaneum, near Pompeii.

The Roman town was covered in volcanic mud and ash after the famous Mt. Vesuvius eruption in 79AD. Researchers had previously uncovered several sewer lines in the ancient settlement, but were thrilled to find a septic tank large enough to be excavated by hand. Analysis showed that the middle class inhabitants dined on olives, fish, walnuts and eggs.

Each apartment in the 3-story building that once sat above the deposit, was connected to the septic tank via tubes in their kitchens and latrines. Researchers also found several objects of interest, including a ring, several dishes and vases, and a figurine of the god Mercury, that were probably thrown down the same household waste chutes. It is the organic waste that holds the greatest archaeological value, showing that the diets of Italy’s ancient inhabitants were much more varied than previously thought.

Organic waste is a major component of municipal solid waste. Most originate from household waste but commercial, institutional and industrial waste can also contain significant proportions of organic waste e.g. market waste. Organic waste is biodegradable and can be processed in the presence of oxygen by composting or in the absence of oxygen using anaerobic digestion.


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