Skip to comments.Remains Of Food Shed Light On Ancient Ways
Posted on 11/20/2004 3:16:00 PM PST by blam
REMAINS OF FOOD SHED LIGHT ON ANCIENT WAYS
BY BEN MURCH
11:00 - 20 November 2004
Exotic spices unearthed beneath the Bath Spa show military administrators lived in the lap of luxury in the city's early days. Food and architectural remains found preserved beneath the remains of Roman buildings provide new evidence of the high living enjoyed by the military rulers of what was then Aquae Sulis in the first century AD.
The remains were discovered in 1999, but have only just finished being analysed.
The ancient grapes, figs, coriander and a peppercorn - along with highly decorative architectural fragments - are believed to come from a military administrator's building, which was demolished when the city passed from military to civilian use in the second century AD.
Peter Davenport, the director of excavations at Bath Archaeological Trust, said: "What we are realising from work in the past decade is that Bath grew in a very complicated way during its first hundred years.
"This is fleshing out how Bath grew up as a mixture of military and civilian. It shows that the military, when they were here in the first century, were living a very comfortable life. They had settled in and were using good quality imports.
"It's beginning to show how Aquae Sulis began in a military sense, but always had something quite posh and special about it.
"This is an early example of a very luxurious lifestyle in a place which is a byword for luxury."
The spices, which would have had to be imported at great expense from the Far East, were preserved in a waterlogged ditch where the air could not rot them during the two millennia after they were discarded.
High quality imported tableware was also found.
Mr Davenport added: "The sheer building of the baths was a way of showing what a luxurious lifestyle the Romans led.
"The exotic foods were a stamp of luxury but on a smaller scale.
"I suppose an equivalent is the British administrators in India having their Fortnum and Mason jam imported.
"It shows just how important their lifestyle was to them."
Bath Architectural Trust took samples while excavating from 1998 to 1999 during development work on the spa.
The trust was excavating remains of a civilian Roman building from 150AD, which was thought to be a type of hostelry called a mansio, when it found the food in the drainage ditch and architectural remains of the older building's foundations.
Mr Davenport said this older building could have been sited where the Gainsborough Building now is, opposite the spa in Beau Street, and probably included formal gardens.
It was demolished as part of a wide- scale redevelopment of early Bath which took place when it became a civilian city.
The peppercorn is the first to be found on a British Roman site and only the third in the world, the other two being found at Pompeii and in southern Germany.
The excavation work was funded by Bath and North East Somerset Council. A complete report on its findings will be published next year.
But of course they didn't have chili, so it couldn't last.
And? I guess one has to be an archeologist to get pumped up on this news. There was an article in an NC newspaper that someone found a bat-wing in the Linville Caverns. I almost wrote Senator Dole! My wife and I were so excited we called our daughter in Prague to break the news.
I believe they're called corpolites...or something close to that.
Stop being a wet blanket, Cobra. You never have anything new to add, anywhere, that I have read on here.
This is very interesting to those of us who like this sort of thing.
Perrercorns as in east asian "Spice Islands?" Was Rome trading there 1300 years before Marco Polo?
If you've followed my posts, you'd know that I wouldn't be suprised if they were.
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It is well-known that the Romans traded to the west coast of India. They even had a cohort stationed in one of the cities to provide security for their merchants.
The spices probably got to western India through a chain of middlemen.
not only peppercorns... somewhere there's a surviving image from Roman times (vase? mosaic? can't recall) of an orangutan, which was a species not rediscovered until modern times.
The black pepper would have been imported, but coriander could easily be grown in southern Britain.
10 - "Perrercorns as in east asian "Spice Islands?" Was Rome trading there 1300 years before Marco Polo?"
They most certainly were. The mid-east, Iraq, and Iran, the Phoenicians were all traders.
As a matter of fact, there is evidence that Alexander the Great's fleets made it beyond india, after his death.
ping for later
Roman traders didn't trade directly with the far east even though they imported a lot of Asian goods. They had silk for instance which came from China and the Chinese received Roman glassware in return. The goods went through a series of middlemen. The Han Dyanasty period in China was as well-developed a civilization as the Roman one at the same time. The Chinese emissary Gan Ying got as far as Iraq in 97 AD.
The Han court record of a Roman trader is preserved. I doubt it was an isolated instance.
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