Roman foodways and diet in ICORB2023

Today marks the start of the International Congress on Roman Bioarchaeology (ICORB2023), which is taking place from the 26-28th October 2023. Theoni Baniou and Federica Riso from GIAP (ICAC-CERCA) ware presenting their research and results:

Cooking and eating in the Roman west: new insights into the foodways of the inhabitants of Iesso and Puig Castellar of Biosca
Baniou, Th.1, Suryanarayan, A.2, Livarda, A. 1, Villanueva, J.3, Moraleda, N.3, Romani, N.4, Rodrigo, E.4
1Landscape Archaeology Research Group (GIAP), Catalan Institute of Classical Archaeology (ICAC), Tarragona, Spain. 
2Culture, Archaeology and Socio-Ecological Dynamics (CASEs), Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain. 
3Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA-UAB), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Catalonia, Spain. 4Serra Húnter Fellow, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Bellaterra, Catalonia, Spain.

This presentation will focus on cooking and diet, as it can be reconstructed through organic residue analysis, in the western provinces of the Roman empire. Two case studies are the focus of this study, both located in the north-eastern part of the Iberian Peninsula (Catalonia). The first one is Puig Castellar of Biosca, which was a military castellum that was in use only 60 years (180-120 BCE). It served as a means of supporting and providing supplies to troops in transit. Immediately after the abandonment of this site, and just 6 km away, the Roman municipium of Iesso was founded. It is a site with a long period of use, from 120 BCE to the 7th century ACE. For the present study various ceramic sherds covering a wide chronological range (2nd century BCE to 3rd ACE) were selected from both sites. The sherds derived from vessels that were mainly associated with the preparation and consumption of food, from a variety of archaeological contexts. Among these, sampled vessels found in the Iesso wells, in waterlogged conditions, provided particularly interesting results due to the excellent lipid preservation. To analyse the foodstuffs from the sherds, organic residue analysis was carried out using gas chromatography with flame ionisation detection (GC FID), gas chromatography/ mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and gas chromatography/ isotopic ratio mass spectrometry (GC-C-IRMS). The presentation demonstrates how the analysis of organic residues allowed new insights into the use of the vessels, the plant products consumed, and the preferred cooking methods.

Archaeobotanical meta-analysis: insights into dietary changes in Roman Italy
Riso, F., Livarda, A. and Orengo, H.

This paper presents the Marie Curie project NetFoodIt., the aim of which is to examine Roman food plant consumption and foodways through an archaeobotanical meta-analysis of plant macroremains from across Roman Italy. In order to achieve this, published archaeobotanical macro-remain data have been collated from archaeological sites in Italy covering the period from 500 BC to AD 500. A relational object-oriented geo-database was created, including more than 200 sites. The dataset includes both presence/absence and fully quantified data. The data are further divided according to modern geographical regions, Roman regions and site type.The ongoing project sheds light on food plant distribution and diverse dietary patterns by:

-determining which food plants were introduced in Italy during the Roman period and when;
-establishing the distribution of introduced food plants across sites/contexts according to the rhythm of Roman expansion and territory integration;
-providing new insights into the socio-economic acquisition of new food plants across Roman Italy.

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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