Archaeologists discover fast food counters in the ruins of Pompeii

Photo: Giorgio Cosulich (Getty Images)

In 79 A.D., the Roman city of Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Due to the lava entombing so many of the buildings and residents within minutes, Pompeii remains a stunning artifact of an ancient society, archaeologists discovering everything from the fully preserved remains of horses to the one guy who decided to crank his hog when staring down the barrel of eternity. (We’re aware the latter has been disproven. We remain unmoved. The picture is the picture.)

Now, researchers have discovered evidence that suggests even fast-service food counters may go back a lot farther than many would expect. The Archaeological Park of Pompeii has announced that in the Regio V area of the former city, the latest in a series of Thermopolia (or snack bars) has been discovered.

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From the official site:

Thermopolia were places where, as the name of Greek origin would suggest, drinks and hot foods were served, and these goods were stored in large dolia (jars) which were embedded in the masonry serving counter. Such establishments were located all over the Roman world, when it was common to go out to eat the prandium (meal). At Pompeii alone, there are around eighty of them.

We can only assume that, in the grand tradition of fast food restaurants, the residents of Pompeii knew which ones were the likeliest to give you a stomach virus as well: Yeah, Porcius always has the good fish, but there’s no chance this food is up to code. The prep table is a slab of rock. Appalling conditions. ONE STAR.

The news is the latest in an ever-growing line of fascinating discoveries from the deceased city, and yet another reminder that all the things we assume as unique were usually done (or at least attempted) centuries ago, up to and including meals of suspect origin.

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