an image of “pizza” discovered on a fresco in the ruins of a Roman city

In Pompeii, excavations have uncovered a 2,000-year-old painting depicting what could be a distant ancestor of modern pizza

Were we already eating pizza 2000 years ago? A funny question that arises from a strange discovery in Pompeii, a few kilometers from Naples: a painting that looks exactly like a pizza.

This still life was discovered during excavations on the walls of an ancient house in the famous Roman city, the archaeological site announced on Tuesday (June 27).

It stands on a silver tray next to a cup of wine, a garland of arbutus trees, pomegranates and dates. This “pizza” is round, rather small and thick, rounded on the sides like a Neapolitan pizza: of course different from a Roman one.

Only tomatoes and mozzarella are missing.

What we see “looks like pizza but obviously isn’t”, assures the director of the archaeological park of Pompeii, because tomatoes, which reached Europe in the 16th century, and mozzarella are missing. But the resemblance is stunning and the quality of the painting remarkable. This still life represents xenia. It is a gift of hospitality offered to guests in the Greek tradition from the third to the first century BC. The guests knew what was going to be served as soon as they arrived. Even though our current pizza doesn’t go back that far, 2,000 years ago bread ovens already existed. In the Pompeian House, where the fresco was discovered, there was also a bakery with an adjacent oven.

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