Food, and our memories of it, are often tied up with the ways in which we construct our identities. This project hopes to use this power of food to explore not only how people in the past might have used food to create their identity, but also how we might use food to explore these issues in the present. In this blog we present some of our research on food and updates of our activities and events. We are also compiling a list of books and articles about Roman food and collecting people’s memories about food – if you’d like to share a food memory with us, please tweet us or leave a comment on one of our posts!
We currently have 35 blog posts about Roman food and the Food for Thought project. Here’s a handy list.
Eating food in…
Libya – Garamantes
Techniques for researching Roman food
Food research projects
“Big data” and food in Roman Britain
Medieval Masterchef at the 2014 European Archaeological Association Conference
Roman food at the 2014 Association for Environmental Archaeology Conference
Food for Thought Project
Archaeology of food and memory
Behind the scene at the British Museum
Eating like a Roman: the 4D experience
Food for Thought at Horatio’s Garden
Food for Thought at the East Oxford Community Classics Centre
Food for Thought Exhibition: Installation Day 1
Food for Thought Exhibition: Installation Day 2
Food for Thought Exhibition: Installation Day 3
‘Trimalchio’s Kitchen – Pop-up restaurant
Dr Zena Kamash – Lecturer in Roman Archaeology and Art, Royal Holloway, University of London
I am a Roman archaeologist, who specialises in Roman Britain and the Roman Near East. My recent work as part of the ‘Memoria Romana’ project has made me think lots about the relationships between food and memory. When I had the opportunity to create a public engagement project as part of the ‘Communicating Ancient Greece and Rome’ programme food, memory and identity seemed like the obvious places to start.
Favourite cuisine: Middle Eastern
Earliest food memory: buying sweets from the village corner shop
Dr Lisa Lodwick – Post-doc Researcher, University of Reading @LisaLodwick
I’m an archaeobotanist, studying ancient plant remains from archaeological sites. My DPhil/PhD project investigated farming and food at Silchester, one of the earliest towns in Britain. I compared the new foods and crops grown at Silchester, with farming practices and diet at rural settlements in the surrounding area. Studying how and why crops and other plant foods varied between past communities is fascinating, and also relevant for thinking about growing and eating food today.
Favourite cuisine: (modern) Italian
Earliest food memory: dinosaur shaped birthday cake
Erica Rowan – DPhil student, University of Oxford
I’m a Roman archaeologist and archaeobotanist specializing in Roman food and diet. For my doctorate I looked at the food remains from a sewer (yes, a sewer) from the site of Herculaneum in Italy to find out what regular Romans were eating on a daily basis. It turns out they were eating quite a few different things; lots of fruit, fish, shellfish and grains (and not the boring monotonous diet of bread, wine and olive oil that people once thought). I think that the Romans and their diets were pretty amazing and the idea of being able to share that knowledge with other people absolutely makes my day.
Dan Stansbie – DPhil Student, EngLaID Project, University of Oxford
I am an archaeologist who specializes in the Iron Age and Roman periods of Britain, particularly in ceramics. I’m currently engaged in a DPhil (Phd) project about the long-term history of food, ceramics and identity in England from 1500BC to AD 1086 as part of the English landscapes and identities project. Like the EngLaID project of which it is part, my project is all about using the vast amounts of digital data generated by developer funded archaeology in England to find new and surprising patterns in the evidence. Before embarking on my DPhil I spent 16 years working as an archaeologist in both in the public and commercial sectors.
Favourite cuisine: Modern Britsh/Anglo-Indian
Earliest food memory: Chocolate birthday cake
Miranda Creswell – Project artist for EnglaID @MirandaCreswell
I am an artist who is interested in the landscape and how it shapes human life. I am interested in the circularity of materials that derive from landscape: amongst which are food and simple cooking utensils. I am currently developing a series of drawings on used chopping boards. The left over chopping marks of past meals, are incorporated in the drawings.
Favourite cuisine: a simple tomato Italian sauce, and chestnuts.
Earliest food memory: crunchy bread and unsalted butter, when I lived in France.
Corinium Museum @CoriniumMuseum
Horatio’s Garden at the Salisbury District Hospital @HoratiosGarden
Iris Project and the East Oxford Classics Community Centre @TheIrisProject
Outreach programme within the AHRC funded ‘Communicating Ancient Greece & Rome‘ programme.
Had you thought of medical aspects of food and nutrition in antiquity? It would be really interesting to match what archaeology has found on the ground with what Celsus and Galen say about food in their texts. The texts are very detailed, and pretty coherent.
Thanks, John – this is a really interesting idea and one I’d really like to pursue. Food for Thought-er Lisa looked at the potential medicinal uses of plants in her DPhil on Silchester, so I will prevail upon her to write a blog post on this theme. And, of course, if you would like to write a guest blog for us on this topic, we’d be delighted!