Yesterday, my friend Kevin Carson shared an article from The Guardian about an unearthed fresco, dating back two-thousand-years, from the “excavations in the Regio IX area of Pompeii’s archaeological park, which is close to Naples, the birthplace of pizza. The painting was on a wall in what is believed to have been the hallway of a home that had a bakery in its annexe.” The Guardian author, Angela Giuffrida, wrote:

A striking still life fresco resembling a pizza has been found among the ruins of ancient Pompeii, although the dish seems to lack two essential ingredients – tomato and mozzarella – and includes an item that looks suspiciously like a pineapple.

… on which I commented, with New York contempt: “This is OBVIOUSLY an attempt to legitimize pineapple on pizza. smh lol.”

Today I was alerted to a New York Times piece on these same archeological findings, written by Elisabetta Povoledo: “A Proto-Pizza Emerges From a Fresco on a Pompeii Wall”. Povoledo writes:

It may have been no pepperoni with extra cheese, but it still caught the eye of archaeologists working on the ruins of Pompeii, and not because they were hungry. The researchers were excavating the site earlier this year when they ran across a fresco depicting a silver platter laden with wine, fruit — and a flat, round piece of dough with toppings that looked remarkably like a pizza. Proto-pizza might be more like it, given that the city of Pompeii was buried by a volcano in 79 A.D., nearly 2,000 years before anything modern civilization might recognize as a pie came into existence. In a statement published on Tuesday, the archaeologists were insistent that the dish portrayed in the fresco did not mean that the History of Pizza is about to be rewritten. “Most of the characteristic ingredients are missing, namely tomatoes and mozzarella,” they said. Still, they allowed, the flat, round dough topped with pomegranate, spices and what may have been a precursor of pesto might be “a distant ancestor to the modern dish.”

I was tempted to say: “No pomegranates!” But hey, this is nearly 2,000 years ago, so whaddayawant!

The article points out, of course, that the origin of pizza is itself controversial:

It may be virtually synonymous with Italian cuisine, but some like to point out that dough topped with herbs and cheese originated across the Ionian Sea, in ancient Greece, and that Naples was originally a Greek colony. “The Greek history of pizza that the Italians want hidden” accused one headline in The Greek City Times.

Well, I have no problem with this! I’m half-Greek and half-Sicilian, so it’s all good. And while that fresco doesn’t depict anything like what I see at L&B Spumoni Gardens, three cheers for archaeo-pizza! In the end, pizza belongs not to the Greeks or the Italians, but to everybody. Even if you want pineapple on it. Just hold the pomegranates. Sheesh …

Credit: Archaeological Park of Pompeii

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