The Loh Down On Science

You won't believe where scientists found this giraffe!

University of Cinncinnati

University of Cinncinnati students excavating Pompeii

Is "giraffe" the other white meat? 

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Archeologists from the University of Cinncinnati are a long way from home.  They’ve been in Italy, excavating the ancient Roman city of Pompei.

Neighboring Mount Vesuvius buried it in volcanic ash in AD 79.  The eruption happened so fast that many residents died before they could flee.  Sad!  But, conveniently for science, also before they could take out the trash.

The Ohio team has been excavating Pompeii’s well-preserved drains, latrines, and cesspits. They picked a non-elite quarter.  A street with ordinary homes and restaurants.

They analyzed kitchen waste, and residues from drains, including excrement.

Turns out lower-class Pompeians ate surprisingly well!  Fruits, nuts, grains, lentils, olives, chicken, and eggs.

They also enjoyed fancy meats!  Sea urchins.  Salted fish.  Imported from Spain!  But most surprising?  Giraffe meat!  A leg bone, cut butcher style, was in the kitchen scraps.

The giraffe most likely came from Africa.  The team says this illustrates the extent of ancient trading.  At least as far as Africa.

As well as why Romans called giraffe “the chicken of the savannah.”  No.

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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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