Two-Thousand-Year-Old Painting Depicts a Pizza


| LAST UPDATE 07/14/2023

By Stanley Wickens
pizza painting Pompeii discovery
Richard I'Anson via Getty Images

After a recent discovery of a two-thousand-year-old painting in the ruins of Pompeii, observers of the fresco were bewildered to discover a small section that seemed familiar. In the mural, a plate of food could likely be a pizza, a delicious looking one too.

Unparrarelly preserved, the city and its mural were re-discovered in the 1700s and have been revisited thousands of times. Pompeii, a previously thriving ancient settlement, was frozen in time by a volcano eruption in 79 AD. Not only were buildings thoroughly maintained despite 1500 years of abandonment, but civilians of Pompeii were also discovered in immaculate condition, sheltering themselves from the volcano's destruction. Even cups and plates were sighted in the exact place Pompeians had left them all those years ago.

pizza Pompeii archaeological discovery
ak_phuong via Getty Images
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But, more importantly, is the plate of food pizza? The National Post reported, "For something to be called a pizza, it must have dough, tomato sauce, and cheese." Referring back to the discovered painting, it is missing these essential ingredients. Instead, the mysterious meal appears to be flat focaccia bread garnished with fruit, dried fruit, and various spices. While historians can agree that the delectable plate of food depicted in the painting is not pizza, it is likely an early derivation of what we eat today. In a statement from the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, one historian revealed that it "could be a distant ancestor of the modern dish." 

Pizza, as we know it, is a lot fresher to the food scene. The earliest mention of modern pizza dates back to the 18th Century in Naples, a then-thriving city on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Neopolitans, natives from Naples, had developed pizza to create a low-cost, quick to consume and filling meal. Considered a 'poor man's meal,' the Neapolitan invention reached the wealthy and royals before long, as they had grown tired of their usual French high-quality cuisine. Even back then, the variations of pizza were extensive. Of course, the flavors that the rest of the world has grown to relish were also the most popular, including tomatoes, garlic, and, first and foremost, cheese. Lots of it too. While the beloved dish began as a flatbread with toppings to an affordable meal for the poor, pizza has developed far beyond its original iteration. People around the world continue to cherish pizza for many years to come.

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