A Taste of the Ancient World:
The Roman Food Industry

In the ancient Roman world, foodstuffs were always on the move. If they weren't luxury items - fine wines, fashionable sauces, or live birds for the emperor's table - then they were the massive shipments of grain needed to feed the Roman army and the burgeoning population of the city of Rome. All these foods were transported from one end of the Roman empire to the other.


KM 2868
1st - 3rd c AD
Puteoli, Italy

Amphorae, large storage vessels, were used throughout the ancient world to transport wine, olive oil, and more luxurious items by ship. Each amphora held several gallons of liquid, and could weigh over a hundred pounds when filled. This shipwrecked amphora (note the marine encrustations) shows how some cargo never reached its final destination. Compare this amphora with one excavated at Karanis.



Roman grinding mill 
KM 1935
before 79 AD
From a villa near Pompeii, Italy

Found in a villa near Pompeii, this mill was presented to the Kelsey Museum by the Michigan State Millers Association in 1921. The mill had been buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that also ended the life of the city of Pompeii in AD 79 - ironic, since the mill itself was carved out of volcanic stone. Donkeys, horses, or slaves would have turned the mill to grind grain into flour. Such a commitment of resources suggests that such mills would have been in use only in cities or large rural establishments. Poor or isolated people would have used hand mills, such as those excavated at Karanis.

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Exhibit Index

 Feeding Karanis

Exhibit Acknowledgements


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