Volcanic Vineyards of Pompeii

An ancient town, buried and preserved beneath volcanic ash, Pompeii is a gift to archaeologists and historians seeking to find out more about the lives of the civilians in a regular Roman town. Beyond the well recognised plaster casts of the bodies of people and animals alike, and the structures and artwork maintained in situ, however, is evidence of a very specific system. That is the system of the cultivation of grapes and the process of extracting every usable substance from them to make wine. Positioned in the Campania region of Italy, Pompeii shared fertile soils, perfect climatic conditions and proximity to a busy sea port. The grapes of Pompeii may have ended up on the tables of the house at which they were grown; they might have been made into low quality wine for manual workers or better quality wine valued at more than the wages of many; or, they might have been shipped far and wide.

Emlyn Dodd is a Fellow at the Australian Archaeological Institute in Athens and is currently directing a survey project across Cycladic islands which, among other things, is investigating the production of wine and oil in the Classical to Late Antique eras. He spoke to Tristan about what the evidence from Pompeii tells us about grape growth and wine production there, and whether this can be scaled out to other settlements in the Roman Mediterranean.


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