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VIDEO: UC Digs Into Realities of Working Class, Middle Class Life in Pompeii

Among U.S.-based efforts, UC researchers currently enjoy exclusive access in terms of the right to excavate at Pompeii. What's more, the UC-led excavation is currently the largest in the history of the site in terms of area and scale of operations. See video and listen to podcasts for more.

Date: 3/14/2012 12:00:00 AM
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: UC classics

UC ingot  

Food and fun among the lower- and middle classes of ancient Pompeii are just part what University of Cincinnati researchers are digging up in their work at the site, which is preserved nearly as it existed in AD 79 because of thick layers of ash and lapilli (small volcanic stones) that blanketed the city following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Among U.S.-based efforts, UC researchers currently enjoy exclusive access in terms of the right to excavate at Pompeii. And the ongoing UC-led excavation there is the largest excavation at Pompeii.

The UC research focuses on every-day life among the lower- and middle classes, including drains for water management, pits for storage and waste, pottery, glass vessels, bone tools, coins, architectural features as well as food and fun in the form of public theaters, bars and restaurants in the city’s cheap café culture.

For more, view the above video, or visit for a series of Pompeii podcasts on
  • Gladiators – Hear an entertaining one-on-one post-fight interview with gladiator star Severus, the Muhammad Ali of his time, of AD 79.
  • Roman medicine – If you have the stomach for it, listen to this entertaining “news interview” with medical experts of the time and learn about bone-saws, cataract operations, enemas, strange recipes for poultices (goat manure to cure cracked ribs and cabbage on the skin to cure skin cancer), the merits of a good bleeding, and all done without the benefit of anesthesia!
  • Human remains – Hear about the earliest excavations of bodies at Pompeii in the 1740s and what might have been lost or missed in those early days.
  • The tombs of Pompeii – Hear how tombs tell us about how people lived, especially since many ordinary people at Pompeii planned their tombs while they were still alive. And to get the most visibility, tombs were planned by people along the busiest roads and the entrances to the city.
  • Dining in and dining out – Hear the Roman version of today’s radio show, “The Splendid Table.”Most of the city’s inhabitants had humble cooking facilities at home and relied on restaurants and carry-out menus – not unlike some of us! Discover where Romans did their grocery shopping and learn about recipes for dormice (yes, mice!) and, for the less adventurous, deep-fried honey cakes.
  • Commerce and business – Hear about ancient farming, shipping, and slavery, and how the very volcano which destroyed the city also gave rise to a booming local wine industry!
Video credits:
  • Christian Cloke and Emily Catherine Egan for production and narration.

Photo credits:
  • Steven Ellis
  • Christian Cloke
  • Leigh Lieberman
  • Kristina Neumann
  • John Yarmick
  • Pompeii Archaeological Research Project