This #ClassicalZooarchaeology Twitter thread is about ancient food porn.

In an article I’m writing now, I argue that archaeology can reveal the meat-eating feasts of Homeric heroes as food porn. And Homeric food porn didn’t age well
These feasts feature a blood bowl. mmm mmm good

Animal slaughter just isn’t as appetizing these days. A popular theory is that ancient sacrificial rituals were conducted to atone for animal slaughter

I know, I know, you’d rather hear more about the archaeology of food porn!
But, Homer is difficult to reconcile with archaeology. Should we compare his poems w/ the archaeology from when he was writing (750ish BC) or w/ the supposed time of the Trojan War (around 1200ish BC)

Descriptions of spears match those used in both the Bronze and Iron Ages
These anachronisms (“things out of time” #wotd) are partly b/c Homer (if s/he was one person) wasn’t the only author. It was oral poetry that changed with each performance

Like the earliest recorded blues musicians, Homeric poetry owes to a long-lived folk tradition
So, how can we relate fictional Homer to ancient reality?

Consider a pseudo-portrait of Homer sculpted hundreds of years after he died. It doesn’t show us how Homer actually looked. But it does help us understand how people later came to see this character
This way of looking at a work of art or text is called reception studies. The emphasis is placed on the audience, and how they might have perceived Homeric epic

We can use the archaeology of the ancient Greek diet to understand how Homeric feasts were viewed
The ratios of different isotopes from human skeletons give a sense of ancient diet. Specifically, the ratio of Nitrogen isotopes provides evidence of how carnivorous an individual was. A plant would be the lowest followed by an herbivore followed by a carnivore
Carnivores who eat other carnivores are the highest (large fish eat small fish who eat smaller fish)

So, Nitrogen isotopes show how much meat (& dairy), fish, and veggies were consumed by ancient people. The conclusions can be refined with other tests too (e.g., Carbon)
Why does this matter?

Well, different people ate very different quantities of meat, and Homeric poetry features a lot of animal sacrifice and meat
For a long time, people thought that Homeric feasts reflected a meat-heavy diet in the Early Iron Age of Greece

After the fall of the Bronze Age palaces, people turned away from agriculture and towards animal herding. From farmers to cowboys
My research at Nichoria has helped disprove this idea, specifically that of Dark Age Greek cowboys:…

But, it’s not just animal bones, nitrogen isotope ratios show that people ate less meat in the Early Iron Age than those living in Bronze Age palaces
So, in a sense you have songs salivating over “every kind of meat” performed for an audience of meat-starved Early Iron Age Greeks.

Emily Wilson’s translation of “rich roast meat” definitely gives a delicious food porn vibe
But what about for later Greeks, say those who knew Plato in Classical Athens of the 5th century?

Nitrogen isotope ratios from a few cemeteries in Athens show that these Classical Athenians ate a lot more animal products than the Early Iron Age Greeks
The animal bones from Classical Athens were butchered differently from those from sites I’ve seen in Early Iron Age Greece. They’ve mostly been chopped through with cleavers, rather than sliced with knives. I think of it as meat-processing on a larger-scale
Some of this meat eating surely relates to the more common sacrificial feasts of the period, where they did the same rituals as in Homer. Burned thighbones are found aplenty near sacrificial altars

Homeric scenes were no longer food porn, but descriptions of regular feasts
Instead, the Classical Athenians were focused on processed foods. As @ScullinSarah argues, these were seen as “civilizing” and healthy:…

Heavily butchered animal remains show this too. These pork cheeks and shoulders were probably cured
The introduction of new cookpot types in Classical Athens also shows that new types of cooking were being introduced.

Comic poets, in their own version of food porn, highlighted this new cuisine and emphasized fish as an important delicacy
These culinary shifts surely affected how Homeric feasting was seen.

Homer’s out-of-date food porn was even commented on by Euboulos: “Where does Homer ever speak of any of the Achaians eating fish?
So, yeah. Ancient food porn is kinda cool to think about. Does the nudity in this painting make it a cross between real porn and food porn?
For citations to images and quotations in this thread, see below:
If you liked this thread, keep your eyes peeled.

I’ve got an awesome article coming out tomorrow for @eidolon_journal’s #FoodSpecial. I argue that studying ancient food is important in today’s world.
And if you’re interested in more about my research on ancient sacrificial feasting, check out the thread below:

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More from @FlintDibble

Jan 20
Ancient Athenian Horses

A thread about horse bones from thousands of years ago
Today the @ASCSAthens exhibition Hippos: The Athenian Horse kicks off

A centerpiece of the show is this horse skeleton I analyzed from the cemetery at ancient Phaleron, outside of Athens
As a zooarchaeologist, I analyze ancient Greek animal bones. You might think I study horses all the time?

Nope. Most of what I Iook at is different! Normally it’s broken up bits of food trash. Beef, pork, lamb, etc

So, this study of horse skeletons has been fun & challenging
Read 24 tweets
Jan 11
This article on the topic of pseudoarchaeology explains why I do my own homegrown science communication for the public

Good archaeologists are quoted here, but too much airtime is given to pseudoarchaeologists

A thread about who built the pyramids
There is no scholarly debate over who built the pyramids, nor is there a reason for scholars to debate YouTubers over who built them

The pyramids are splendid monuments. I know because I've seen them and climbed in them

But, there's no real mystery in their technology
The innovation we think of as pyramids was a slow progression over generations

Nearly 5000 years ago in early Egypt, the 1st and 2nd dynasty erected funeral monuments at Abydos that were massive square enclosures made of mudbricks.

Over centuries, these get bigger & bigger
Read 20 tweets
Nov 29, 2021
Contrary to what all the epidemiologists are telling you, we actually know a lot about #Omicron

A short thread filled with Classical facts
Omicron is the 15th letter in the Greek alphabet

It literally means ὂ μικρόν or "small o" to distinguish it from the last letter in the Greek alphabet: Ω omega (the big O)

Remember that when making your O face
The ancient Greeks had a confusing number system. Letters were numbers. So alpha was one, beta was two, gamma was three, delta was four

Omicron was 70. What!
Read 6 tweets
Sep 17, 2021
Hi old and new followers!

I’m an archaeologist who writes Twitter threads. They’re a window into the past looking at ancient people & a behind-the-scenes tour of 21st century #archaeology

Here’s an intro to my new project: #ZOOCRETE
/1 cc @CUHistArchRel @Cardiffuni @MSCActions
We’re all familiar with the popular picture of ancient Greece, from the Mask of Agamemnon to the Parthenon in Athens

But, to me, the most exciting revolution sweeping archaeology is a shift to ordinary people. With new questions & methods, we can see them in higher resolution
I reveal ancient people through their trash: the fragmented bones of the animals they’ve eaten

These bones show how people interacted with the natural environment and tell us about the sacrificial feasts that brought together whole communities
Read 33 tweets
Sep 4, 2021
Pseudoarchaeology and fake history causes real harm in our society

Many people think, what’s the harm of hunting for a lost city? It’s entertainment, right! It even exposes children to real science

CW: The harm leads directly to racism and eugenics
The host of #HuntingAtlantis (@stelpavlou), and unfortunately his wife, have claimed that their TV show inspires children to be curious about real facts, real scientific methods, and real archaeology

This might be true in some cases, but there are problems with this argument
The show misrepresents researchers. Repeatedly, archaeologists on #HuntingAtlantis present fascinating, new finds

Then, it cuts to the hosts who explain how these finds support their Atlantis theories

The experts have no recourse to reply to this fantastical jump in logic
Read 25 tweets
Sep 2, 2021
I have apparently pissed off some powerful people with my tweets about Atlantis

For a bit my account was locked. i have done nothing offensive. This TV show has misrepresented archaeologists and scholars. If some lawyer asks me, I can prove it

Bring it on, report my account
i'm not sure why someone's wife decided to write a 20 tweet thread about me, with the first tweet about my who my dad was

I am an archaeologist. I am a good archaeologist

Atlantis is just not real
if you really want to make a documentary about Atlantis, and cant even ask your experts about their opinions about Atlantis

then you are misleading them
Read 21 tweets

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