ROME (AFP) - Ancient Romans dined on giraffes, pink flamingos and exotic spices from as far away as Indonesia, according to a new scientific study of excavations in Pompeii near Naples in southern Italy.
The study of food waste dug up by researchers from the University of Cincinnati in the United States led by archaeologist Steven Ellis found that menus in the city were far richer and more varied than previously thought.
The most used foods found in drains and dumps were grains, fruits, nuts, olives, lentils, local fish and eggs but there was also more exotic fare like salted fish from Spain, or imported shellfish and sea urchins.
A joint of giraffe was found in the drain of one home.
"This is thought to be the only giraffe ever recorded from an archaeological excavation in Roman Italy," Ellis was quoted as saying in a university statement.
Ellis's team has been working on two neighbourhoods of Pompeii, which was covered over by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, for the past 10 years.
The area had around 20 shops, most of which served food and drink and the archaeologists analysed their waste drains as well as nearby latrines and cesspits.
The remains go back as far as the 4th century BC.
Ellis said that Pompeii urbanites had "a higher fare and standard of living" than previously thought and the university said the research was "wiping out the historic perceptions of how the Romans dined".