Seasonal Diet in the Mediterranean

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Diet in the ancient Mediterranean was not only dictated by the seasons and the availability of particular foodstuffs but by the cultural, social, and religious practices of an individual’s local and wider communities. The consumption of specific foods at festivals, the seasonal migration of wild and domestic animals, and periods of harvest and food processing all contributed to the creation of a varied and continuously changing diet. Yet people in antiquity similarly sought to combat or manipulate seasonality through the processing and preservation of a range of goods, often enabling them to be consumed all year round. This paper explores the way archaeological material, in association with the literary sources, can enhance our understanding of seasonal consumption patterns with a particular focus on archaeobotanical and zooarchaeological data from the Greek and Roman periods. What evidence do we have for seasonality beyond sites that suffered catastrophic and sudden destruction such as Pompeii? What archaeological tools are at our disposal? Following a section on methodological approaches and available data sets, the paper moves on to an assessment of seasonality and the way it differed based on environment, socioeconomic status, and rural vs. urban lifestyles. How did differences in geography and climate within the Mediterranean influence seasonal diets? To what extent did rural dietary patterns differ from urban ones? How did the calendar of religious festivals, and their associated foodstuffs, help mark the passage of time? The paper concludes by exploring the impact seasonality had on the generation of traditions, memories, and conceptualizations of space and time in the ancient world.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Archaeology of Seasonality
EditorsRubina Raja, Achim Lichtenberger
Place of PublicationBelgium
Pages39 - 58
ISBN (Print)978-2-503-59395-1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021

Publication series

NameStudies in Classical Archaeology


  • Archaeology
  • Roman Empire
  • Archaeobotany
  • zooarchaeology
  • Ritual and consumption
  • seasonality
  • Ancient Greece
  • Food

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