The source of Roman
Derbyshire, Science Correspondent
A SET of Roman fish tanks that may have
been used to produce a pungent sauce enjoyed by the
wealthy citizens of Pompeii has been uncovered by
The six tanks, unearthed on a commercial
street at the edge of the city, may have been used to
make garum, the Roman elite's equivalent of brown sauce.
An intact skeleton of a sardine-like fish
and a collection of fish bones were found at the bottom
of one of the tanks by a team from Bradford
Production of garum was big business and
from the first century BC to the end of the Roman period
the sauce was produced in large salting plants in many
cities. The condiment was made by leaving fish to rot in
The tanks measure about three feet deep
and 18in wide and date to the second century BC. They
were abandoned and covered long before Vesuvius
smothered Pompeii with ash in AD79.
Dr Rick Jones, a member of the team that
found the tanks between the remains of Roman shops and
bars, believes that they may have been used to make
garum, or to store live fish before being sold at
"In this part of Pompeii we are dealing
with some of the richest people," said Dr Jones.
"Because fish rots so quickly it becomes
expensive. It was the food of the rich, and the
Pompeians had pictures on their walls of the fish
species they were actually eating.
"To find a complete fish together like
this is exciting. It means we can move on a step in
understanding what people were actually doing in the
A chemical analysis of the concrete-like
lining should reveal whether the tanks were used to make
the sauce or store live fish. The team is building up a
picture of the social background of Pompeii's citizens.
They have found evidence that social
inequality was increasing sharply from the first century