Roman Empire was into marketing
July 9, 2002
BY SUE LEEMAN
LONDON - Archeologists have discovered an ancient example of marketing, a label on a jar of Roman fish paste.
The hand-written clay label was attached to a jar of 1st century tuna fish relish, shipped from Spain to a fort on the northernmost edge of the Roman Empire. The words "excellent" and "top quality" are still clearly visible written in sooty ink.
The label was revealed Monday, along with thousands of other finds made during the building of a new subway, at the start of a new exhibition in Carlisle, England.
''These stunning finds of international importance provide a unique insight into the daily routine of the average Roman 'squaddie' [foot soldier] and his officers between A.D. 72 and A.D. 400,'' said Malcolm Cooper of the preservation group English Heritage, which organized the dig. ''We see how he went about his military duties and also how he spent his time away from the front line.''
Archeologists found three forts built consecutively on the site in Carlisle, a town known to Romans as Luguvalium. The first two were made of timber and the third of stone. Experts are especially excited by the discovery of the fort's headquarters, or principia, where the foot soldier came to get his daily orders, collect his pay or receive punishment.
Other finds include jewelry, such as a woman's hairpin depicting a tiny female head wearing dangling earrings that may have been owned by the commanding officer's wife.
Archeologists also found well-preserved armor similar to that used by gladiators, which may have been brought to Luguvalium by soldiers who had fought against the Dacians in what is now Romania, and black-and-white gaming counters that suggest soldiers played a game similar to modern checkers.
There is a selection of coins dating from around A.D. 70 to the 4th century and hundreds of animal bones, indicating that the garrison ate sheep, cattle, pigs, deer and birds. Plant remains show that dill and coriander were also on the Roman menu.
Archeologists say there is also evidence of a sophisticated wooden system of water supply and drainage.
The jar containing the tuna mixture was found outside the commanding officer's house, or praetorium. It is thought the mixture was shipped to Luguvalium from the Spanish port of Cadiz, where there was a large industry processing tuna fish.
''This dig ... represents a remarkable addition to our knowledge of the Roman Empire,'' said David Miles, chief archeologist at English Heritage.