Israelis find rare Roman fish sauce factory

Roman fish sauce factory discovered at Ashkelon, Israel, December 2019 Image copyright Israel Antiquity Authority
Image caption The site is one of the few in the eastern Mediterranean

Israeli archaeologists have discovered the well-preserved remains of a 2,000-year-old factory for making garum, the fabled fish sauce that the Romans took with them on all their journeys of conquest.

The Israel Antiquities Authority came across the small cetaria, or factory for making the prized sauce, while inspecting the site of a planned sports park on the outskirts of the southern city of Ashkelon, Israel's Kan public broadcaster reports.

The dig was funded by the local authorities, and young people and school children from the Ashkelon area came to help out.

It is one of the very few garum factories found in the eastern Mediterranean, despite the Romans' long presence in the area and the premium they put on the pungent fermented sauce.

Most surviving examples are to be found in the Iberian Peninsula and southern Italy.

"We have something really unusual here," Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Dr Tali Erickson-Gini told The Times of Israel, as the Romans added garum to almost all their dishes to give them a salty savoury kick.

"It's said that making garum produced such a stench that cetariae were located some distance from the towns they served, and in this case the factory is about two kilometres from ancient Ashkelon," Dr Tali Erickson-Gini said, according to Kan.

You may also be interested in:

Although the garum factory was gradually abandoned after the Romans left, later rulers found the site was also suitable for cultivating grapes.

In the fifth century CE, a local Byzantine monastery made a living from producing wine there, and the remains of three winepresses have also been discovered at the site.

Anyone curious to see what a garum factory looked like is welcome to visit on the afternoon of 22 December, when the Israel Antiquities Authority will open the site to the public free of charge.

Image copyright Israel Antiquity Authority
Image caption The dig is on the outskirts of Ashkelon

Reporting by Martin Morgan

Next story: Canada's grizzly bears move into Arctic north

Use #NewsfromElsewhere to stay up-to-date with our reports via Twitter.