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Monday, 8 July, 2002, 19:22 GMT 20:22 UK
Roman fishy tale uncovered
Carlisle Castle
The dig took place at Carlisle Castle
An ancient Roman recipe, discovered by archaeologists in Cumbria, has been recreated into a modern day dish.

Tunny fish paste - made from tuna fish - was a popular delicacy for Roman officers serving in Carlisle nearly 2,000 years ago.

Archaeologists found evidence of the fishy fare at Carlisle Castle, when they unearthed a food jar with a label still attached.

The dish - that blends tuna fish with dates, honey, vinegar, spices and herbs and is served with hard boiled eggs - was due to be given to guests at a preview of the dig's findings at the castle on Monday.

Tunny paste jar/Copyright English Heritage
The label reads: "Tunny fish paste from Tangiers"
It is thought the fish paste would have been shipped to Carlisle from the Cadiz area of Spain.

The paste was found in an amphora (a large storage jar), outside the commanding officer's house and was probably thrown out with the rubbish in the late 1st Century.

Clay panels on it proclaimed its superior quality to the discerning Roman palate.

The translation of the Latin words, written in ink, reads: "Tunny fish relish from Tangiers, old", "for the larder", "excellent", "top quality".

Roman garrison

It is believed the reference to Tangiers was to the style of the sauce rather than its place of origin.

Amphorae like the one uncovered were shipped to Carlisle from Cadiz, where there was a large industry processing tunny fish.

The fish were chopped, salted and then fermented in their own juice to make the expensive tunny paste.

Also uncovered at the site were rare examples of leather, wood, coins and metalwork, which have helped historians gain a fuller picture of what life was like in a Roman garrison.

'Fascinating snapshot'

David Miles, chief archaeologist of English Heritage, said: "This dig has created a tremendous amount of interest not only in Carlisle but nationally and internationally.

"It represents a remarkable addition to our knowledge of the Roman Empire.

"This exhibition is a fascinating snapshot and just a taste of things to come.

"A dig of this size and complexity now requires a good deal of research and it will be some time before we know the full significance of what has been found."


Click here to go to BBC Cumbria
See also:

24 Jun 02 | England
17 May 02 | England
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