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Graffiti on the walls in Pompeii

News from the Archaeological Institute of America's annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif.

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3:22pm, January 15, 2010

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Well-off homeowners living in the Roman city of Pompeii more than 2,000 years ago could read the writing on their own walls, and apparently didn’t mind the spontaneous scrawling. Citizens of Pompeii scratched out graffiti on the walls of private residences to share creative greetings, welcomes and salutations to friends, Rebecca Benefiel of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., reported on January 8.

Many elite Pompeii dwellings bear dozens of graffiti messages on their walls, Benefiel notes. She studied 41 examples of written graffiti spread across two stories of one such house. Most graffiti appeared on walls in well-traveled areas, such as an entrance area and near stairways. Different people wrote messages back-and-forth to one another on the walls, sometimes in the form of poetry, Benefiel says. Graffiti writers intended to have their product read by an audience, she suggests.

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