Project Lead:

Rebecca Benefiel, Associate Professor of Classics
Sara Sprenkle, Associate Professor of Computer Science


Mackenzie Brooks, Assistant Professor and Digital Humanities Librarian

Student contributors:
Skylar Prichard ’19
Kelly McCaffrey ’19
Cooper Baird ’19
Alicia Martinez ’18
Nathan Brewer ’19
Lillian MacDonald ’19
Azmain Amin ’17
Lenny Enkhbold ’17
Sima Sharma ’18
Mina Shnoudah ’17
Jamie White ’17
Zachary Taylor ’17
Patrick Hennis
Paul Jang ’15
Onye Ekenta ’15
Paul Jang ’15
Ginny Huang ’14
Anton Reed ’14

Project URL:

Project Description:

The Ancient Graffiti Project is a digital resource and search engine for locating and studying graffiti of the early Roman empire from the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Ancient graffiti, inscriptions that have been incised or scratched into wall-plaster, comprise a special branch of epigraphy. They differ from inscriptions on stone in several respects. An inscription on stone may be commemorative, dedicatory, sacred (to name just a few classes of inscription), but in almost all cases forethought has gone into the preparation of the text and the inscribed monument. Graffiti, by contrast, are more often the result of spontaneous composition and are the handwritten creation of the “man on the street.” Since graffiti are scratched into friable wall-plaster, they are more easily perishable, but when they do survive they are almost always found in situ, unlike many stone inscriptions that have survived to the present day through re-use.

Our search engine complements traditional, text-based search engines, allowing different types of searches that focus on characteristics specific to ancient handwritten inscriptions, or graffiti.

Ancient Graffiti Project: Tools for Analyzing Personal Communication Project, National Endowment for the Humanities, Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant, 2016

Mellon Summer Research Grant, Summer 2016 (Digital Humanities)

LaFrance, Adrienne. “Pompeii’s Graffiti and the Ancient Origins of Social Media.” The Atlantic 29 Mar. 2016.

See a complete list of presentations and publications on the project site.

Methodology: digitization, linked data, and mapping