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Studying Ancient Graffiti

Rebecca Benefiel

Rebecca Benefiel, an assistant professor of classics at Washington and Lee, was cited in a USA Today article last week that focused on research being undertaken to show what daily life was like in the ancient city of Pompeii. Rebecca’s work is unusual enough that it obviously caught the eye of the USA Today reporter. She’s working on graffiti, the more than 11,000 inscriptions on the walls. As Rebecca told USA Today, “You can’t get that level of detail anywhere else.” The latest article that Rebecca has written on her work, which is supported in part through the Olivia James Traveling Fellowship from the Archaeological Institute of America, discusses a character named Amianthus who was a particularly prolific graffiti writer. What’s fascinating about this graffiti is that it’s recording Amianthus and some buddies playing a Roman game trigon, a Roman game. Rebecca has written a note about this on Blogging Pompeii, a blog where scholars from all over the world are talking about their work.