W&L’s Rebecca Benefiel Cited in Smithsonian Magazine Article The classics professor’s Ancient Graffiti Project digital resource was also mentioned in the article that focuses on ancient graffiti works.
Rebecca Benefiel, Abigail Grigsby Urquhart Professor of Classics at Washington and Lee University, was recently quoted in a story published in Smithsonian magazine.
The article, titled “Archaeologists are Using Modern Tools to Learn About Visitors to an Ancient Egyptian Temple,” explores the transcription of ancient graffiti to gather a more complete historical context from a variety of ancient sites.
The article’s primary focus is on the Temple of Isis on the island of Philae, set where the Nile River flowed out of Nubia. For years archaeologists had been primarily interested in the temple’s architecture and official ornamentation, but recently they have been focusing on graffiti, which helps provide information on groups of people who may have been left out of historical records. New technologies, including digital resources and artificial intelligence, have allowed researchers to catalog these graffiti works and even fill in some blanks when necessary.
The article cites the Ancient Graffiti Project as one of these new helpful resources. Benefiel created the Ancient Graffiti Project in 2014 with the help of Sara Sprenkle, associate professor of computer science at W&L, as a digital resource capable of bringing the ancient graffiti of Herculaneum and Pompeii to the public.
The article then shifts to graffiti works in the Roman Empire and states that gladiators were among the most common subjects in Roman graffiti, with a quote from Benefiel regarding the popularity of these revered athletes of their day. “Spectators were very interested in their favorite athlete,” she said.
Benefiel joined the W&L faculty in 2005. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in classics with a double major in Greek and Latin from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has also performed graduate work in epigraphy at L’Università di Roma “La Sapienza” and earned a doctorate in classics from Harvard University.
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