Postcard from Rome, Italy: Few clues for archaeologists of future times

The war against graffiti within the historic center in Rome is constant, but it is amazingly successful. “Divieto d’Avissione.”

The penalties must be high, because most of what is of any interest at all obviously is executed rapidly by stencil or pasted on a wall by someone on the run. The center is pretty much devoid of any authorized street art as well.

That was not the case in ancient Rome:

But, unlike today, Roman graffiti was not forbidden—and it was practically everywhere, from the private dining rooms of wealthy homes (domi, where friends sometimes left messages for the hosts) to the public forum. In fact, according to Kristina Milnor, more 11,000 graffiti images have been found in Pompeii—which is just about the size of the population at the height of the town….

Without this threat of punishment, it seems that graffiti was readily practiced by people at all strata of society, making it perhaps the most valuable text we have from the ancient world. Man, woman, child, slave, poor, rich, illiterate—it did not matter, so long as there was an empty spot on a wall. Which means that, through graffiti, we are able to hear the voices of those who have been traditionally voiceless, granting us the possibility of astounding insights into lives and minds we’ve never been able to access….

Naturally, all of these works have slowly changed ideas on what Roman life was like at the time.

“Why ancient Roman graffiti is so important to archaeologists,” Susanna Pilney, Red Orbit

The majority of these images are fleeting, soon to be eradicated by graffiti police. Surely not Super Papa Francis?

How will archaeologists of the future ever understand what Romans of today think about politics, sex, love, religion?

If the #qwerty from the featured image were all that remained, the keyboard reference would only confuse them. Who could figure out any Latin-based alphabet based on that?

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