Digital Graffiti Maps of Roman Pompeii

The Roman city of Pompeii, buried catastrophically by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, is a treasure trove of historical information not otherwise available for the ancient world. Because of the circumstances of its destruction, the urban landscape was preserved as it was when the inhabitants fled in 79 CE, leaving behind everything: jewelry, furniture, food, tools, clothing, money, and art. Among these artifacts are the more than 10,000 written texts which appeared on Pompeian walls, which include everything from advertisements to personal letters, from political solicitations to erotic poems.
 
Unfortunately, Pompeii and its graffiti present the scholar and the student with significant challenges. The site has a very long excavation history, dating back to the middle of the 18th century. Much material was removed from the site in the early centuries and its original excavation context lost; what was left behind frequently perished from neglect, the only record of its existence being the excavation reports published unevenly over the course of the past 250 years. In recent years, serious and systematic attempts have been made by scholars to “re-place” artifacts and reunify dispersed information. Very little has been done, however, to address the isolation and inaccessibility of Pompeii’s wall writings, which remain simultaneously one of the most evocative and the most arcane collections of data to have survived from antiquity.
 
This project proposes to address that problem for the benefit of both students and scholars, in the form of an interactive map of the ancient city published on the web. When a particular location is selected by the user, the map will provide an increasingly detailed map of the graffiti finds. At the level of the total city map, a viewer can see the concentration of graffiti in particular regions. As the viewer clicks onto the map, more detailed maps appear and individual streets, blocks, houses, and texts will come into view.