Faces of Pompeii

"The Faces of Pompeii and Herculaneum: A Study of Graffiti." 
Dr. Holly Sypniewski and student Brittany Hardy (Millsaps College) 

A better understanding of figural graffiti in Pompeii and Herculaneum can provide a more comprehensive picture of the epigraphic culture of these ancient cities. The editors of the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL) and other major epigraphers of the 20th century were primarily interested in textual inscriptions, and, as a result, figural graffiti have not received adequate scholarly attention. Further, figural graffiti are typically only referenced through vague and often misleading descriptions in the introductory notes to textual inscriptions. Our project aims to compile all extant images of graffiti drawings of heads and faces from Pompeii and Herculaneum and to compare these images to their published descriptions.  Through our research, we will assess the reliability of the published descriptions which often make assessments of age, gender, and social status when they describe.  We will then re-evaluate the relationship between the graffiti drawings and the textual graffiti with which they were published. Finally, we aim to provide a standardized vocabulary that may be used to describe these graffiti in future publications and databases.