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Washington and Lee University (Lexington, VA 24450-2116)
Rebecca R. Benefiel (Project Director: September 2015 to March 2022)
Sara Sprenkle (Co Project Director: March 2016 to March 2022)
Ancient Graffiti Project: Tools for Analyzing Personal Communication

Prototype development of a web-based resource documenting handwritten inscriptions found within the ruins of the early Roman Empire, with a focus on the town of Herculaneum as a pilot case.

We propose to develop tools to study and analyze handwritten, informal, ancient inscriptions (graffiti) for the Ancient Graffiti Project. Thousands of these messages from Herculaneum and Pompeii convey voices at every level of ancient society. Handwritten inscriptions differ from inscriptions on stone. First, since graffiti are found in situ, original geospatial and contextual data are available. Graffiti also include drawings, which are difficult to locate in text-based search engines. Consider how to search for a dog attacking a stag. These tools include 1) representation of graffiti in their spatial context at multiple granularities, 2) a system of controlled vocabularies and filters to make figural graffiti (drawings) searchable and retrievable, and 3) a schema of medium-specific metadata for handwritten inscriptions. With these tools, users will be able to study both inscribed texts and images, as well as research questions specific to ancient graffiti.

[White paper][Grant products][Media coverage][Prizes]

Project fields:
Classical Languages; Classics

Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants

Digital Humanities

$74,592 (approved)
$74,592 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2016 – 11/30/2018