Ancient Graffiti Project

The Ancient Graffiti Project: finding, documenting, and digitizing ancient graffiti

The aim of the Ancient Graffiti Project is to document and digitize ancient graffiti from the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.  The fieldwork portion of the project, which is directed by Sewanee professor Dr. Jacqueline DiBiasie Sammons, works in the ancient sites to find and document extant graffiti.  Field seasons in 2014 and 2016 resulted in the documentation of nearly all the surviving graffiti at the site of Herculaneum.  Project members find, photograph, record, and digitize ancient graffiti from the site, honing their skills in archaeological documentation, digital preservation, and Latin translation.  This work is crucial.  Ancient graffiti are disappearing at an alarming rate.  The AGP is working to ensure that these graffiti can be digitally preserved before they are lost forever.  Furthermore, we are currently working with conservators at the site in order to preserve these graffiti for future generations. 

The project, under the leadership of Project Director Rebecca Benefiel (Washington and Lee) has also developed a search engine to study the graffiti from the sites of Herculaneum and Pompeii.  The search engine is contextual and designed specifically for ancient graffiti.  For more on the Ancient Graffiti Project Search Engine click here.

Three Sewanee students joined the project in the 2016 Field Season: Sarah Minnear (C'16), Grace Gibson (C'17) and Katherine Handloser.  Grace Gibson is currently completing an honors thesis on the pictorial graffiti (drawings) at the site of Herculaneum.  She presented portions of this work at the Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in January 2017. 

Join the project!

We need students!  If you have an interest in Latin, computers, Pompeii, or all of the above, please contact us to learn how you can get involved!  Professor DiBiasie has many opportunities for student research and would be happy to discuss these opportunities further.  To contact Dr. DiBiasie email

Sewanee Publications and Presentations

  • Grace Gibson ('17): "Pictorial Graffiti in Context: An Analysis of of Drawn Graffiti in Herculaneum" Paper presented at the  Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America. (January 2017)
  • “Teaching and Research: Research and Teaching” Invited Teach & Tell, Sewanee: The University of the South Center for Teaching.  (November 2016)
  • Jacqueline DiBiasie Sammons and Grace Gibson ('17): "The Herculaneum Graffiti Project: Using Graffiti in the Latin Classroom” Presentation  at the Tennessee Foreign Language Teaching Association annual conference (November 2016)
  • “Picturing 1000 Words: Digital Archaeology at Pompeii and Herculaneum” Millsaps College (February 2016)

Three Sewanee students joined Professor DiBiasie on the Ancient Graffiti Project




 Three Sewanee Students joined Professor DiBiasie in the 2016 field season of the Ancient Graffiti Project.  Here  they pose inside the House of the Telephus Relief in Herculaneum.







Grace Gibson presents a poster at the Annual Meeting of the AIA


Grace Gibson presents a paper at the Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America.  This paper discusses portions of her honors thesis on graffiti drawings in Herculaneum.

Professor Jacqueline DiBiasie presents a poster at the Annual Meeting of the AIAProfessor DiBiasie and Professor Holly Sypniewski (Millsaps College) present a poster about using iPads in archaeology at the Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America.