He reads the writing on the wall

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“I feel very close to the writers. I can see them scratching these graffiti into the plaster. It’s a window onto the ancient world…it feels almost like time travel.”

Photo by Matt Thomas

Matt Panciera, assistant professor of Classics at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, studies the graffiti of Pompeii. These ancient writings—literally scratching on walls—reveal the concerns, attitudes and beliefs of ordinary Roman citizens.

Panciera sees the graffiti as evidence of a basic human instinct to let people know that you exist, or to say hello to your friends. Much modern graffiti fills the same need. In many ways, the people of Pompeii were no different from you or me.