History’s Unknown, Part III: Ancient Graffiti

Recall how I began this series with a discussion on ancient emojis, well my third entry in the Unknown series follows along the same lines. Communication is the heart, but the smiley faces and taco symbols have been replaced with graffiti!

Graffiti is spontaneous! Unlike inscriptions made by stone, which last centuries graffiti can fade easily. Graffiti has been around forever; from ancient caves to carved mountainsides, to city murals. 

Graffiti is a work of art thrown or carved onto any kind of surface. Beyond that graffiti is a tool of many human expressions ranging from political uprising to advertising.

Pompeii, this ruined city houses the oldest known graffiti. Pictured above, the message reads “Gaius Pumidius Diphilus was here.” Dated October 3, 78. B.C.

Looking at the graffiti running along the walls and old town markets of Pompeii you’ll find messages and drawings references jokes, undying romance, insults, and even memorials for fallen loved ones. 

Thankfully, these ancient inscriptions survived the destruction of Pompeii. A volcanic explosion left Pompeii in an eternal coat of ash, but the graffiti left behind by its residents tells a story that recreates the city entirely. As you walk along the streets of this ruin reading the various messages written on the walls you begin to hear voices of the past.

The city continues to be one huge notebook, call it a writer’s paradise. It makes you wonder did people go around leaving messages on walls for their friends saying “let’s meet up, come by the market.” Very intriguing, as it can be considered the first text messages. 

The origin of social media lay here. Pompeii was a nexus city filled with informative inscriptions detailing merchant transactions to the birth of donkeys. I mean hell you could discover information about anywhere, anybody, and anything!!!!