Attitudes to graffiti from ancient Egypt to modern China

Second century graffito depicting a man worshiping a crucified donkey. The inscription translates as “Alexamenos respects God.” It may be mocking a Christian soldier. (Photo: Palatine Museum, Rome/Wikipedia)

Here’s a guest post from my Big Show colleague Nina Porzucki

The Chinese teen who scrawled some graffiti on an ancient relic in Egypt caused an uproar last month.

While Chinese officials and netizens gave the kid a really hard time, turns out the boy might have simply been channeling ancient Egyptian habits.

Remember that scene from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”? Brian is marking up a wall, and is caught by a Roman soldier who corrects his grammar. Well, that bit may contain more truth than you know.

In ancient times, graffiti didn’t connote vandalism as it does today.

Turns out graffiti was something done by the elite and well educated as a way, you might say, to show off good spelling.

Anchor Marco Werman speaks with Oxford University Egyptologist Chloé Ragazzoli about contemporary attitudes to ancient graffiti.

Crusader Graffiti in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem (Victorgrigas/Wikimedia Commons)



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1 Comment

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One response to “Attitudes to graffiti from ancient Egypt to modern China

  1. Ian Holder

    Just FYI Patrick — I linked this page to a forum post on an Archaeology Coursera course I am doing: it was well received. Hope you get more fans! One of the staff replied and she has actually worked with Dr Chloé Ragazzoli which was an interesting connection.

    Also linked to the episode by Alex Gallafent on Alice Kober.

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