The abstract of a forthcoming lecture by Jennifer Westerfeld, which highlights some important points itself, and is accompanied by a photograph that amply illustrates the point being made: Spray-painted across walls or scratched onto the windows of subway cars, graffiti is often seen as a modern, urban phenomenon. However, the practice of writing graffiti actually goes back many thousands of years, and graffiti from the ancient world can be a valuable source of information for modern historians, giving us greater insight into how the ancients interacted with local landscapes. This talk will draw on recent fieldwork at Abydos and sites in Egypt's Kharga Oasis to discuss how Christian graffiti from the late antique period (roughly 350-750 CE) reflect changing attitudes towards sacred space and can help us reconstruct early Egyptian Christians' impressions of the Pharaonic monuments that still dominated the landscape at that time.
It's nice to see the ways in which graffiti can be useful! Details of the lecture by Jennifer Westerfeld, in Chicago at the end of March, are on the above page. A short bio of Westerfeld is also shown on the above page.