A new article by Paul van Pelt and Nico Staring takes a creative look at graffiti left in Saqqara. Saqqara was the necropolis of one of the most significant cities in Egypt, Memphis. Most studies of ancient graffiti have focused upon “textual graffiti,” but as we know graffiti itself is a visual phenomenon, and pictures and images make up much of “graffiti.” But interpreting non-textual materials can prove difficult from the vantage of a culture far removed.
Few people were literate but that did not stop them from drawing pictures or copying images they found meaningful. The authors propose that some types of “figural graffiti” were in fact prayers meant to secure the place of the deceased in the afterlife or to, in some way, keep the graffiti artist in connection with the tomb and the departed.
In addition the authors take a stab at the social location of those who composed “figural graffiti” compare to those who composed “textual graffiti.”