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Ancient social networking in Pompeii

A study of graffiti found throughout the buried city of Pompeii suggest that ancient homeowners may have had control over who got to write on their walls. Apparently the walls of the wealthy were highly sought after, especially by political candidates who would write on them to drum up votes.

Pompeii, which was famously destroyed and frozen in time by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79, was a city of “avid scribblers,” Viitanen told LiveScience. People scratched messages into the city’s stucco walls or wrote them in charcoal. They copied literary quotes, wrote greetings to friends and made notes of sums.

Amid all these amateur “wall posts” were political campaign ads, most of which were done by professional painters, Viitanen said. It was these posts that she and her colleagues focused on, mapping out each message and noting its context. The researchers wanted to know where candidates put their messages — near bars and other high-traffic areas, or on the walls of private houses? And where did certain candidates focus their campaigns?

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Story: Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience | Photo: Allison Emmerson, University of Cincinnati

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