In the Vesuvian cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, we find not only monumental inscriptions hewn in stone, but also large quantities of written testimonies from Antiquity done in ephemeral paints that fade with time – what are known as dipinti. In addition come the graffiti that is scratched into the walls and often augmented with drawings. Together this written matter amounts to a uniquely rich body of evidence.
The dipinti in particular have now largely faded or were removed together with their plaster substrate shortly after their discovery and brought to museums, where they have been sorted according to their contents or salient features in their material constitution. As a result, the finds have been torn from their original contexts, and above all the juxtaposition of the finds destroyed. Reconstructing the spatial distribution of the written testimonies and their ensembles is one of the chief objectives of this sub-project and is aimed at re-establishing their context.
As artefacts made by human hand, the written testimonies handed down to us raise above all questions about the actions performed with and on them. Thus for instance an irregular distribution has been ascertained in the urban area of Pompeii. Similarly, although recurring patterns have been identified with regard to the individual finds, there are also certain unique features that can be explained by the goals, practices, forms of reception and the relationships of the people involved.
In order to specify the issues more precisely, first of all individual, spatially defined textual contexts are selected which, together with the findings that are gained and the older documentation, enable material profiles, topologies and praxeograms to be drawn up.