graffiti

[graffito] (Italian: a scribbling)

Term accepted by archaeologists to designate the scratchings (names, ejaculations, prayers, etc.) of medieval pilgrims on early Christian monuments, particularly on tombs. Of little value artistically, they prove valuable to the historian. One of the most important examples is the graffito of Alexamenos, discovered 1857, and preserved in the Kircherian Museum of the Roman College. It represents, derisively, a Christian worshiping a crucified figure with an ass's head; the Greek inscription signifies: "Alexamenos worships his God."

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