If these walls could talk …

ASU graduate finds authentic — and often underrepresented — ancient Roman voices in the graffiti of Pompeii


May 4, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

Great works of literature may easily stand the test of time, but they rarely capture all the perspectives a culture or era had to offer. To get the full human story, you sometimes have to look in untraditional places, where people of all backgrounds communicated from the heart and off the cuff. photo of people's shadows on wall Download Full Image

That realization is part of what inspired Alexa Rose, a graduating senior from Arizona State University's School of Human Evolution and Social Change, to take a closer look at ancient graffiti in the city of Pompeii.

“When I went there two years ago for field school, I picked up a book on the subject, and almost every day after closing hours I wandered around looking for graffiti,” she said.

Rose is no stranger to ancient cultures. Her majors — anthropology and classical civilizations — have opened the door to numerous scientific and cultural explorations during her time at ASU, including the study of archaeological ceramics with the Center for Archaeology and Society and the creation of databases at the Teotihuacan Research Laboratory in Mexico.

These experiences allowed Rose to quickly see the value in Pompeii’s ancient graffiti — as mini time capsules chock-full of cultural insights and new research potential.

photo of Alexa Rose in Pompeii
Rose takes in the view on the streets of Pompeii.

“This graffiti spoke to me because it really is the voice of the Romans,” she said, including those such as gladiators, women, and children, whose perspectives may have been marginalized in official histories.

Rose went on to create a database and then a typology for these pieces, grouping them into categories: romantic, religious, insulting, violent, greeting, etc. Besides the message itself, clues such as grammar, use of image versus text, language complexity and graffiti location gave her insight into each creator’s possible literacy level and social standing.

Given that graffiti is an ever-evolving medium still used by people today, the resulting data also lends an interesting perspective on modern trends. Differences from its past use certainly exist, but many of the core reasons for its creation remain the same, including the desire to be heard and to make a personal connection with strangers.

“A lot of graffiti is sexual or insulting in nature, but Romans also had a tendency to create kinder graffiti that offers statements like ‘hello’ or ‘good wishes’,” Rose said.

Question. What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study anthropology?

Answer: I remember walking into the Center for Archaeology and Society’s pottery room and thinking, “This is the right place for me.”

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: There are too many to choose from, honestly. I think one of my favorite moments from my undergraduate career is hiking the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, Mexico on my birthday last year.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Take advantage of all of the opportunities at ASU!

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: The School of Human Evolution and Social Change undergraduate student lounge.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

photo of Alexa Rose in Roman costume
Rose plans to pursue a master's degree in classical archaeology.

A: I recently founded a nonprofit for an accessible online Latin tutoring website and am currently curating archaeological documents at the Digital Archaeological Record for the Digital Archive of Huhugam Archaeology project. I plan to pursue a master’s degree at Brandeis University in classical archaeology and continue fieldwork in Pompeii, studying graffiti and archaeological ceramics.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would make all field schools free so more students have access to learn about archaeology.

Aaron Pugh

Communications program coordinator, School of Human Evolution and Social Change

480-727-6577

A non-traditional student embraces tradition


May 4, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

Bobbi Doherty is not your typical Arizona State University graduate. She was in her 40s when she decided to switch her career path and turn to education. Bobbi Doherty Bobbi Doherty has signed my first contract to teach seventh- and eighth-grade social studies in the Florence Unified School District. She secured a job at a local school district while maintaining a GPA to qualify her to graduate summa cum laude when she receives her bachelor's in secondary education–history. Download Full Image

In addition to her roles of wife and mother, Doherty has managed to complete her coursework, student teaching and the necessary Arizona educator certifications. Most recently, she secured a job at a local school district while maintaining a GPA to qualify her to graduate summa cum laude when she receives her bachelor's in secondary education–history in May.

Doherty’s journey to earn her degree started at Chandler Gilbert Community College. In 2016, she was at the top of her class and was awarded Promising Educator of the Year – Secondary Education 2016. She transferred to ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College as a junior. A first-generation college graduate, she had never thought of higher education as an option. Doherty credits higher education for helping her earn the skills and confidence necessary to go into her own classroom and teach the future of Arizona.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I have always wanted to be a teacher, but the moment I knew I was in the right field of study was recently in my student teaching, when a student told me I was the best teacher they ever had and that I helped her understand history. She said that I make learning fun.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: That people do not understand the full scope of an educator’s role in the school and in our society. I can honestly say teaching is the most important profession; without teachers, there would not be other professions.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: ASU has one of the best teaching programs in the country — in my opinion the best that Arizona has to offer! I am proud to be a graduate of Mary Lou Fulton Teacher College at Arizona State University.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Four years may seem like a long time, but it comes fast. Work hard, but have fun too!

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My homebase is the courtyard in the Farmer Building; it's peaceful and it's my ASU home.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I have signed my first contract to teach seventh- and eighth-grade social studies in the Florence Unified School District.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Of course improving the state of education, and it would start at home here in Arizona.

Written by Trista Sobeck