During the late 18th, and the 19th century, a trend began to emerge with many travellers visiting Egypt leaving inscriptions at sites they visited. From commemorative military inscriptions, grand tourists celebrating highlights of their journeys and excavators marking a site where history was unearthed, these inscriptions offer a wealth of information for researchers today.The phenomenon of travellers’ graffiti actually emerged much earlier, with examples from the ancient world visible at sites such as the chapel of Ptah at Karnak temple or Julia Balbilla’s epigrammatic poetry to commemorate the visit of Emperor Hadrian to the Colossi of Memnon. These inscriptions evidence cultural relevance and the importance of these sites within the ancient world. Recent graffiti surveys and comparative studies offer an indication of whether reception of these sites changed or stayed relevant in the modern era. While travellers’ graffiti can offer a casual visitor an autograph book of the ‘great and good’ of early Egyptology, it can also provide a useful reference for those seeking to provenance items from collectors, grand tourists and early excavators. This graffiti is now at risk from a variety of factors, but modern 3D scanning technology such as photogrammetry is preserving a permanent record. Examples of digital recordings and 3D printed reproductions will be given alongside this address, and will be made available for handling, alongside Monument Men’s proposals for a geo-referenced travellers’ graffiti database and its potential research impact.
Lee Robert McStein is the technical director of Monument Men, a non-profit cultural heritage organisation based in the North West of England, an academy trainer for the Italian photogrammetry developers 3DFlow (University of Verona) and consultant photogrammetrist to the Ancient Egyptian Animal Bio Bank (University of Manchester).