Ancient, preserved graffiti can help scientists trace history.

Experts digging through the remains of one of Pompeii’s largest villas claim to have identified its owner thanks to the discovery of graffiti left by a mischievous young girl.

Excavations at the buried site, just outside the walls of the Roman city, turned up stables complete with the remains of horses, a large terrace with sea views and sprawling quarters with brightly coloured frescoes — but no one knew to whom it belonged. The mystery may have been solved by the discovery of the word “Mummia” scratched twice in a child-like style into the paintwork of a wall, a likely reference to the wealthy family of that name who gave ancient Rome politicians, playwrights and consuls including Lucius Mummius, who conquered Greece in 146BC.

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