Graffiti (both singular and plural, the singular graffito is rarely used except in archeology) is writing or drawings made on a wall or other surface, usually without permission and within public view. Graffiti ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings, and has existed since ancient times, with examples dating back to ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire. Graffiti is a controversial subject. In most countries, marking or painting property without permission is considered by property owners and civic authorities as defacement and vandalism, which is a punishable crime, citing the use of graffiti by street gangs to mark territory or to serve as an indicator of gang-related activities. Graffiti has become visualized as a growing urban 'problem' for many cities in industrialized nations, spreading from the New York City subway system in the early 1970s to the rest of the United States and Europe and other world regions. Etymology 'Graffiti' (usually both singular and plural) and the rare singular form 'graffito' are from the Italian word graffiato ('scratched'). The term 'graffiti' is used in art history for works of art produced by scratching a design into a surface. A related term is 'sgraffito', which involves scratching through one layer of pigment to reveal another beneath it. This technique was primarily used by potters who would glaze their wares and then scratch a design into it. In ancient times graffiti were carved on walls with a sharp object, although sometimes chalk or coal were used. The word originates from Greek grapheinmeaning 'to write'.
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