Wednesday 17 November 2010

British Museum

This post was originally written on 6th March, 2010.

One good thing living in London is that you can just take fancy and go to any number of museums, galleries, theatres whenever you want. Last Sunday, we went to the British Museum with two friends visiting from Canada. There's so much to see in the museum (our last visit was for this exhibition) and we really needed to choose which sections to go to, especially since we had other things to do that day.

I’d like to share with you some of my favourite items from the visit:

This is the "Younger Memnon" statue of Ramesses II which is said to have inspired Percy Bysshe Shelley's famous sonnet "Ozymandias". I remember studying this powerful poem for an exam and was very moved by it.

Look at these beautiful Egyptian inscriptions. I took a high resolution picture and if we are short of a cover image for Cha in the future, I’m definitely using this.

Some of you may have learnt that we are following A History of the World in 100 Objects. We looked for some of them when we were in the museum. Pictured above is Object No. 16, Flood Tablet. It tells part of the story of the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, which is supposed to be the world's oldest piece of literature.

We were also taken by the following tablet, which shows a list of synonyms:

The description says: "Scribes sometimes encountered rare or otherwise difficult words. This list explains such words using synonyms, with each set of words paired up in parallel columns. In many cases the numeral ‘two’ (written with two vertical strokes) is used to express 'ditto'."

While the list of synonyms is arguably my favourite, Jeff's choice is the following item and it gets an obligatory mention:

Description: "At least six graves in the Royal Cementery contained a wooden game board inlaid with shell, red limestone and lapis lazuli for the game now known as the Royal Game of Ur. This is an early example of a game that was played all over the ancient Near East for about 3000 years. Early Dynastic III, 2600-2300 BC From Grave PG 513, Ur."

The above is another favourite of mine. It depicts "A lioness devouring a man in a thicket of stylised lotus and papyrus plants." Why do I like it? It just looks so sexy, don't you think?

Now, do you know who this beauty is? She's Cleopatra! A Cleopatra, not the Cleopatra, though. Look at this larger picture, she has a mole on her lips, just like me! Although Reid suggested that this particular Cleopatra is a bit 'pudgy' and that the 'beauty spot' may have been the result of the painbrush dripping, I am having none of that and am still happy to see that spot there! (We even drafted a literary dialogue about this.)

This is an odd mummy. Look at that adorable mummy of a fish in a wooden coffin! It's from the Ptolemaic or the Egyptian Romantic period, after 305 BC. We also saw mummies of cats (of course), eels, falcons, seahorses and young bulls.

This Easter Island statue, Hoa Hakanania'a, is also an object from the A History of the World programme. I have seen these statues on TV before and it was quite an experience seeing it with my own eyes, even though it was not on Easter Island. How he pouts!

One controversial theory most famously postulated by Jared Diamond suggests that the competitive construction of these statues by local leaders resulted in the deforestation of the Island, which led to the society's eventual collapse. If this is true, it is a warning about modern consumption. (You can read Diamond's article "Easter Island's End" here.)

Our highlight of the visit, however, was Lindow Man. He is very low-key, being placed in a lowly-lit box away from the main attractions. Unless you are actively looking for him or happen to walk into his particular corner, you will likely miss the display. Lindow Man was found in a peat-bog at Lindow Moss. He was killed between 2 BC – 119 AD. The bog preserved his body so well that you can still see his features, including his beard and manicured fingernails. I found this naturally preserved Briton far more interesting than the Egyptian mummies.
Scientists discovered many facts about Lindow Man. Naked except for a fox-fur armband, he was 1.73m tall and weighed 64kg. He was around 25 years old when he died. He was well groomed, with trimmed beard and filed fingernails. Just before he died he ate a flat, unleavened griddle caked baked over an open fire. Several grains of mistletoe pollen were also found in his stomach. It is not certain whether he swallowed these deliberately or accidentally.

Lindow Man, you didn’t know you would be resting in the British Museum and visited by me, did you? [See a larger and clearer picture.]

One Response “British Museum” →

March 6, 2010
The Egyptian Hall is definitely my favourite! You’re so lucky to live in London!

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