Tuesday, 6 February 2018

British Museum

Yesterday I trawled up to London to go to the British Museum with Ann, my awesome manager (and history buff). I'd been thinking of going to the museum but wasn't keen on going there alone, so was grateful when Ann jumped in and offered to come along--thank you!

We looked mostly at Ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian artefacts, though briefly breezed through Assyria too!

Of course, it's impossible to go to the British Museum without seeing the Rosetta Stone (if you can see past the crowds around it). This was brought to the museum in 1802 and became key to deciphering hieroglyphs!

Another piece that is impossible to miss is this fragment of a statue of Ramesses II, which came from his Ramesseum (mortuary temple). It really dominates the room--you can't not see it if you're walking through.

I took around 270 photos altogether, so whittling it down to a few for this blog post was difficult. Even then, this has ended up a bit image-heavy, so here's a handy dandy read more...

The Gayer-Anderson Cat, thought to have come from Saqquara, Egypt. This statue has been x-rayed, and it's believed that it once had a stripy tail!

False door from a tomb. It was believed that only the deceased's spirit could pass through this door, which bears the tale of the deceased's life. False doors were found in the tomb's chapel, and were a place where offerings could be left.

Statue of the goddess Sekhmet, thought to have been made during the reign of Amenhotep III.

Mummified cats. Animals were considered intermediaries for the gods, so were specifically bred at temples and mummified after death. Pilgrims would pay for the embalming of an animal dedicated to a god. A lot of mummified animals have been found buried at sacred sites, where it's thought they were interred on an annual basis.
The museum also has mummified crocodiles and mummified bulls!
...And mummified humans. There are a lot of mummies, especially from the later period. Haven't posted any here because none of my pictures turned out very well.

Sarcophagi. The museum has a ton of these, too.

And now for something completely different!
The Parthenon Marbles (or Elgin Marbles) are marble sculptures that were taken from the temple of the Parthenon in Athens. The frieze makes up countless pieces that stretch around the room, and show a procession of people from all walks of life participating in a festival, including pedestrians, riders, chariots, cattle for sacrifice, and of course, the gods.

This section also houses various metopes from the Parthenon, depicting the battles of the Lapith against the centaurs.

There are statues from beneath the pediments of the Parthenon, though several of them have been temporarily removed from display, which was rather disappointing!

Moving on from the Parthenon marbles...

Statue of Apollo holding a kithara. A Roman copy.

A Good Boy. A Molossian hound. Related to mastiffs, these were used as guard dogs during the Hellenistic period.

Busts of Hadrian (left) and Antinous (right).

Jumping far later in history, this is an automaton from the 16th Century, which was used to announce banquets at court. It houses a tiny organ to provide entertainment, could move across the table, and can fire all its guns!

Annnd back to ancient times with this gold cape from the Bronze Age. Discovered in a stone-lined grave in the 19th Century, the labourers who found it divided it up and disposed of the human remains and the rest of the grave contents, so little is known about it. The museum managed to acquire several pieces of it, and restored it by recreating the missing pieces out of gilt copper.

Carvings/statues from Assyria. You can see how but they are from the size of the people walking around in the background!

There is so much to see at the British Museum that it's impossible to look at it all in one day. I was suffering from 'museum fatigue' by the time we got to the last few rooms on our itinerary (mostly the Ancient Egyptian mummies and sarcophagi) but it was still an interesting trip.
Having listened to some of the BB Radio 4/British Museum podcast, A History of the World in 100 Objects, it was great to see some of the pieces I'd heard about!

Particular faves turned out to be the statue of Ramesses II and the gold cape, though it was awesome to see some of the Ancient Egyptian artefacts that I've seen in books, such as the mummified cat.

The British Museum is definitely worth a look if you're in London, and it's only a couple of minutes walk from 4 different tube stations so is easy to get to!

This trip counts towards one of my goals on The List:
010. Visit 30 museums/art galleries/exhibitions
Am up to 24 now! The time it's taking me to complete this goal is ridiculous...


  1. The photos of your visit are wonderful! There are a few Egyptian artifacts (including mummified cats) at the museum in my town, but it doesn't look quite as impressive!

    Haven't been to the British Museum in years, since a friend was over in London, but I remember how huge it was! Think that was around the time the press started reporting that countries like Egypt and Greece wanted things like the Rosetta Stone and Elgin Marbles returned to their countries of origin. I assume that never happened though, unless the originals were returned and just the reproductions are on displayed/kept at the museum? (Sorry, my mind goes off in odd directions!)

    1. Yes, there are lots of artefacts with disputed ownership--the Parthenon/Elgin marbles are among them! Apparently Athens has some reproductions made from casts of the originals that the British Museum have, but the museum itself doesn't seem to have all of them (there are places where instead of a stone, there is a box with a picture on it). It's understandable that different countries want their artefacts back really, considering that in a lot of cases they were either just taken by the British, or bought by rich brits of the past, from people who had stolen them (especially a lot of ancient Egyptian stuff plundered from tombs!)