Friday, 5 June 2009

The British Museum

When we were in London for the day, I persuaded my mum that while my dad and brother roamed the tube (I think they did something like seven different lines...), we should go to the British Museum. After working out that it's not at South Kensington, it's actually from a small random tube stop elsewhere, we finally managed to find the place. And wow was it an impressive museum. The building itself was awesome enough, to say nothing of the stuff in it.

I had to see the Rosetta Stone of course. For those of you who don't know, the Rosetta Stone is the reason we can now understand hieroglyphs. Up till the point they found and decoded it, it was assumed that hieroglyphs were some kind of picture language, and impossible to decode as all knowledge of it had been lost. But the Rosetta Stone changed all that. It was found by Napoleon on his expedition to Egypt (when he took along a bunch of Egyptologists to study the place), and he decided that it was worth carting back to France for further study. But then the British intervened by defeating him, and in the settlement they gave the British the stone amongst other artefacts. The British were quick to recognise its importance and sent out images of it to scholars all over the world to see what they could make of it. They figured out that the three different languaged inscriptions all said the same thing--a royal decree. The languages were Greek, demotic (a kind of simple form of hieroglyphs that was actually practical), and hieroglyphs. Since they knew Greek, it was possible to figure out what the other two said. It's a pretty massive lump of rock, carved with lots of teeny tiny figures, and there was a bit of a crowd around it.

Along with the Rosetta Stone, there were a bunch of other statues from Egypt (and other places too). And they were massive! I mean, the story of how they got to the museum, bearing in mind they were probably transported on sailing ships, must be quite a thing in itself. There was a head from a statue that was taller than me, lion things, all sorts.

Then there were all sorts of Minoan and Mycenean (think that's how you spell it) stuff, which I had a bit of a look at. One of the two (sorry, I can't quite recall which), is thought to be the basis for the legend of Atlantis, and Minoan Crete is the basis for the story of the Minotaur (the legend with the man with the bull's body which lives in a labyrinth, and the ball of string). Very interesting stuff. They hung about on Crete a long time ago.

Had a bit of a look at the European history too, but I was a bit miffed we didn't have, oh, say a couple of days to look around. Pretty neat. They have the stuff from the Sutton Hoo burial there (I'd never heard of it before either--it's a load of burial mounds in this country with all sorts of funky artefacts from our ancient ancestors and bits of ship which were buried there too). Anyhow, that was pretty interesting. And a bit more moral perhaps. I mean, we have kinda nabbed a large part of the ancient culture of various different places, although I suppose folks like the Minoans and Myceneans don't really mind so much since they're wiped out (if I'm wrong here, please correct me...). But it's maybe not so nice to Egypt to have nabbed the Rosetta Stone. Although I am grateful for the fact I've been able to see it.

Anyway, it's well worth visiting this place if you ever happen to be in London. Absolutely incredible, especially if you're a bit of a history lover :D.

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