The collection at London’s British Museum is one of the best in the world. I’m so glad that my husband and I got a chance to discover the archaeological treasures from Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome. We also encountered some artistic masterpieces from Africa, Asia, Middle East, Europe, America and Oceania.
The British Museum’s repository of history provides us with a view that spans a period of more than two million years. There were lots of interesting artefacts and historical objects on display from around the world. Each object represents the cultural and artistic achievements of the civilisation it comes from, and collectively, the collection explores the enduring themes of life that connect people across the world, regardless of when or where they live.
The exhibition begins with the Stone handaxe, the oldest object on display. This handaxe is a masterpiece of the stone toolmaker’s art.
Stone handaxe | Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania (Lower Palaeolithic, about 800,000 years old)
Africa is the world’s second largest continent. It is here that the origins of the human species ultimately lie, and where technology and art first developed. Since early humans spread out of Africa into Asia and Europe around a million years ago, the continent’s peoples and cultures have profoundly influenced the rest of the world.
Left: Mummy of an adolescent boy | Hawara, Egypt
Right: Egyptian mummy masks like that were used to protect a deceased’s face or as substitutes for the mummified head if it was damaged or lost.
Beaded Collar | Matmar, Egypt
This intricate collar was found in the grave of a young child.
Tomb Relief | Saqqara, Egypt
Embroidered Dress | Sinai, Egypt
This full-length dress was worn by a married Bedouin woman living in the Sinai desert in Northern Egypt.
Woman’s beaded bodice | South Sudan
This type of beaded bodice is worn by young women who are eligible for marriage.
Anklets and necklace with amulet case | Zanzibar, Tanzania
Gelede Mask | Nigeria
Woman’s Cloth | El Anatsui
Created in 2001, Woman’s Cloth by African contemporary artist El Anatsui is made of bottle tops and copper wire. The bottle tops come from Nigerian brands of liquor whose names are linked to events, people, historical or current issues.
Welcome Figure | Vancouver Island, Canada
This potlatch welcome figure dating back to the 19th century is 2.3 metres tall. Anthropomorphic figures like this are used to welcome guests at winter potlatch ceremonies in Canada.
Deity Mask | Mexico
I think my husband was really amazed at the 11th-century chess pieces discovered on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland in 1831
The Descent from the Cross | School of Andrea Mantegna (Italian, around AD 1431)
The Three Crosses | Rembrandt (Dutch, AD 1606 – 1668)
Horizontal table clock with detachable alarm | South Germany probably Augsburg
Mirror | Roman (1st to 2nd century AD)
Many ancient Roman mirrors were produced in bronze.
Bust of the emperor Hadrian | Tivoli, Italy
This portrait bust is of the Roman emperor Hadrian, who ruled from AD 117 to 138. It is one of many portraits found at Hadrian’s famous and magnificent country residence near Tivoli, Italy
Figure of a pregnant woman | Cyclades, Greece
THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
A tablet from King Ashurbanipal’s Library | Nineveh, Northern Iraq
An Attendant | Nimrud, Northern Iraq
This limestone guardian figure originally stood at a doorway in the temple of Nabu in the Assyrian capital of Nimrud.
Ossuary | Jerusalem
This limestone chest was used to hold the bones of a dead person or family. They said that the bones were collected after burial, once the flesh had decomposed.
THE ISLAMIC MIDDLE EAST
The term “Islamic” is used here to define the culture of peoples living in lands where the dominant religion is Islam.
Astrolabe | Egypt
Helmet | Iran
Tankard | Damascus, Syria or Cairo, Egypt
Dagger with inlaid inscription | Ottoman, Turkey
Wine vessel | Houma, Shanxi province, China
Pair of pitchers | China
Nõ theatre mask | Japan
Articulated model of a supernatural creature | Japan
Ceremonial crown and breastplate | Nepal
Dagger and Scabbard | Java, Indonesia
AUSTRALIA – OCEANIA
War canoe prow | North Island, Aaotearoa
Paddle | Austral Islands, French Polynesia
Door post | New Caledonia
Male Figure | Fly river area, Papua New Guinea
Frigate bird pendant | Solomon Islands
Wooden knife | Vanuatu
Dance shield | Buin, Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea
This wooden shield is known as a koka, meaning “crescent moon”.
Mask | Mer Island, Torres Strait Islands, Australia
Masks like this were worn during funerary ceremonies.
I really had fun exploring the geology of rocks and minerals with a pocket microscope.
In today’s integrated world, it is important that we learn not just about our own heritage and culture, but also be exposed to the world around us.