Sunday, December 10, 2017

Highlights from the British Museum

I made it out to the British Museum with my daughter last weekend, enjoying our first London Tube ride along the way. S., along with a crowd of other people, was excited at the prospect of seeing the archaeological discovery that enabled scholars to decode Egyptian hieroglyphs:
The Rosetta Stone, British Museum,
After visiting Athens in 2013, I wanted to see the Elgin Marbles that used to adorn the Parthenon. (At the beginning of the 19th century, Lord Elgin received permission from the Ottoman government to take away "pieces of stone with old inscriptions or figures thereon." The priceless rock he carted off surely exceeded what the Sultan had in mind.)

The Egyptian exhibits were stunning, as one would expect:
Amenhotep III's left arm

But I was most surprised and astounded by the Assyrian artifacts. Here, for instance, is a Lamassu from Khorsabad that apparently goes back to the reign of Sargon II in the late 8th century BCE:

More exciting still is a series of wall panels depicting Sennacherib's siege of Lachish in 701 BCE:
Sennacherib's capture of Lachish is mentioned in Isaiah 36:1-2; it is also described first-hand in a series of letters inscribed on ostraca that were discovered when Lachish was excavated in the 1930's.

On a final dash through the second floor, I snapped pictures of various 1st-century Roman emperors for use in class:
The Emperor Augustus

If it were not for the incentive of seeing real mummies...

... we would have missed the Cyrus Cylinder, which describes Cyrus's policy of repatriating subject peoples to their homelands:

Admission is free, so it is churlish to complain that the museum is simply too large to take in on a single visit. The contents could easily be divided into a half-dozen world-class museums. 
I guess that means I'll need to go back.

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