The British Museum

Tuesday (4th June) was dull, dark and gloomy and rained (drizzled) intermittently … so I picked somewhere to go where I could reasonably expect to spend a whole day indoors.

The British Museum.

Apart from the completely remodelled central Atrium, now a mix of open space and a temple to commerce, the museum itself doesn’t seem to have changed all that much.

Lots of antiquities. I hit the Graeco-Roman classical section first … I always find the Attic Black Figure pottery outstanding as a perfect example of the effective mix of form, decoration and function … all done largely by hand and around 2400 years ago.

The Elgin Marbles (from the Parthenon) are still impressive, especially in the large hall (purpose built) they’re displayed in … regardless of the pseudo-controversy of who owns them (how far back in time does ownership go? And, of course, despite the preference of the current occupants of the Greek peninsula, they are largely of slavic or non-hellenic blood and have been for around 1500 years, so claims of ‘prior ownership’ are arguably specious … but don’t try and befuddle a Greek with the facts!).

Anyway, the Rosetta stone was next, much more impressive in actuality to the replica on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (and here again politics vs reality rears its ugly head … how far back does ownership go, especially if the current population is far less than 100% ethnically identical with the one that created the thing … the Greeks, if push comes to shove).

The massive Assyrian lamassu of the Balawat gate are impressive as well, sadly more so since the ISIS nutjobs deliberately blew up pretty much all of Nimrud.

The Balawatb Gate Lammasu – these are the remnants of a huge crowd of (Spanish? Portuguese? Probably not French or Italian) tourists who had infested the space taking selfies (and, it seemed, selfies of each other taking selfies) for the previous five minutes or so!

Then on to the Roman Britain and Medieval Europe galleries … the Roman Britain ones had several very impressive treasure hoards that had only been discovered after my last visit in 1988 … almost all dating back to the late 300’s or early 400’s when the Empire’s control of the western provinces was slipping away. Some of the plate and tableware are very impressive … obviously belonging to late Romano-British aristocracy, real works of art which have only survived being melted down because they were hidden and never recovered.

The Sutton Hoo treasures were also impressive, and better displayed than last time I was there … and the famous Helmet (a copy of a Late Imperial Roman pattern) was supplemented by a modern reproduction. The original had been crushed and shattered when the superstructure of the ship grave it was buried in collapsed and, though painstakingly reassembled and impressive in its own sad way, the reproduction lets you see exactly what it could have looked like ‘back in the day’.

And that was most of the day … it’s a big place.

The one thing that was quite annoying was the number of bloody tourists … no selfie-sticks (maybe they’re banned?) who, of course, congregated at all the important spots in hordes. Still, not as bad as the Louvre where the staff forcibly closed it recently because they were overwhelmed by the crowding. Even the IWM wasn’t anywhere near as bad (and not was St Paul’s Cathedral, which I’ll try and post about in a couple of days). So not a lot of photos to post, even if WordPress made it easy to do so.

Anyway, that’s all for now …


2 thoughts on “The British Museum

  1. Hi Phil,
    Good to hear from you, the weather has been same here and l liked your info on both the Imperial War Museum and the British Museum. Just finished reading my latest copy of Ancient Warfare where their main theme was Roman Auxiliaries. So keep these blogs coming.


    1. Actually, the weather has changed for the better – still coolish, but the sun was out yesterday and, so it seems, today (Thursday) as well. Off to see the V&A, probably the Natural History Museum … maybe the Science Museum as well.


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