Egypt, Egypt, Egypt

When we learned we were coming to England, there was never any question we’d visit the British Museum several times. It’s the kind of must-see location you wouldn’t want to cram into a single day.

Even approaching the building was exciting. In England, there seem to be a lot of large gates with small doors cut into the bars. I can’t say why, but for some reason that juxtaposition interests me.

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(Carving over the entry way to the British Museum)

Our first stop was the membership desk. You can visit most of the British Museum for free, with the exception of a few special exhibits that non-members have to pay to access. After a brief discussion, we decided to go for the membership. We’re big museum people. Wherever we go, museums are always first on our list of stops. We visited the ROM many times while we lived in Toronto, sometimes just to spend an afternoon. Not only that, my husband is a history major. He has a great love for history and its preservation, as do I. The British Museum is run largely on donations, and that’s really what membership is; a great big donation to keep the museum going. Plus it grants you lots of perks, like discounts in the shops and restaurants, and free access to the museum’s special exhibits. There’s a viking exhibit coming in March that we’re really exited to experience!

Temporary membership cards in hand, we made our way to the special exhibit on gold in Colombia to get started. It mainly centered around the culture which created the myth of Eldorado. It devoted much time to the ritual sacrifice of gold to the gods. This ritual attracted the Spanish, who hoped to exploit the land’s natural riches. Gold played an important role in the native culture; it was used for ritual instruments as well as decorations to denote status. They locals were adept at working gold using a variety of techniques. I do wish there had been a bit more discussion of the myths surrounding Eldorado and the practice of sending gold to the spirit world, but it was amazing to see all the jewelry and tools created by the ancient Colombians. Since it was a special exhibit, we didn’t take any pictures (we doubted it would be allowed, so didn’t ask).

The rest of the museum, however, welcomes photographs. I think it’s clear I have a huge obsession with ancient Egypt. So Egypt was first on our list of exhibits. There are actually two Egyptian exhibits in the British Museum; the statue and sculpture area and the cultural exhibit. We visited the sculpture section first. I’d seen some pieces from the British Museum once before, when they were on loan to the ROM shortly after we moved to Toronto. But nothing prepared me for the sheer scope of this exhibit. Not only is it huge, it contains a wealth of well-defined, nearly finished, sometimes hardly damaged pieces.

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I was so excited and dazzled by the exhibit, I walked past the Rosetta Stone without even noticing! My husband was quick to point it out, however, and I navigated the crowd for a closer look. It’s in a glass case, probably to keep people from trying to touch it, with a description of the inscription alongside.

I spent a lot of time in the sculpture section, trying not to completely drain the batteries on my camera. It was difficult. There are so many magnificent pieces; giant arms and heads from once towering statues.

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Life-sized carvings of pharaohs and their wives. Tomb reliefs which still bear the original paint.

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For me, it was paradise. I trembled as I walked between those pieces, utterly in awe over their beauty.

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And the fact that most of them are displayed open to air at eye level with nothing between the viewer and the artifact.

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You could reach out and lay your hands on any one of them, though of course I respect the history too much to be so rude.

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When I finished staring at all the pretty carvings, we climbed the stairs to view the rest of the Egypt exhibit. I spent less time here because I know a lot about ancient Egyptian culture, and many of the artifacts contained in this section are similar to those found in other museums, such as the ROM. One jugglet, after all, is much the same as any other jugglet.

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(Jugglets)

The British Museum does have a lot of mummies, however.

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Many more than the ROM. There’s an entire room devoted to mummies, including two large wall posters explaining the process of mummification and the preparation of the body for the afterlife.

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There’s a great deal of information to be found at the British Museum, and I’ll admit I was a bit dazzled when I finished those exhibits. But the day was only half over. I handed control of our destination over to my husband, who waited patiently while I wandered my choice exhibits. To prevent this post becoming a bandwidth hog (or a bore), I’ve decided to break it up into two pieces. So stay tuned for the second half of our visit!

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One Response to “Egypt, Egypt, Egypt”

  1. » When Time Began to Tick Cosmic Desire Says:

    […] you think I forgot… Some time ago I mentioned our first trip to the British Museum and the time we spent wandering the Egyptian exhibits. Believe it or not, the day was only half […]


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