Sometimes it takes a second glance for some people to let the information sink it. Such was my experience on my second visit to the British Museum. My first trip was short and sweet when a long-lost friend met me in London and showed me the place like a professional tour guide. Like the start of a good novel, the first trip made me go back for the second visit. This time I spent nearly the whole day inside and took it slow but still, I only managed to see half. That means I will have to go back for a third visit.
The highlights contained here are from Ancient Egypt, Greece, and the Middle East sections. In order to make the most of it, I paid for an audio guide.
The top 10 highlights of my 2nd trip to the British Museum
1. King-List: Egyptian Hall of Fame
This panel shows the Egyptian kings from the first Pharaoh down the line. Hatshepsut was omitted because she was a queen who ruled as king. Queens were deemed unimportant. There were four other kings omitted in the list because they were associated with the ‘heretic’ Amarna Period.
2. King Amenhotep’s Fist
The head and the left arm are what’s left of the statue. Amenhotep was one of the four kings omitted in the King-list.
Why not Rameses? Well, he’s got everybody’s attention; but I have my own preference.
3. Rosetta Stone
The most popular exhibit in the British Museum, the Rosetta Stone is considered the key to unraveling the mystery of the hieroglyphs and to understanding the inscriptions on the displays found in many sections of the museum.
4. Elgin Marbles
When these marbles from the Parthenon was first shown to the public, John Keats was among the earliest visitors.
5. The Birth of Athena
The sculptures on the east pediment of the Parthenon show the birth of the goddess Athena from the head of her father Zeus. From the left was Poseidon on a horse rising from the sea which represents the dawn, the time Athena was born. While all the other sculptures lost the heads, Dionysius has not, and he’s the only one with his back towards the scene, seemingly unaffected by the event.
6. Goddess Iris
An excerpt from the audio gives the best description of this sculpture.
This is the spirit of the air and motive that runs through the whole of the body
and drapery speed in the resilience of the body, in the tension of the legs and in the clothing
Forced into a series of ripples on the right thigh, pressed flat against the body itself,
and flattering away at the edges as the air streams through it.
Every single fold speaks the action of the wind.
7. A centaur attacking a young boy
A 5-minute film showed the reconstruction of this sculpture. Through the help of a 3D scan of the heads (which are in Denmark Museum) and a drawing of the sculpture showing the whole picture, they managed to restore it in 3D as seen in the image below.
8. Pottery and painting by Ezekias
This wine jar shows Achilles plunging his spear into the neck of Penthesileia, Queen of Amazon. When he realised who the warrior was, Achilles fell in love with his victim but it was too late to save Penthesileia from death.
9. Assyrian Gate
The bronze braces on the massive doors and the two heads with animal body contain arts in minute details.
10. Royal Lion Hunting — King Lachish
Divided into layers not taller than 6″, this panel showing King Lachish on his lion hunting, displays the best of Assyrian art and craftsmanship. The tiny details demonstrate a painstaking job done by the carver.
The audio guide cost £5 but it was well worth it. You can even have the highlights of your tour emailed to you. Unfortunately, my audio kit ran out of battery before I could register my email address.
Have you been to the British Museum? What’s your favourite section or exhibit?
Please share your thoughts below.