Sunday, 25 January 2015

Day 25: Oh mummy!

Today was a long overdue trip to the British Museum. L(a) has been studying hard here as part of gaining her ’knowledge’ for the coveted blue badge, the symbol of the guild of Blue Badge Tourist Guides. And boy do they have to know their stuff! Theres an intensive two year course, and if like L(a), you have a full time job, you somehow have to manage all that learning and cramming in of knowledge around your day job. No mean feat I reckon! I've been to her National Gallery (test) guided tour several and also the city walks, but the British Museum one had so far alluded me.

Sadly due to an uncanny mix of errant and escapee iPhones, passengers taking ill at stations and the general 'joy' of Sunday travelling, I missed the first part (the Rosetta stone etc) so I joined the group round about the time we were due to hear about china in China. The incredibly ornate porcelain figurines that accompany a body to the underworld were particularly intriguing. So elaborate and yet buried with you, so not seen by anyone.

We then nipped over to Egypt and visited the mummy collection. Here is very crowded so we don’t stand in front of the painted sarcophaguses and bandaged mummies, but go into a further room instead and huddle in front a man who’s been buried in a shallow sand grave, and had mummified without the 70 days of treatment a mummy normally required. Named after the place he was found, he is called Gebelein man and it is astonishing to consider we are peering into the climate controlled cabinet at someone who lived in 3500 BC. We learnt that the ginger-haired man was murdered, he was stabbed in the shoulder.

They were plenty of visitors craning to see the figure arrange in the foetal position, so we stepped back and had the process of mummification explained to us. The ancient Egyptians believed that you would need your body for the afterlife, but not your brain, so they removed all the organs and then added the heart back into the prepared body ready for the final journey.

We revisited the main mummy rooms and set ourselves the challenge of locating the mummified eel! And I found it, alongside the mummified cats.

For the final stop we examined some of the hoards of treasure that have been unearthed around the UK. We admired an intricate mosaic depicting possibly the earliest rendition of Jesus, discovered in a field in Dorset. You can even see where the farmer swing his pick axe and hit something hard! Next an ornate probably ceremonial shield that had been thrown into the river at Battersea, an incredible silver dinner service and finally an amazing beautiful chess set carved from the very hard walrus tusks.

When I first came to London I regularly haunted the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, with the occasional foray to the V&A but my tendancy towards hermit like behaviour generally takes over at the weekend. I really should address that in 2015.

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