Day 4: British Museum

Sites Visited: British Museum

Group Leaders: Ben and Saphfire

This morning began with something of a treat, given our previous morning schedules: after a long night of work last night we were given an extra half hour to sleep in – not needing to be at the museum until 0930. We arrived in time to debrief yesterday’s visit to Cambridge and have a brief talk on Archaic sculpture, including the preconceived notions of artistic superiority behind that word.

At 1000 we met with Dr. Higgs, who took us on a trip through the Bassai Freeze, the Nereid Monument, and the Mausoleum at Halikarnassos. After hearing about the history behind the objects on display, we were taken into the storerooms to see some of the amazing materials much more closely (there were some of the marble fragments which we were allowed to hold or feel). It was a mindboggling experience to be able to hold or tough pieces of two of the seven wonders of the ancient world (the Mausoleum and the temple of Artemis at Ephesus) in the same two-hour span. There were also some pretty neat sculptures of cats with Greek inscriptions – not something you see every day.

Afterwards we broke for a very brief lunch, which turned into a slightly more exciting experience than we had expected. Most of us stuck close to the museum, and we ate outside on the courtyard to enjoy the nice weather. As our scheduled meeting time approached, however, chaos ensued. Droves of frightened schoolchildren poured out of the museum as fire alarms sounded in the distance. Fearing for the safety of the priceless pieces of history potentially burning down, we calmly finished our ice cream and joined the queue to get back inside the museum. After regrouping, we began our private tour of the Egyptian storerooms with Dr. Welsby.

Some of the highlights of this tour included: 3000 year old sandals, coffins, a mummified 4m Nile Crocodile, gold and beaded jewelry, pages from The Book of the Dead, and incredibly preserved mummified human remains. In addition to boxes upon boxes of skeletal remains, we got to see multiple mummified bodies, some with the hair and skin still intact. We think we speak for most of us when we say that the visible tattoo on the inner thigh of one of the mummies left us in raptures; truly a spiritual experience for us history nerds.

The tour ended, and we debriefed before completing our final readings for our time at the British Museum and attempting to catch up on sleep.


First, Dr. Higgs gave us an introduction to the Bassae Frieze


Next, we went into the adjacent gallery with the Nereid Monument from Xanthos


The last stop before the storerooms was the gallery that housed some sculpture that had adorned the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos


Day 3: Cambridge

Sites Visited: Cambridge Faculty of Classics, Fitzwilliam Museum

Group Leaders: Max and Grace

Today we went to Cambridge, an hour north of London. We woke up a little early (a classic british understatement) to board the train to Cambridge. After a 50-minute train ride, we arrived in the town famous for one of the world’s greatest schools. Professor Christesen and his wife, who have recently relocated to Cambridge for the year, were incredibly kind and made us all breakfast. They made us 24 eggs (cooked excellently, besides the eggs, we had a variety of other food, including fruit, cereal, and muffins).

Well-fed, we went to the Classics Faculty at the University and saw some incredible plaster casts. Saphfire said the statue of Hercules could crush a watermelon with his muscular thighs. Weird way to put it, Saphfire. Then we participated in an engaging lecture by Michael Loy; he talked about pottery and analyzing pottery assemblages. He brought up ancient Greek pottery sherds from the Classics museum storeroom and allowed us to practice our categorization skills. Most of us had never handled ancient pottery before, so this opportunity was very cool. He also shared some of his current areas of study with us, specifically his interest in network analysis; and he was gracious enough to answer all of our questions.

After a delicious lunch at Clare Hall (where we all sat with active Cambridge students and faculty) we headed to the Fitz William Museum. There, we heard from two curators, and then practiced our pottery identification abilities. Paul Cartledge and Anastasia Christophilopoulou were very welcoming and helped us learn about Cypriot and Spartan cultures.

Afterwards, around half of the group stayed in Cambridge for a few hours to explore the old city. We grabbed a train back to London and ended the day satisfied.

IMG_8923 Kings Chapel

We took a moment to be tourists in front of King’s College Chapel in Cambridge


Professor Cartledge was kind enough to show us some items from Laconia

The rest of our time was spent looking at Greek vases in the Fitzwilliam Museum

Day 2: British Museum

Sites: British Museum

Leaders: Shania and Tim

After a typically hectic morning, we arrived at the British Museum only for Max (Barg) to realize that he forgot his homework in the apartment. Thanks to his quick thinking and alarming speed, he was able to recover his papers and meet us in the Great Court of the museum on time. Professor Christesen spent the first hour giving us a general overview of Archaic Greek sculpture with the aid of our fancy tablets, after which we dispersed to spend a few more minutes in the Egyptian Gallery for our pamphlet assignment due tonight. The bulk of the morning was spent with the venerable Dr. Ian Jenkins, an expert on the Parthenon sculptures; his passion for his field radiated off him as he presented, and we were all completely charmed. After Dr. Jenkins concluded his presentation, we all split up to grab lunch at a few different places outside the museum.
After our lunch break, we met up at the Cnidos Lion to wait for our next guest lecturer, Dr. Paul Collins, who is an expert on Assyrian art. We spent the next hours, exploring the sculptures of several Assyrian palaces and being impressed by Dr. Collins’ knowledge on the subject and his ability to read cuneiform seemingly at a glance. With our business at the British Museum concluded, we all headed back to our apartments to work on tonight’s assignment.

Until next time,

Shania, Tim, and the gang

We started the day looking at images in the Enlightenment Gallery, like this print by James Stephanoff


Dr. Ian Jenkins then walked us through the Duveen Galleries, starting with the East Pediment


We then moved to the south metopes.


Dr. Jenkins finished by discussing the long frieze.


Dr. Collins then showed us items from the Assyrian collection.

Day 1: British Museum

Sites Visited: British Museum

Group Leaders: Dan and Victoria

Today was quite the busy one, so we were at the British Museum gates before they even opened. After spending about half an hour on a recap of yesterday, we learned a bit about principles of Egyptian art. We then spent an hour and a half exploring the Egyptian galleries learning about art from all periods of Egyptian history, from massive statues of pharaohs to canopic jars which probably still contained the remains of whatever organs the Egyptians decided to put in them thousands of years ago!

Given that most of us had no idea what had just happened in Egypt, we decided it would be a good idea to go to the Parthenon wing and pretend to know things (or actually know things, I’m just speaking for myself here- Dan). We each delivered the oral presentations we prepared yesterday (if you didn’t see it, check out that blog post!), which went quite well! After that, we got about 45 minutes for lunch. Just enough time to take a much needed nap (NOT!). Most of us went to the fancy restaurant at the top of the British Museum, and we exercised our assertive skills when the waiters kept passing us up for more ~*~fancy~*~ people. We felt extra fancy after paying like fifteen dollars for a salad, so we’re getting the true Londoner experience out here!

Coolest part of the day: we spent the afternoon with curator Dr. Kiely, an expert in Cypriot art and material culture. He showed us the highlights of the collection on display in the Cyprus gallery, then treated us to a behind-the-scenes look at Cypriot artifacts in storage. Highlights included an early Iron Age dagger, a piece of amber from somewhere in Central Europe, and gorgeous Cypriot Bronze Age pottery.

Tonight’s agenda includes the meet-and-greet that apparently wasn’t necessary until now, some Indian food, and (hopefully) lots of sleep. Most of us are still pretty jetlagged and also behind on readings, so it’s a real Catch 22 where we’re too tired to work but can’t sleep until we get stuff done. Such is life in London!

Lots of love,
vIcToRiA, Dan, and the squAD

Day 0: 26 March 2017

Sites Visited: British Museum

Group Leaders: Max and Nathalie

Hey everyone! Welcome to our blog! Today was the first day of our adventure. We all came in on different flights and arrived at different times, but we met up at the British Museum at noon for some quick introductions and shortly got to work. Most of our time in the museum will be spent in Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and other ancient Mediterranean exhibits, so Professor Christesen took us to some of his favorite non-Mediterranean pieces in the museum before we got started. We saw a giant Easter Island statue, a turquoise inlaid human skull from Central America, ivory belt accessories from Japan called Netsuke (google them, they’re pretty cool!). We also saw the Lewis Chessmen which are ancient ivory chess pieces found in Scotland. Even though they’re from the other side of the world, they really resembled the Netsuke. We then studied a couple black-figure and red-figure pots. We learned about how to describe the artwork and how careful description can help you find important details. Lines and shapes can tell you a lot about a pot!

We ended the day by looking at the Parthenon marbles. We learned all about their controversial removal from Greece. Long story short, this British guy bribed the Ottomans, who ruled Greece at the time, and shipped half of the Parthenon’s sculptures to England. He was only able to sell the stones to the British Museum for £35,000! This is still a very sensitive subject for both the Greeks and the Brits.

Then, we were put into pairs and each group got assigned one section of the Parthenon sculpture at the British Museum. Tonight we are working on oral presentations on our assigned sections and later this week we will meet with Ian Jenkins, one of the leading experts on the Elgin Marbles. It’s going to be an early night because we are all pretty jet-lagged!

Lots of Love,
Nat, Barg, and the rest of the crew