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.

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

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

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

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