The British Museum is a phenomenal collection of the loot of many cultures and civilizations. Ancient Roman, Assyrian, Phoencian, Minoan, Mesopotamian, Indian, Egyptian, Greek, and Arab relics adorn its crowded halls and secured display cases. Perhaps out of a sense of remorse for pilfering some of the world’s oldest treasures, the admission price is just about what I’m willing to pay to support an institution like this: nothing.
Still, I must admit that it was with a pleasure absent the guilt of complicity that I enjoyed the millenia old artifacts, glad that someone had preserved this window into the past. One of the most captivating pieces was the Rosetta Stone, the famed rock that cracked the code of Egyptian hieroglyphics and spawned a renaissance in Egyptology. Originally discovered by the French during Napoleon’s floundering conquests through Egypt, it was forfeited to the British when Bonaparte’s troops surrendered after he abandoned them to spare his own hide. The British government has refused the request of the Egyptians for its return.
The original Greek gods adorning the top of the Parthenon are also kept at the British Museum. Don’t know the story of how these were taken, but quite predictably, Britain has refused Greece’s request for their return.
Much to the delight of the curators, their 5000 year old elephant-sized gryphons which also rate amongs the grandest relics on display probably can’t be legitamately claimed by any single government. Interestingly enough, most of the pieces in stone are not roped off, so you can actually touch the rock that those prehistoric artisans chiseled away at. Seizing the opportunity about ten minutes later, I broke a finger off an alabaster statue dating to 168 BCE to keep as a souvenir for my visit.
Kidding. But if that shocked you, so should the brazen attitude behind nearly every piece in the “British” museum.
Though there was indeed an exotic mixture of ancient world culture for the sampling, I got the feeling that Heena, Pratiksha, and Devika’s favorite part of that evening was the Thai food that made up our dinner!