Ten Surprising Items on Display at the British Museum

Located in the Bloomsbury area of London, the British Museum was established in 1753 and offers some 8 million exhibits in the fields of human history, art and culture. Its permanent collection is among the biggest and most comprehensive in the world and has been collected from all continents while spanning all time periods from the beginning of life to the present. It has the distinction of being the most visited museum in London as visitors from all across the globe visit it to see its collection of world-famous artefacts such as Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon frieze, which can only be seen in art books. Since its collection contains artefacts from all over the world, visitors can see items depicting several cultures. Apart from the many famous exhibits at the museum, the museum also exhibits a lot of surprise items that are worth seeing. Given below are ten of these.

Mermaid: People down the ages have always fantasised about mermaids and you can see the figure of a mermaid in the Enlightenment Gallery. It is an enigmatic object, shown lying down, that was made almost two hundred years ago in Japan. The figure is made up of a monkey’s body in the upper part and a fish tail. This surprise item, although thrilling and alarming, serves as an example of how authenticity of objects was not given any importance by early collectors.

Animal Mummies: At the Egyptian mummies’ collection in the museum, besides the human mummies that are scary and thought-provoking, you will also find animal mummies, which is a big surprise. During the excavations in Egypt, nearly three million animal mummies were found and a few of them have found their way into this museum. For people visiting the museum with their kids, it is an interesting exercise that involves trying to figure out which mummy is of which animal.

Lidow Man: The British Museum not only exhibits Egyptian mummies but others as well. At Room no. 50, there are the remains of Lidow Man, a 24-year old British man whose body was preserved in a peal bog. The whole thing is quite mysterious as it is not clear as to whether he was killed and why and whether he was a sacrifice or whether he was a criminal who was killed as punishment.

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Turquoise Snake: The Aztecs who were the ancient people of central America used to worship snakes as they perceived them to be powerful creatures that accompanied the sun on its journey across the sky. They also believed that snakes could predict the future. At the museum, you can see a turquoise mosaic pectoral in the form of a double-headed serpent that reveals the Aztec’s admiration of snakes and their skilled craftsmanship.

Buddha Statue: At the British Museum, you can also see a massive figure of Buddha standing on a lotus. You will need to use one of the great staircases to reach a vantage point to see this statue which is 8 metres tall and represents the Buddha of Infinite Light. It is also one of the earliest surviving examples of Buddhist art from China. It is an impressive display of tranquillity on the face and the scale of the sculpture.

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German Automaton: Besides antiquities, the British Museum also exhibits a German automaton dating back from 1580-1590, in the form of a ship that was used as a table ornament and has exquisite detail and workmanship. Apart from playing music, the automaton can also propel itself along the table on a set of hidden wheels.

Black Obelisk: At the Assyrian galleries, you can see a black limestone obelisk showcasing the glories of King Shalmaneser III. Tributes of exotic animals and goods from all across the globe offered to the king are shown in the exhibit. It is shown that the Biblical King Jehu also bows in submission at his feet as he is such a great man. The stela from 825 BC proves that the perception that propaganda and political spin is a modern invention is not correct.

Iznik Pottery: The pottery made at Iznik in Turkey is beautiful and engaging as colourful and elegant designs cover the ceramics made for the Ottoman Court. The western world was always enamoured of the beauty and excellence of the pottery dating back to 15th century. It also served as an influence on decorative trends in the future.

Cradle to Grave: This is a contemporary art installation that was commissioned specifically for the British Museum. It unveils the story of how average men and women are influenced by the medication that they have taken throughout their lives. This installation makes us wonder about the development of medicine and also of its usage and our fascination with wellbeing.

Statuette of Ajax: This is a tiny object that was discovered at the back of a cupboard by the curator of the ancient Greece department at the British Museum. This object made of bronze has an upsetting theme which is the suicide of Ajax. It is believed to be one of the oldest depictions of an identifiable character in Greek art and it also clearly displays the vulnerability of the human mind.

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