Wednesday, January 21, 2015

British Museum

by Olivia Silva
"Science is made by people, not people by science"
− John Gribbin, The Scientists
It is important to note the various advancements in technology, medicine, and science, however none of these crucial and influential achievements would have occurred without the men and women dedicating numerous hours of their lives for the betterment of society. All of these people began their life's journey somewhere, as did their ancestors, taking us all the way back to early civilizations from all over the world. Therefore, an understanding of history is crucial to understand the progression of science.

One of our first stops in London was the famous British Museum. The British Museum was established in the year 1759, dedicated to showcase human history and culture. The size of the building is overwhelmingly large and contains exhibits that date back to Mesopotamia in 6000-1500 BC! Anyone can easily spend all day in the British Museum and still not be able to see the entirety of it, which is why at different times certain certified volunteers take groups of eager people around a particular room for about thirty minutes on a themed tour to explain in detail certain key pieces on display. Out of all the various exhibits found in the museum (such as Asia, Europe, Middle East, and Africa) my two favorite exhibits hands down were Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece.

Outside of British Museum
The nine large rooms dedicated solely to Ancient Egypt not only had giant statues, mummified cats, and actual hieroglyphs on ancient tile but also the actual Rosetta Stone! For those who do not know, the Rosetta Stone is a giant slab of granodiorite (similar to granite) with a written decree from King Ptolemy V in three different languages: Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Demotic, and Ancient Greece. Since this tablet contains the same decree written three times, historians were able to use this stone as a "key" to translate Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs for the first time. Sure, learning about the Rosetta Stone in elementary school was interesting, but actually seeing this monumental piece of history only a few feet in-front of me is a surreal experience I hope everyone can enjoy in their lifetime.

Ancient Egyptian Mummy and sarcophagus 

Egyptian Pharaoh statue 

The Rosetta Stone
Seeing the Rosetta Stone was unreal, but the Ancient Greek sculptures utterly took my breath away. It amazes me how realistic each piece of art looked. The details in the sculptures are so intricate that it appeared as if actual cloth was draped over the statue of a human being (which actually means the sculpture subject is a woman, as men were always depicted naked). Luckily for us, marble was used as the sculpting medium; it is extremely durable and was able to endure the potential damage of decades of abandonment. The Greek classical period saw a revolution in sculpting associated by historians with the popular culture surrounding the introduction of democracy. These sculptures were brilliantly carved (using a hammer and chisel) to capture realistic yet overly exaggerated and idealized features desirable to the Greeks. The sculptures were used for tombs, offerings to the gods, and the temples and were eventually discovered and put on display for the pleasure of the public.

Ancient Greek female marble statue

Ancient Greek female marble statue 
The content of the British Museum was so extensive that if I talked about every exhibit I found interesting you would be reading this post for hours on end. The history of human society is extremely relevant even now because not only does it include the history of our own ancestors but it sets the stage for the scientific discoveries that paved the way for a functional modern society. I can honestly say that I have already learned so much about the history of science, humankind, and history on this trip and I cannot wait to see what London has in store for me and my classmates on our second half of our adventure!


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