Monday 10 October 2022

Preview: Hieroglyphs: Unlocking Ancient Egypt at the BM

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be invited to a preview of Hieroglyphs: Unlocking Ancient Egypt, the new exhibition at the British Museum. It marks the 200th anniversary of one of the most important moments in our understanding of ancient history: the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The pictures on this post are all ones I took when I was there.

The exhibition explores the inscriptions and objects that helped scholars unlock one of the world’s oldest civilisations. The Rosetta Stone (pictured right) is understanbly a central item on display. The discovery of the stone in 1799, with its decree written in hieroglyphs, demotic and the known language of ancient Greek, provided the key to decoding hieroglyphs in 1822; a breakthrough expanding the modern world’s knowledge of Egypt’s history by some 3,000 years.

However, there's far more to the exhibition than that. It includes over 240 objects, many shown for the first time. The first item you see as you enter is ‘the Enchanted Basin’, a large black granite sarcophagus from about 600 BCE, covered with hieroglyphs and images of gods. It's pictured on the left. The hieroglyphs were believed to have magical powers and that bathing in the basin could offer relief from the torments of love. The reused ritual bath was discovered near a mosque in Cairo, in an area still known as al-Hawd al-Marsud – ‘the enchanted basin’. It has since been identified as the sarcophagus of Hapmen, a nobleman of the 26th Dynasty.

I'll be blogging further on objects in the exhibition in the future. Hieroglyphs: Unlocking Ancient Egypt runs from 13 October 2022 to 19 February 2023 in the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery at the British Museum. You can find out more here:

The exhibition catalogue is also called Hieroglyphs: Unlocking Ancient Egypt. It is edited by Ilona Regulski and published by the British Museum Press. You can view the book on Amazon. (Note: I earn commission from some links. This helps support my blog at no extra cost to readers)

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