A Guide to the British Museum
 by Ya & Shi
I recently followed the three-hour itinerary as suggested by the British Museum and realized that there's much more to see here than the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon marbles.  The collection is comprehensive and rich and covers many civilizations and historical periods.
This is not mentioned in the itinerary, but the Museum houses a rare Michelangelo cartoon called Epifania.
Here are some highlights of the Museum, some mentioned in the three-hour itinerary and some not.  Another useful list of highlights is covered by an article by Nick Trend for the Telegraph titled "How to Visit the British Museum."
The rosetta stone is central to the decipherment of hieroglyphs as the same passage is written in three scripts:  Greek, demotic and hieroglyphs.
According to a press release from the British Museum, eight locations in the world have Parthenon sculptures, but the majority is in the British Museum and Athens.  The press release states that the British Museum holds 247ft of the 524ft of frieze and 15 of the 92 metopes.  (Please see this page for a more detailed description on the Parthenon and a nice figure explaining what a metope is.)
These reliefs (c. 640 BC) were created for a palace in Nineveh (in modern day northern Iraq).
The terrapin came from the Mughal period in 17th century India and was carved from a single piece of green jade.
Sutton Hoo Burial
Sutton Hoo was the site of ship burials of Anglo-Saxon kings (c. early 7th century AD).  It was excavated in 1939.
This cameo-glass vase was made c. AD 5-25 and perhaps came from Rome.  As explained by the Encyclopedia Britannica, "cameo glass" is "glassware decorated with figures and forms of coloured glass carved in relief against a glass background of a contrasting colour."
As described by the Museum's website, "[t]his clay cylinder is inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform with an account by Cyrus, king of Persia (559-530 BC) of his conquest of Babylon in 539 BC...."  Because it documents the tolerance of Cyrus of other cultures and religions, it "has sometimes been described as the 'first charter of human rights'...."  As mentioned by Wikipedia, the UN holds a copy of the cylinder.  This artifact is currently exhibited in the Babylon exhibition in the British Museum.

© 2008 Ya & Shi