Saturday, 5 November 2016

A History of the World in 100 Objects

On our recent trip to the South Coast Master Wicker and I had a quick stopover in Canberra where we caught a couple of fascinating exhibitions. I showed you Bigger on the Inside last week. We also went to the National Museum of Australia to see the amazing A History of the World in 100 Objects from the British Museum

It was really worth work a look. We spent about two hours there, although I think Master Wicker was done in about an hour. I don't think I've ever seen an Egyptian mummy before, and I'd certainly never seen the chronometer from the HMS Beagle, or realised how very small the worlds first coins were. I will share some of the objects I enjoyed most, or found particularly fascinating, and were easy to photograph. 

A great deal of information can be discovered through the close study of a single object. Individual things, when approached in the right way, can unlock an understanding of how people lived- from how they worshipped to what they ate. 

It was fascinating to see the remnants of the earliest writing. Incredible to see these 5, 000 year old objects so remarkably preserved, and the origins of reading and writing that I hold so dear. 

Early writing tablet
3100-3000 BCE
Southern Iraq

A cuneiform tablet showing part of the Epic of Gilgamesh, "the first great epic poem in world literature". A man is warned by God of an impending flood, and told to build a boat to save his family. It predates the Old Testament story of Noah and his Ark. 

Flood tablet
700-600 BCE
Kouyunjik (Nineveh), Iraq
Axes were the principal tool of early humans for about a million years! This beautiful one is near perfect and thought not to have been used. 

Jade Axe
5000-3600 BCE
Biebrech, Germany
Statue of Ramses II
About 1280 BCE
Temple of Khnum, Elephantine, Egypt

Bust of Sophocles
About 150 CE
Lazio, Italy

Head of Augustus
27-25 BCE
Meroë, Sudan
Bronze, glass, calcite

I learnt that Buddha's long earlobes is a sign of his rejection of wealth - because he was born into wealth he had worn the customary heavy earrings which stretched his lobes, and we see this still after he has renounced the world to seek enlightenment. 

Seated Buddha from Gandhara
100-300 CE
Gandhara, Pakistan

Master Wicker's favourite object. 

Arabian Bronze Hand
100-300 CE

 I think this statue was my favourite object, even though it is quite grisly.

Statue of Mithras
100-200 CE
Rome, Italy

The museum folks have done a great job with the installation of the exhibition- it's a stunning mix of old and new, the objects from antiquity displayed with modern accents, there's a great feel to the space, it's lovely just to be there, despite the admiring hordes. 

Naturally I had an audio tour as I'm an audio tour kind of gal but there was really very good introductions to each area, as well as printed descriptions of each object. Some objects also had short videos displayed nearby introducing the objects by staff of the British Museum. All very informative.

I tend to think of blue and white porcelain as Delftware, but this is a Chinese plate, and the cobalt blue used was imported from the Middle East, possibly Iran, so apparently the Chinese call it Muslim Blue. Which makes sense when you think of all the old mosques decorated so beautifully with blue and white tiles. 

Chinese blue and white dish
1330-1350 CE
Jingdezhen, Jiangxi provence, China
I really liked Dürer's Rhinoceros too- beautifully done, and all the more amazing because naturally he'd never seen a Rhinoceros in 16th century Germany. There was a very cool hologram Rhinoceros nearby. 

Albrecht Dürer's Rhinoceros
1515 CE
Nuremberg, Germany

North American Frock Coat
1800-1900 CE
Painted moose skin, porcupine quills and otter hair

War Shields
1990-2000 CE
Wahgi Valley, Papua New Guinea
Painted wood, metal, rubber, fibre

Outside the exhibition is a wonderful tactile table where you can touch replicas of some objects. There were also Braille descriptions of the objects next to the English. 

We nearly missed this, make sure to search it out. 

National Museum of Australia
$20 adults/ $15 concession / $8 child / $45 family / $60 season pass
September 9 2016 until January 29 2017

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Laurel-Rain Snow said...

Fabulous exhibits! I can't even choose a favorite; they are all so unique, yet they are a tribute to the times. Thanks for sharing.


Sandra Nachlinger said...

What a fantastic exhibition. You captured so many beautiful and meaningful objects with your photos. I can only imagine how exciting the whole display must have been. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Vedika @ Poems and Poets said...

I love the concept of capturing the world's history in a few objects. I'd have to agree with Master Wicker's favourite choice, but I can't seem to find any object to fill up a close second spot!

Thanks so much for sharing!

Brona said...

I keep hearing how wonderful this exhibition is - great photos - very tempting - how am I going to fit this into my schedule???

I'm Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I love to go to museums. I won't make it to this exhibition, I fear, so thank you for sharing it with us. (My vote is with the N.A. Frock Coat).