June 30th: London

August 9, 2009

We left Newark and landed in London at 6am for a twelve-hour layover.  Not wanting to just hang out in the airport all day, we decided to go out and explore the city a little bit.  Getting into the middle of London from Heathrow Airport either takes quite a bit of time and some money or more money and less time.  We decided we weren’t in that big of a hurry and we took the regular tube in to Piccadilly Circus Station.

From there we walked towards the British Museum.  The Museum wasn’t open yet, so we stopped to get some tea and breakfast sandwiches first.  I was really exited to see the museum because I had read a little bit about what was in their collection.  We were also glad to be going to the museum because it’s open all day and free to the public.

Inside were rooms and rooms full of ancient treasures from all over the world!  By far, the most popular item on display was the Rosetta Stone, but there was so much to see.  It was exciting enough to keep us awake all day after not sleeping any the night before!  In the summer of 2006 I took an Ancient Art History class at UNM, and I was excited to see that I remembered a lot of what we studied in that class.

We ran thought the museum and didn’t get to see all of it, but we did get to see lots of amazing artifacts.  Some of the highlights:

A cuneiform tablet of barley distribution rations from 2350 BC.  It was really amazing to see the clear imprints of the wedged writing.   The first writing systems were for economic transactions, but we also saw a recipe and trade records for beer.

Cuneiform tablet recording barley rations

Cuneiform tablet recording barley rations

We saw a large jug on display in the corner of the room with the cuneiform tablets in it.  What really caught my eye about this ceramic jug from the 14th century BC wasn’t that it was old or used to store water or grain.  It’s that it was just like the water jugs that we saw in Egypt in 2006!  When we went to Egypt three years ago we were invited into the homes of some of the local people, and these were the same containers they used for their water!  The first photo is from the museum; the second one is from Egypt three years ago.

Ancient clay jug for water and grain

Ancient clay jug for water and grain

Modern Egyptian Water Jug

Modern Egyptian Water Jug

This mosaic is from the floor of a Roman dining room, and the detail is really incredible!  The tiles are so small, and it’s so intact.

Floor Mosaic

Roman Mosaic of edible fish

Close up of Mosaic

Close up of Mosaic

There were lots of Roman and Greek statues.  Two of my favorites were a bust of Hadrian done by the Romans in the Greek style and this larger than life statue of Venus.  They’re so well carved that the face recognition mode on my camera picked them out!

Emperor Hadrian

Emperor Hadrian

Marble Venus from 2nd century AD

Marble Venus from 2nd century AD

When I saw the carved gates from Assyria, I remembered exactly what they were!  I had no idea they were so tall or that they were in London!  I thought they were still in the Middle East, but there were a lot of things in those halls that weren’t originally from England.

Nathan by an Assyrian Gate Guardian

Nathan by an Assyrian Gate Guardian

The king, Ashurnasirpal II, had these gates in the 9th century BC outside his throne room.  They’re lions with wings and human heads.  It goes without saying that they were considered magical.  These gates and this carved wall scene were both designed to show Ashurnasirpal’s strength and role of protector of civilization.

Assyrian Wall Carvings

Assyrian Wall Carvings

And, of course, we saw the famous Rosetta Stone!

Corrie and the Rosetta Stone

Corrie and the Rosetta Stone

OK, so this is an exact replica in the Library of the museum, but they wouldn’t let me touch the real one, and there were all these people crowded around it!  I guess they stopped letting people touch the real one in 1999, so I’m a decade late.  Still, it was really awesome to see in person.

Nathan getting a look at the Rosetta Stone

Nathan getting a look at the real Rosetta Stone

After the British Museum, we toured some of the city of London, but we were tired and didn’t want to spend lots of money.  We did go down to the River Thames, ate fish and chips, saw Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.

Looking up at Big Ben

Looking up at Big Ben

London Eye & Thames River

London Eye, Aquarium & Thames River

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