Treasures of Ancient Egypt in British Museum

There is no other place on Earth with a such a high concentration of man-made treasures than the British Museum in London. It's just un...

There is no other place on Earth with a such a high concentration of man-made treasures than the British Museum in London. It's just unbelievable how much artefacts British managed to collect from their former colonies and the rest of the world in the past 200-300 years. Numerous exhibitions at the British Museum give a pretty good idea of what the British Empire, the largest empire ever existed, once looked like. The geography spans all six continents and countless epochs, cultures and civilizations. It's a must-see attraction while in London, and it's totally free!

You'll likely need at least three days to fully appreciate the museum and visit its exhibits. But since I had a few hours only before I needed to take a train to the airport, I decided to focus on one particular exhibit - ancient Egypt.
Not only is it one of the oldest and well-documented civilizations on Earth, but also it's the most mysterious one. 
There are a couple of galleries devoted to ancient Egypt and its impressive 3000-year history, but the main one is on the first floor.    
The gallery's doors open at 10 am, so people start lining up way ahead of time.
As soon as the doors opened, the first thing people saw was the Rosetta Stone.
But what is the Rosetta Stone and why is it so important to ancient Egypt?
"The Rosetta Stone carries an inscription n different languages which helped decipher the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic script. It is the only surviving fragment of a larger stone slab (stela) recording a decree on 27 March, 196 BC. At the top the decree was written in hieroglyphs, the traditional script of Egyptian monuments, then already 3000 years old. In the middle the same decree was written in Demotic, the everyday script of literate Egyptians, and at the bottom in Greek, the language used by the government. The granodiorite stela was placed in a temple, probably at the city of Sais near Rashid (Rosetta)." - from the museum's information sign. 
The stone was discovered by French troops in 1799, but British shortly took it over as a result of the Treaty of Alexandria in 1801. The stone was then taken to the British Museum in 1802, and in 25 years it was finally deciphered. The Rosetta Stone brought unprecedented value to the world's history as it allowed to read Egyptian hieroglyphs and, therefore, discover the fascinating history and culture of ancient Egypt.
A French scientific expedition of 1798 and a discovery of the Rosetta Stone founded a separate scientific discipline called Egyptology. A defeat of Napoleon and his army essentially ended a French exploration of Egypt while British whose interest was sparked by recent findings continued their discovery and apparently succeeded. The British Museum opened this gallery in 1834, and in 1854 it was exclusively devoted to ancient Egypt.
Back in the day, Egypt was ruled by Ottomans, and be it the lack of interest in Egyptian history or the persuading power of the British Crown, but for the next almost 150 years British managed to secure a surprisingly broad permission to carry out numerous excavations in Egypt and collect antiquities, many of which ended up in the British Museum. 
The collection continued well until the Egyptian revolution of 1952 and even beyond that moment before Egypt issued the Law of the Protection of Antiquities in 1983 which declared that "all antiquities are strictly regulated and considered to be the property of the State".
The question I ask myself is this: how ethical was it for the British Empire to essentially steal (even officially) artefacts from tombs and historical sites of ancient Egypt? I guess the answer is "it depends". After the financial crisis of 2008-2009 and the revolution of 2011, the looting of ancient sites in Egypt almost skyrocketed, since many people turned to ancient relicts as a way to survive. 
I was deeply touched by the article in June 2016's issue of National Geographic magazine How Tomb Raiders Are Stealing Our History as well as the story told by my colleague who is originally from Jordan about how ISIS publicly destroyed ancient sites in Syria and Iraq. The idea is that developed countries such as the UK or the US essentially rescue antiquities from unstable countries like Egypt, Syria and Iraq that would have been destroyed otherwise even it it means to buy antiquities from looters. The caveat though is that this kind of trade further encourages looting and even helps finance terrorists like ISIS.
And it's very very sad. But let me get back to the Egyptian gallery at the British Museum. As a matter of fact, it's not only the Rosetta Stone that attracts people from all over the world. Let's take a look at other well-known antiquities that are on display.
Bust of King Amenhotep III (1390-1352 BC), also known as Amenhotep the Magnificent, the 9th pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty. "His reign was a period of unprecedented prosperity and artistic splendour, when Egypt reached the peak of its artistic and international power (Wikipedia)."
Head and arm of a statue of Amenhotep III. The body is still at Karnak, a temple complex in Luxor, Egypt.
King Amenhotep III as a lion.
The goddess of Sekhmet, a lion goddess and a daughter of the sun-god Ra. "The myth recounts how she almost obliterated humankind for conspiring against her father's rule. She was associated with destruction and plague, but her powers could also be invoked for healing (from the information sign at the British Museum)."
False door of Kahab and Statue of Nenkhefetka.
Another false door at the tomb that tells about a life of an owner.
List of kings (about 1279 - 1213 BC).
Screen slab of King Nectanebo I.
Sarcophagus of Nectanebo II. "In medieval times, it was used as a ritual bath in the Attarin Mosque at Alexandria, formerly the Church of St. Athanasius (from the museum's information sign)."
The upper part of the status of King Ramesses II. Interesting fact: statues like this one were painted. We know it for a fact based on the traces of pigments.
The supreme god Amun represented as a ram sphinx protects King Taharqo (690-654 BC).
A sacred scarab beetle.
"Cats were kept as pets in ancient Egypt, but gods could also appear in the form of cats. This bronze figure comes from a temple and probably represents one form of the goddess Bastet. Every year some 700,000 people travelled to Bubastis in northern Egypt for a festival in Bastet's honour, according to the Greek historian Herodotus. Only the king or someone very wealthy could have afforded to commission an example as fine as this cat, adorned with precious metals (from the museum's information sign)."
Wooden coffins (about 1500-1070 BC) from the second gallery.
 Aren't kids supposed to be scared of real mummies?? Apparently, they are not.
I will definitely come back to the British Museum to see other exhibits. Hope this article inspired you to visit it, too. Here is some useful information.

Hours of Operations
Open daily 10:00–17:30, Fridays open late (till 20:30) except on December 24, 25 and 26 as well as January 1 and Good Friday.

The British Museum, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG

Nearest Tube (underground) stations and distance from them:
Tottenham Court Road (500m)
Holborn (500m)
Russell Square (800m)
Goodge Street (800m)

Buses that stop near the Museum:
1, 8, 19, 25, 38, 55, 98, 242
Stop on New Oxford Street

10, 14, 24, 29, 73, 134, 390
Stop northbound on Tottenham Court Road,
southbound on Gower Street

59, 68, X68, 91, 168, 188
Stop on Southampton Rows

Museum's Website

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