The British Museum

One of the most fascinating places to visit if you’re visiting London is the British Museum. It is located at Great Russell Street. Parking near the site is at a premium, so the easiest way to get there is to take the Picadilly Line from Heathrow airport. There are stations conveniently located at Russell and Holborn Square, just a hop and skip from the Museum. There are lots of top-notch places to stay. The only tough decision is which one to choose.

The British Museum was the first of its kind to be open to the public. It houses some of the most internationally significant pieces of world history. Here you’ll find the Rosetta Stone, which is considered to have been the key to interpreting hieroglyphics. Over 60 different rooms house the museum’s collection of mummies, including one that was sand-dried, and is estimated to be about 5000 years old. They also have on display a crystal skull, which was originally thought to be Mexican. Researchers now think that it must have come from Europe, but it still raised a huge amount of interest in Aztec culture and art. The fact that the movie “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” used this as a theme also really helped to bring attention to it.

A lot of the artifacts have had huge storms of controversy swirling around them. The Parthenon Marbles, pieces of sculpture taken from the actual site, were debated after the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Lord Elgin, took the pieces back to England. Many looked at this as theft from a historical site, but over time it was decided that the Marbles were beneficial for people in understanding world history, so he was allowed to keep them. Eventually they were bought by the British Museum. They are still referred to as the “Elgin Marbles”.

Another controversial piece is the Easter Island statue, known as a “moia”, which was the first statue ever to be removed from the island. Artifacts are not permitted to be taken from the island anymore, but many have been in years past. This particular one, called Hoa Hakananai’a, is placed on a meter-high platform, and looks very imposing!

The Cyrus Cylinder, which belongs to the British Museum, is currently touring the United States, to be returned at the end of the year. This item is considered to be the first official declaration of human rights. It refers to things we take for granted nowadays, such as religious and racial freedom, and the return of deported people to their own countries. It was really ahead of its time, and it reflects a lot of issues that many countries are still struggling to overcome.

The British Museum houses so many spectacular and historical pieces that it’s hard to even scratch the surface. These are just a few examples of all there is to do and see. It would be worthwhile to set aside a full day for exploring this fabulous place.

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