From the Rosetta Stone to Cleopatra’s Needle, you can immerse yourself in Ancient Egypt in London
The British Museum
To learn about the ground-breaking moment in 1799 when the Rosetta Stone was discovered, visit Hieroglyphs: Unlocking Ancient Egypt at The British Museum (to 19 Feb). Celebrating 200 years since its decipherment, the Rosetta Stone is at the exhibition’s heart. Among the world’s most famous ancient objects and one of the museum’s most popular exhibits, it held the key to decoding hieroglyphs. More than 240 objects, many being shown for the first time, complete the display. Highlights include the Enchanted Basin, a large black sarcophagus covered with hieroglyphs that was believed to have magical powers. This impressive exhibition will help you to understand one of the world’s oldest civilisations.
Britain has an enduring – though sometimes contentious – relationship with evidence scattered across London. Standing on the Thames Embankment a short walk away from Charing Cross station and flanked by two sphinxes, Cleopatra’s Needle is an obelisk that was gifted to the British Government by the Sultan of Egypt and Sudan in 1819 in commemoration of Lord Nelson’s victory at the Battle of the Nile and Sir Ralph Abercromby’s victory at the Battle of Alexandria. It is one of three similar Ancient Egyptian obelisks; the others can be found in Paris and New York. It is free to visit, making it a great way to discover Ancient Egyptian history on a budget.
Another budget-friendly but a highly educational hub of Egyptian history is the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in Bloomsbury. It is regarded as one of the world’s greatest collections of Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology, and you don’t have to pay a penny to enter. Explore an estimated 80,000 objects, including many ‘firsts’: the earliest example of metal from Egypt, the first worked iron beads and one of the earliest pieces of linen from around 5,000 BC.
Museum of Freemasonry
Seemingly unrelated, the Museum of Freemasonry is another free-to-enter museum that offers some links to Ancient Egypt. Its new exhibition, Inventing the Future, celebrates the tercentenary of the book, The Constitutions of the Freemasons, which had a remarkable and unexpected impact on the world. The fascination with Egypt is reflected in the design of regalia, use of genuine antiquities in the ceremonies and studies dating back to the 1720s, all of which feature in the exhibition. Discover the history of this historic organisation in what is a truly breathtaking building.
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