The British Museum is best known for its Greek and Egyptian artefacts – but it’s got some rather stunning American ones, too, as a recent visit to the galleries showed me.
This autumn, you’ll get a double dose of ancient America as the Moctezuma exhibition goes on show. (There were already a few gaps in the Aztec collections when I went round last week – the exhibits have headed off to their temporary home.)
Moctezuma II was the last Aztec emperor, reigning from 1502 to 1520. (That’s about the same time as the young Henry VIII – a king who had a much longer innings, though, apparently, fewer wives.) His empire covered most of today’s Mexico; he was an unrivalled ruler – until the Spanish appeared. They had two weapons – guns, and smallpox. The end of the empire came not long after – according to the Spanish, Moctezuma was killed as a traitor; according to recently re-evaluated evidence, though, they may themselves have murdered their captive king.
The exhibits are sure to be impressive. They include gold jewellery and fine turquoise masks – masks which grin implacably, or stare stonily out of hollow eyes. I’ve rarely felt as far removed from a civilisation as I do when I look at these masks.
What’s really intriguing, though, is that the exhibition will show both sides of the conflict. So as well as Aztec sculptures, we get Spanish oil paintings; we see the Aztecs through Spanish eyes, and the Spaniards through Aztec eyes. Most museums only show you the Aztec artefacts, giving what’s clearly a biased picture.
This is clearly going to be a massive exhibition – pictures of the turquoise mask are already pasting the walls of the London Underground, and kids everywhere will of course thrill to the Aztec habit of cutting prisoners’ hearts out while still beating. But it looks as if it’s going to be an interesting scholarly exhibition too – reassessing Moctezuma as a warrior emperor, who would have been one of the greatest Aztec rulers if only the Spanish hadn’t appeared…
When: 24 September 2009 to 24 January 2010, 10-530, till 2030 on Thursdays and Fridays
How much: £12 adult (concessions apply): book online
Photo by A Blight on flickr
The British Museum is massive. There are rooms I’ve never visited, and I’ve been going to the Museum for years. There are the highlights, of course – the Elgin Marbles, the Egyptian mummies – but there are tiny galleries tucked away that you could easily miss.
September 14th, 2009 | Andrea Kirkby | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: Attractions, aztec, British Museum, maya, mound culture
Visiting the British Museum and want lunch in between two of the galleries? I’ve discovered some great places to eat near the museum.
If you want a cheapie vegetarian and you don’t mind a little trek, try Govinda’s[map].
But if you want a meal close by, and it’s sunny, head...
September 9th, 2009 | Andrea Kirkby | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: British Museum, london cafes, London fast food, museum street, Restaurants and Bars
Nebamun was an accountant – well, a scribe, which in ancient Egypt meant pretty much the same thing. He was responsible for stock control in the grain warehouses at the Temple of Amun, at Karnak.
He was an accountant a very long time ago, probably in the reign of Amenhotep III, who ruled from...
April 30th, 2009 | Andrea Kirkby | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: ancient egypt, British Museum, Nebamun
People sometimes ask me what to see in London. I have to be quite careful to check out who I’m speaking to when they do, because some of them want to know what ‘the sights’ are, while others are asking me because they want to know the quirkier, off-the-beaten-track places to go.
April 13th, 2009 | Andrea Kirkby | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: afternoon tea, British Museum, buckingham palace, DLR, docklands, globe theatre, History & Information, Houses of Parliament, southwark, Tate Modern, Westminster abbey, westminster cathedral
London’s national museums are extremely fine, and best of all, they’re free (though special exhibitions in them usually have admissions charges). But you need to know what you want to see. So here is a brief guide to the major museums, their collections, strengths and highlights.
March 22nd, 2009 | Andrea Kirkby | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: British Museum, london museums, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, natural history museum, science museum, V&A, victoria and albert museum
Shah Abbas lived at the same time as Elizabeth I, and like her, presided over a flowering of the arts. In fact, as this exhibition shows, he even communicated with her, and employed an Englishman, Sir Robert Shirley, to modernise his army. There’s a fine portrait of Sir Robert – looking very...
February 18th, 2009 | Andrea Kirkby | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: British Museum, exhibitions, shah abbas
When I was a kid I used to love the Observer newspaper on Sundays. Okay, I was a bit precocious – but it wasn’t the political news I was interested in. It was Tim Hunkin’s superb comic strip The Rudiments of Wisdom that I adored. Later on, I discovered that he also made automata –...
January 1st, 2009 | Andrea Kirkby | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: British Museum, clocks, horology, timekeeping, timepieces
“In some countries you wouldn’t have the right to visit this exhibition about your rights.”
The handout for the British Library’s exhibition makes its point emphatically. You might look at some of the documents displayed here and think they are just dry, dusty old bits of paper – but the...
December 3rd, 2008 | Andrea Kirkby | Read More | Comments: 0
Filed under: British Museum, politics