London Objects In The British Museum

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By M@ Last edited 12 months ago
London Objects In The British Museum

Mention the British Museum at a dinner party and you can bet your bottom Dorito that someone will dismiss it as a vast hoard of stolen goods. Arguments have rumbled on for years about whether to return antiquities to their countries of origin. But not everything in the British Museum was swiped from the Parthenon or plucked from an Egyptian tomb. Many exhibits in the British Museum are indeed British, and some have a London flavour. Here are a few favourites we've found during our ongoing (and ridiculous) mission to examine every object on public display, presented in something like chronological order.

The Battersea Shield was clearly created to impress. It still does today. The ceremonial shield was discovered in the Thames mud below Battersea Bridge in 1857. It's been dated, rather sketchily, to 350BC-50BC, meaning it was cast into the river before London itself existed. See it: Room 50, Britain and Europe.
The Battersea Shield was clearly created to impress. It still does today. The ceremonial shield was discovered in the Thames mud below Battersea Bridge in 1857. It's been dated, rather sketchily, to 350BC-50BC, meaning it was cast into the river before London itself existed. See it: Room 50, Britain and Europe.
Viking? Not a bit of it. Like the Battersea Shield, this is an Iron Age object, more than 2,000 years old, dredged from the Thames near Waterloo Bridge in the 1860s. It's the only known helmet with horns from the period. See it: Room 50, Britain and Europe (although it's currently away for conservation)
Viking? Not a bit of it. Like the Battersea Shield, this is an Iron Age object, more than 2,000 years old, dredged from the Thames near Waterloo Bridge in the 1860s. It's the only known helmet with horns from the period. See it: Room 50, Britain and Europe (although it's currently away for conservation)
This mighty impressive tombstone commemorates one Gaius Julius Alpinus Classicianus, a bigwig beancounter from Roman London. He came to (what was left of the) town in the aftermath of Boudicca's rebellion, to sort out the economy and serve as a kind of Roman George Osborne. Slabs from his tomb were later reused in the city walls. Fragments were discovered in 1852, 1885 and 1935, and they've now been reassembled for your admiration. See it: Room 49, Roman London.
This mighty impressive tombstone commemorates one Gaius Julius Alpinus Classicianus, a bigwig beancounter from Roman London. He came to (what was left of the) town in the aftermath of Boudicca's rebellion, to sort out the economy and serve as a kind of Roman George Osborne. Slabs from his tomb were later reused in the city walls. Fragments were discovered in 1852, 1885 and 1935, and they've now been reassembled for your admiration. See it: Room 49, Roman London.
The Romans famously liked to decorate their homes and buildings with intricate mosaics. This one was found on the site of the East India Company building on Leadenhall Street. The 1st/2nd century mosaic depicts Roman booze god Bacchus lounging nonchalantly on a bemused tiger. We've all had nights like that. See it: Room 49, Roman London.
The Romans famously liked to decorate their homes and buildings with intricate mosaics. This one was found on the site of the East India Company building on Leadenhall Street. The 1st/2nd century mosaic depicts Roman booze god Bacchus lounging nonchalantly on a bemused tiger. We've all had nights like that. See it: Room 49, Roman London.
More mosaic action, with this geometric pattern from  the 3rd century AD. It was discovered in 1806 during the construction of the Bank of England's north-west corner. See it: Room 49, Roman London.
More mosaic action, with this geometric pattern from the 3rd century AD. It was discovered in 1806 during the construction of the Bank of England's north-west corner. See it: Room 49, Roman London.
You're looking at a statue that could well have been as famous as Nelson's Column or 'Eros' to the citizens of Roman London. It depicts Emperor Hadrian (or possibly Alfred Molina). The bronze head was part of a larger statue, and is displayed alongside a thumbless hand possibly from the same sculpture. See it: Room 49, Roman London.
You're looking at a statue that could well have been as famous as Nelson's Column or 'Eros' to the citizens of Roman London. It depicts Emperor Hadrian (or possibly Alfred Molina). The bronze head was part of a larger statue, and is displayed alongside a thumbless hand possibly from the same sculpture. See it: Room 49, Roman London.
Swords and daggers. The British Museum has millions of the things. But the one on the left is quite special. It's made of wood, and is either a child's toy or a practice weapon.  See it: Room 49, Roman London.
Swords and daggers. The British Museum has millions of the things. But the one on the left is quite special. It's made of wood, and is either a child's toy or a practice weapon. See it: Room 49, Roman London.
On to Medieval times. These wall paintings depicting the Book of Job are more than 700 years old and come from the old Palace of Westminster. St Stephen's Chapel, to be precise. Alongside, you'll find even older artwork from the Painted Chamber. See it: Room 40: Medieval Europe.
On to Medieval times. These wall paintings depicting the Book of Job are more than 700 years old and come from the old Palace of Westminster. St Stephen's Chapel, to be precise. Alongside, you'll find even older artwork from the Painted Chamber. See it: Room 40: Medieval Europe.
Dr John Dee will be familiar to fans of Peter Ackroyd or Damon Albarn, who respectively created a novel and an opera based on the Tudor London mystic. Here's a crappy pic of his obsidian mirror, used for conjuring demons, like the one clearly materialising in the photo. See it: Enlightenment Galleries.
Dr John Dee will be familiar to fans of Peter Ackroyd or Damon Albarn, who respectively created a novel and an opera based on the Tudor London mystic. Here's a crappy pic of his obsidian mirror, used for conjuring demons, like the one clearly materialising in the photo. See it: Enlightenment Galleries.
The British Museum also holds a vast collection of prints and drawings, many with London connections. Here's a scribble from Canaletto showing a rare view from north London, looking south. See it: Prints and Drawings
The British Museum also holds a vast collection of prints and drawings, many with London connections. Here's a scribble from Canaletto showing a rare view from north London, looking south. See it: Prints and Drawings

We'd also recommend a tour of the clock galleries, where many of the exhibits were constructed in the skilled workshops of Clerkenwell. The Enlightenment Galleries contain dozens of further London-related objects beyond the Dr Dee stuff mentioned above. The museum also holds plenty of London objects not currently on display. Among them are such artefacts as a replica Didier Drogba Chelsea shirt from "AD 2010", and application letters to join the BM's library from the likes of Bram Stoker and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Last Updated 07 December 2017