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The British Museum

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Published September 15th 2009
In the 19th century the British Empire was the largest in the history of mankind and covered a third of the globe. Various political, economic and social consequences aside, it also gave British colonialists an excellent opportunity to loot the best artefacts from a multitude of ancient cultures. This opportunity was enthusiastically seized, and a vast heap of this bounty now fills the British Museum.

The museum is situated in the heart of London, but inside thereís a very international feel. As well as prehistoric British and European exhibits, there are collections from Egypt, Greece, Rome, Asia and Africa. The treasure hoard spans two million years of history, and is crammed into 94 galleries stretching for 2.5 miles. If you like looking at really old stuff, there is enough of it here to occupy you for days.

Trying to pick the museumís highlights is like trying to choose a favourite Beatles song, or deciding which of the Spice Girls youíd most like to choke. Almost everything seems worthy of consideration, but I will try and give you the British Museumís version of A Day In The Life and Geri Halliwell (that one wasnít really that difficult).

Firstly the Lindow Man is well worth a look. Despite dying 2,000 years ago his skin has been amazingly well preserved by the acids of a peat bog. A great exhibit for dead body fans, or those just curious about how Cher manages it.

Further dead bodies can be found in the Egyptian collection, thanks largely to ancient Egyptís embalmers who clearly worked on commission. As well as mummifying people they worked on a wide range of pets, and the fruit of this labour can be examined in hundreds of varieties. Another famous Egyptian artefact is the Rosetta Stone, a tablet bearing a transcription in a variety of ancient languages that enabled scholars to translate hieroglyphs for the first time.

Finally, the most outstanding exhibit is the Parthenon sculptures, which British diplomat Lord Elgin stole from Athens during a particularly drunken holiday in 1804. These spectacular carvings have to be viewed, if only to remind yourself of exactly how the committed souvenir hunter does it.
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Why? The history of the world in one place
When: Seven days a week
Where: Russell Square
Cost: Free
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