Sunken cities – Egypt’s lost worlds at The British Museum

If you are an archeology fan then get to this exhibition on at the British Museum.

Outside its chaos in the main part of the museum, but in this beautifully staged exhibition, its soft lights with a gurgly under water sound track and murmured voices.

A video begins the exhibition with a background on the extraordinary discovery made beneath the sea in Abukir Bay, at the edge of Egypt’s northwestern Nike Delta. The lost cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus known in ancient writings, were only discovered recently.

They were set on a fragile aquatic landscape of lakes and marshes that slowly sank into the sea. 1000 years later these cities are being recovered piece by extraordinary piece.

The monumental statue of Hapy, was a major find and is on display in the ante-room before we dive into a treasure trove of antiquities recovered.

A large part of the exhibition is on the interplay of Greek and Egyptian ideas that merged in the port cities. In particular how the cultures merged their dieties, borrowing back and forth, to suit the population.

We track various dynasties of rulers including Alexander the great, who encouraged the Eygtian belief in kings being divine beings. His general, Ptolemy, ascended to the throne post his death and this dynasty lasted 300 years. Fast forward to Cleopatra’s ill-fated reign as the last descendant of the Greek Ptolemies, and the region is lost to Roman rule.

We also see likenesses of Hadrian who visited Eygpt in AD130 where his Greek lover, Antinous, was to drown in the Nile.

Allow yourself a couple of hours to really savour all the treasure. It will be the best exhibition you will see in London this autumn.

Greenwich Grumpy Time

Its another scorcher day. But I must return to the National Maritime Musuem today who have found an original colour lithograph of the 1870s cutter my family sailed out of Hamburg on.

I cant believe I am entrusted with this fragile picture. Its delivered to me in a box in the library. I peel off the tissue to review the cutter that carried all those hopeful families out of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to New Zealand.

After I am done, the helpful librarian suggests I visit the nearby Cutty Sark to get a sense of the dimensions of a cutter ship of a similar age. I take his advice and manage a quick trip through the boat, most of the time standing in front of the air-conditioning unit in the hull, talking to a museum attendant.

It’s blazing hot out of doors now, I do a quick reconnoitre of the colourful Greenwich Market, bagging a rare find, a vegan stall, where I grab lunch and go and gasp in the park to eat it.

It’s sun stroke hot now. But I am determined to take on the observatory hill, to see the Greenwich Mean Time Line. I stagger up the path and hand my ticket over. The place is heaving with people. My patience is wearing thin.

There is however a good narrative to follow through the buildings. Time and longitude are critical to safe navigation, so since the early 1700s there was a quest to find the most practical method of determining longitude at sea, from this location.

Captain Cook, who explored the Pacific and who New Zealanders claim as their own, was the first to successfully test the astronomical method of finding longitude at sea.

That’s enough for me. I am out of doors to get the ritual picture of the Greenwich Mean Time Line. But its infested with selfie makers, photographers too, some with tripods to augment the gratuitous shot.

Eventually the tripod foot stabbing Wellington, the only NZ coordinate marked on the line, is removed so I can view it. I then take my now quite grumpy self back down the hill to the relative dessertion of the DLR to town.





National Maritime Museum Greenwich

Invited along by a male friend, I thought I could probably manage at least one afternoon here. Not a fan of war mongering I had to suspend my disbelief, but came away more enlightened and certainly impressed by the exhibition staging.

We spent most of our time in the ‘Nelson, Navy, Nation’ exhibition. I work in Nelson St back home, yet know almost nothing about this British Admiral the road is named for.

The exhibition charts nautical battles from 1688-1815. But most of the exhibit is about the battle of Trafalgar which took place two years into the Napoleonic Wars.

On 21 October 1805, Nelson and his fleet came across a combined flotilla of French and Spanish ships off Cape Trafalgar.

A battle of 27 British ships against 18 French and 15 Spanish ships followed. Nelson was mortally wounded but remained alive long enough to know his decisive victory had turned the course of the war.

Throughout the exhibit, there are audio accounts of the prepartions made and the carnage of this battle.

Amongst the 250 items on display are Nelson’s uniform and personal letters to his mistress, Lady Hamilton, the latter who will have her own exhibition soon at the Museum.

Another interesting section is on sea trading where we enjoyed an interesting live talk on Hong Kong on how it was won and ‘lost.’

Another section references the barbaric slave trade. I couldnt stay long in there before having to break for some sun in the beautiful sunny outdoor cafe.

Returning indoors we had some great help from the very patient librarian of the Caird Library, tracing an image of ‘the Shakespeare’  that carried my relatives from Hamburg to the bottom of the world in the 1870s.