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Sunday, June 24, 2007

First Full Day In London (I)

On to the antiquities!

The big draw of the British Museum is the Egyptology section. Long ago, as everyone knows, the Pharaohs sailed-over on their fleet of mighty oar-powered reed vessels, brutally crushed the ancient Druids and left enormous scarab beetles dotting the landscape.

When you enter, you are promptly greeted by the Rosetta stone. Being able to see such an important item- the real thing- is always a great joy.

I was careful to take a close-up, including the cartouche visible in the upper section, highlighting a name of some importance.

There was almost too much stuff to see. And if you entered without any idea of the general Egyptian narrative (i.e.: the Hyksos conquest is what separated the Old Kingdom from the New Kingdom) then I fear people would be rather lost.

What I definitely could not miss were their hall upon hall of Assyrian bas-reliefs.

Because, you see, the mighty Assyrians kicked ass all over the place. They had iron spears and swords, not to mention chariots and advanced seige techniques which, in the ancient world, were tantamout to having a full-scale nuclear arsenal.

They were- at risk of sounding grandiose- the original Evil Empire.

The kings of Assyria loved to brag of their conquests of loot and plunder and decorated the walls of their palaces with almost graphic-novel-like carvings which showed brutal- nay, horrific- depictions of what they did to their enemies.

On the left of the image above, you can see a fruit orchard (note the plants in the background) in which a prisoner (an Elamite?) is seized by his beard. An Assyrian soldier brandishes a knife menacingly. To the right, more prisoners are being led-away with four severed heads being carried aloft by two soldiers, one in each hand.

This kind of thing was all over the walls. Birds eating entrails! Bones being ground into flour! Piles of severed heads! Way better than any slasher flick if you ask me.

And watch the big man himself, King Ashurbanipal, down below as he stabs a lion through the heart-- with a freakin' sword!

Yeah, I'm sure that actually happened...

(First Full Day In London shall be continued...)


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