Hieroglyphs unlocking Ancient Egypt ★★★★★ The British Museum | Oct 13, 2022 - Feb 19, 2023


The decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphs is a fascinating story and this exhibition tells it magnificently. From the first gallery, A Forgotten Language, our imagination is engaged. The story of unlocking the secret of the ancient texts becomes a journey of mystery and magic we share with the early Arab and European theorists until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799. We then follow the progress of Jean-François Champollion who, with Thomas Young, after more than 20 years, crack the code and open up for the world a new view of ancient Egypt. While the centre of the exhibition is the Rosetta Stone itself, there are so many other fascinating objects which tell their own tales: 'the Enchanted Basin' which was the sarcophagus of Hapmen, a nobleman of the 26th dynasty; the Book of the Dead papyrus of Queen Nedjmet and Ramses' king list. However, in addition to such exalted treasures, the exhibition also gives us a look into the everyday concerns of ancient Egyptians. There are love letters, stories, tax returns and shopping lists. For the first time over 240 pieces, from national and international collections, are brought together to tell the absorbing story of how the hieroglyphs were deciphered and how they serve as a key to a previously unknown world. Gallery 5, Writing for Eternity, with the god, Ptah, bringing things into being by speaking their name provides a fitting conclusion for this beautifully curated exhibition which is bound to both intrigue and enlighten.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Image: Temple lintel of King Amenemhat III, Hawara, Egypt, 12th Dynasty, 1855-08 BC © The Trustees of The British Museum

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