I had a cheeky day off on Monday and finally managed to get down to the British Museum for the Ashurbanipal exhibition. It was fascinating, I did a bit on the Assyrian Empire as part of a Near Eastern Archaeology module at university, but this only touched on Ashurbanipal as a ruler. The exhibition on the other hand was well laid out with relevant artefacts and interesting detail about the man and his reign. A second son, he took the throne and became one of the greatest eastern rulers ever, his empire almost equalling Rome at its height. Later in his reign he was successful in simultaneous wars on several fronts, although for a man we know so much about we don’t know how or when he died. Strange. My favourite thing on display though were the clay tablets which are all that is left of the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ (see picture below). Regarded as the earliest surviving work of literature in the world, so old that not even the great Ashurbanipal had a complete copy of the story, but his copy does appear to have at least survived for us to see, mostly thanks to his extensive library being burnt. A happy twist of fate really, as when a great fire burned the library of Alexandria, it destroyed countless works now lost to us forever, however the fire in Ashurbanipal’s library fired the clay tablets on which the great epic (and other works) were written, turning them into ceramic tiles and thus preserving them.
Also at the British Museum, I attended a Members Lecture given by Dr Chris Naunton on the Lost Tombs of Egypt, including those of Amenhotep I, Nefertiti, Alexander the Great, and Cleopatra. A great speaker and fascinating lecture, so fascinating that I had to buy a copy of his book at the end as I need to know more. It was great to get back to learning about Egypt, half of my degree is in Egyptology and Ancient Egypt is one of the most fascinating societies to have existed. Plus, there is always something undeniably attractive about the idea of lost tombs, especially the Egyptian ones and their legends of magic and curses, not to mention the idea of treasures akin to those of Tutankhamun. Now wouldn’t that be a find? Not one I’m likely to come across doing the day job though … But it may be a great idea for an #ArchaeologicalAdventures story.
Having said that I did once dig a hole close to the suspected burial place of King Henry I. Didn’t find anything.
You can keep up with Chris on Twitter @chirsnaunton and on his website
S. M. Porter
Professional archaeologist and author, S. M. Porter loves history, adventure and digging in the mud. Her career is in ruins - just where she wanted it to be.