A rare 2000 year old bronze sculptural head of the Roman emperor Augustus is one of the remarkable treasures in the British Museum’s A History of the World in 100 Objects exhibition, which is on at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra until 29 January, 2017.
In its only Australian east coast venue before it travels to China, A History of the World in 100 Objects uses items from around the globe to explore the last two million years of human history, sourcing the oldest objects from the British Museum’s collection and incorporating those from the present day.
From stone to gold, clay to plastic, the exhibition traces human experience through objects people have made, including a 1.6-metre tall Assyrian relief, the famous Assyrian clay Flood Tablet (from modern Iraq) inscribed with the story of a great flood and an Ark; and a small, but exquisite, gold llama from Peru.
“These rare objects from around the world challenge our notions of human history and throw new light on how we shaped the world in which we live – and how we continue to shape it,” said National Museum director, Dr Mathew Trinca.
“I urge Australians to take advantage of a unique opportunity to see these objects and to explore the stories behind them,” said Dr Trinca.
“For me, the most fascinating aspect of this exhibition is its unusual approach to history, using objects rather than texts. By looking closely at the things people made and used, we gain access to those parts of our shared past that were never recorded in literature, as well as cultures that never developed the need for writing,” said Dr Belinda Crerar, curator of A History of the World in 100 Objects.
A History of the World in 100 Objects takes visitors on a journey through time and place and has already been seen by more than 800,000 people during its international tour. With direct international flights between Canberra and Singapore and Wellington, New Zealand, recently launched, and Tigerair about to resume domestic flights to the capital, the Museum anticipates more international and national visitors.
An African stone-chopping tool that is one of the first known hand-crafted implements, the endearing Lewis Chessmen (which found fresh fame following their inclusion in the 2001 film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone), a Basket from western Arnhem Land, Albrecht Dürer’s celebrated print The Rhinoceros, gold coins of Croesus and an elegant early bird-shaped stone pestle from Papua New Guinea, are among the huge range of objects on show.
More contemporary objects include the David Hockney print, ‘In the Dull Village’showing two men in a bed, a credit card and a solar powered lamp. The exhibition is inspired by a 2010 BBC / British Museum radio series of the same name.
Exclusive to the Australian tour is the bronze Head of Augustus from Meroë, which is one of the most important surviving portraits of Rome’s first emperor.
The National Museum chose to include a 101st object representing a globally recognised Australian innovation. The CSIRO WLAN Test Bed (the precursor to modern Wi Fi) is the exhibition’s 101st object.
A History of the World in 100 Objects on show in Canberra: 9 September 2016 – 29 January 2017.