Lectures

  • A revolution in Syrian art

    A revolution in Syrian art

    Friday 20 June 2014, 18.30
    BP Lecture Theatre
    £5, Members/concessions £3

    Behind the headlines is a series of events at the Museum exploring the cultural context behind news stories from across the world, looking closely at objects from the Museum’s collection. Before 2011, the Syrian art scene was limited by the number of galleries and spaces for showing work, and the government control of cultural institutions. Since the uprising, an outpouring of creative expression from artists across all levels of Syrian society has formed a response to the violence.

    This panel discussion, chaired by Malu Halasa, coeditor of Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline, and featuring Curator Venetia Porter, British Museum, will consider the pre-revolution period through looking at British Museum objects, the change that revolution has bought to the country’s artists, and the new possibilities that lie ahead.

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  • Anglo-Saxon and Viking ship burial

    Anglo-Saxon and Viking ship burial

    Friday 6 June 2014, 18.30
    BP Lecture Theatre
    £5, Members/concessions £3

    The ritual of ship burial was practised by both the Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons, most famously at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. To mark the redisplay of the Sutton Hoo objects in Room 41 of the British Museum, this talk will compare the ship graves of Sutton Hoo and the Vikings, addressing key similarities and differences in their symbolic interpretation. This event will be chaired by Exhibition Curator Gareth Williams, British Museum, and will feature Jan Bill, Director of the Viking Ship Museum, Oslo, and Sue Brunning, Curator of the Early Medieval Insular Collection, British Museum.

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  • Birth in Kemet: the mysterious carved tusks of Middle Kingdom Egypt

    Birth in Kemet: the mysterious carved tusks of Middle Kingdom Egypt

    Thursday 15 May 2014, 13.30
    Stevenson Lecture Theatre
    Free, booking essential

    Stephen Quirke, Professor of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology at University College London, looks at the ideas and practices surrounding human birth and identity in Middle Kingdom Egypt (2000–1700 BC). He traces the elusive world of birth through material culture, starting from the figures on an extraordinary ‘birth tusk’ now in the British Museum. Discoveries in the past 15 years shed new light on this imagery, and some of their meaning may become clearer with wider horizons of research into birth in ancient and modern Africa.

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  • Cities of the Levant: the Past for the Future?

    Cities of the Levant: the Past for the Future?

    Joint BM/PEF/Council for British Research in the Levant/British Foundation for the Study of Arabia Lecture

    Thursday 13 November 2014, 16.00
    BP Lecture Theatre
    Free – booking essential.

    Philip Mansel, Author of Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean.

    Cities have their own dynamism. Location, population, and wealth can give them the power to defy or ignore states. They subvert received ideas about national identity. Dr Philip Mansel, author of Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean, will speak about the cities of the Levant, particularly Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut. Under the Ottoman Empire and its successors they were inhabited by Muslims, Christians and Jews. The alliance between France and the Ottoman Empire - called by one French ambassador 'the union between the lily and the crescent' - and the capitulations enabled foreigners to live, trade, and establish schools there. For a time dialogue trumped conflict, deals came before ideals. Smyrna was described as a light-house illuminating every corner of the Ottoman Empire. 'If Smyrna is the eye of Asia’, it was said, ‘the quay is the pupil of the eye’. Norman Douglas called it ‘the most enjoyable place on earth’. Alexandria, 'the Queen of the Mediterranean', was compared to a European ship moored off the coast of Egypt; Beirut was called the Paris of the Middle East. Philip Mansel asks how these cities functioned and explores their shared characteristics - diplomacy, trade, hybridity, pleasure, modernity and vulnerability. In the end Smyrna was burnt, Alexandria Egyptianised, Beirut ravaged by civil war. What is the message of the cities of the Levant for today's mixed cities, such as London, Paris, and Dubai?

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  • Curator's introduction to Ancient lives, new discoveries

    Curator's introduction to Ancient lives, new discoveries

    Friday 23 May 2014, 13.30 (JT)
    Friday 20 June 2014, 13.30 (JT) Sign interpreted
    Friday 4 July 2014, 13.30 (MV)
    Saturday 13 September 2014, 13.30 (MV)
    Thursday 30 October 2014, 13.30 (DA)
    Friday 28 November 2014, 13.30 (DA)
    BP Lecture Theatre
    Free, booking essential

    Exhibition Curators John Taylor (JT), Marie Vandenbeusch (MV) and Daniel Antoine (DA) give a 45-minute illustrated introduction to the exhibition. The event on 30 Oct will have live speech-to-text transcription for deaf and hard of hearing people.

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  • Curators introduction to Vikings: life and legend

    Curators introduction to Vikings: life and legend

    Thursday 13 March 2014, 13.30 (GW)
    Friday 28 March 2014, 13.30 (TW)
    Friday 4 April 2014, 13.30 (TW)
    Saturday 3 May 2014, 13.30 (TW)
    Monday 2 June 2014, 13.30 (GW)
    Sign interpreted
    Thursday 19 June 2014, 13.30 (GW)
    BP Lecture Theatre
    Free, booking essential

    Exhibition Curator Gareth Williams (GW) and Project Curator Thomas Williams (TW) give a 45-minute illustrated introduction to the exhibition Vikings: life and legend.

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  • Embalming: theory and practice

    Embalming: theory and practice

    Thursday 2 October 2014, 13.30
    BP Lecture Theatre
    Free, booking essential

    Ancient Egyptian embalming techniques are popularly known, but where does our information come from and how does recent research challenge our assumptions? Project Curator Marie Vandenbeusch explains what the ancient texts say on embalming practice, what experts expect to find through CT scanning processes, and what the evidence leads us to conclude about this ancient process.

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  • European architects and the rediscovery of Etruria in the 19th century

    European architects and the rediscovery of Etruria in the 19th century

    From Sir John Soane to Charles Garnier

    The Annual Eva Lorant Memorial Lecture
    Friday 2 May 2014, 18:00
    BP Lecture Theatre
    Free, booking essential

    The rediscovery of ancient Etruria was a major chapter in the story of 19th-century archaeology and cultural history. Studies of the newly discovered monuments, including the painted tombs of Tarquinia and the rich cemeteries of Vulci, intrigued English, German and French architects. Laurent Haumesser, Conservateur en chef in the Department of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Musée du Louvre, will discuss drawings by these architects, which preserve invaluable information about monuments since lost or damaged, and provide a key to understanding the evolution of modern taste in European architecture and culture.

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  • Fishing in the gene pool for Vikings

    Fishing in the gene pool for Vikings

    Friday 23 May 2014, 18.30
    BP Lecture Theatre
    £5, Members/concessions £3

    The Vikings’ impact on Britain is clear from historical records, archaeological finds, our language and our place names. But how many Vikings actually came to Britain, and how many of us today are their descendants? Mark Jobling, Professor of Genetics at the University of Leicester, discusses how we can use genetics to address these questions. This event will have live speech- to-text transcription to give deaf and hard of hearing visitors access to the talk.

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  • From 3rd Millennium BC Hunters to Crusaders

    From 3rd Millennium BC Hunters to Crusaders

    Culture, Beliefs and Commercial Dealings in Ancient Sidon

    Joint BM/PEF – Evans Memorial Lecture


    Thursday 4 December 2014, 16.00
    BP Lecture Theatre
    Free – booking essential

    Claude Doumet Serhal, British Museum

    The British Museum in collaboration with the Department of Antiquities of Lebanon has been excavating in Sidon for the past 15 years. This city state, 30km south of the Lebanese capital, Beirut, was one of the most important ancient Canaanite and Phoenician coastal cities. However, like other places in modern Lebanon, most of what we knew of its history until now came from contemporary Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Greek records. Events of ritual activity that involve shared food and drink consumption can be identified in Middle Bronze Age Sidon from funerary assemblages as well as from “ritual breakage and burning” of pottery. Prestige items and ritual paraphernalia are also found in the Late Bronze Age reinforcing the Sidon excavation as a reference site for substantiating Middle Bronze Age communal feasts, a fundamental aspect of Levantine archaeology. An important network of maritime traffic with Sidon started in the third millennium BC which then progressed, from as early as the 12th dynasty, through the exchange of Egyptian, Cypriot and Aegean pottery. In the Late Bronze Age, the elites from Sidon exclusively obtained open vessels linked to ceremonial and ritual activities. The Tawosret vessel is one of the first of these dedicated items to illustrate an aspect of international communications not directly linked to religion or trade. All of the above irrefutably adds to a better understanding and a broadening of our knowledge of Levantine archaeology.

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  • Inside out: revealing nature’s secrets

    Inside out: revealing nature’s secrets

    Friday 26 September 2014, 18.30
    BP Lecture Theatre
    £5, Members/concessions £3

    Whether helping pathologists to perform virtual autopsies, scrutinising a Martian meteorite or revealing the secrets of ancient mummies, computerised visualisation techniques through CT and MRI scans are opening up new worlds of understanding. Anders Persson, Director of the Center for Medical Image Science and Visualization, and Anders Ynnerman, founder of the Norrköping Visualization and Interaction Studio, showcase their world-leading research and techniques.

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  • Interpreting Egyptian art: Alastair Sooke in conversation

    Interpreting Egyptian art: Alastair Sooke in conversation

    Friday 27 June 2014, 18.30
    BP Lecture Theatre
    £5, Members/concessions £3

    Alastair Sooke, writer and presenter of the BBC4 series Treasures of Ancient Egypt, and Marcel Marée, British Museum, discuss the considerations of presenting and interpreting ancient Egyptian art on television and in museums.

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  • Laughter in ancient Rome

    Laughter in ancient Rome

    Saturday 28 June 2014, 13.30
    BP Lecture Theatre
    Free, booking essential

    What made the Romans laugh? Was ancient Rome a carnival, filled with practical jokes and hearty chuckles? Or was it a carefully regulated culture in which the uncontrollable excess of laughter was a force to fear – a world of wit, irony and knowing smiles? How did Romans make sense of laughter? What role did it play in the world of the law courts, the imperial palace or the spectacles of the arena? Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, shares her thoughts and findings. There will be a booksigning and opportunity to purchase copies of Beard’s Laughter in Ancient Rome following this talk.

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  • Live streaming of The Vikings in Britain and Ireland: between culture and memory

    Live streaming of The Vikings in Britain and Ireland: between culture and memory

    Friday 25 April 2014, 18.30–19.30
    BP Lecture Theatre
    Free, booking essential

    This is a free opportunity to see this talk live streamed into the adjacent lecture theatre. Please note: entry to the Stevenson Lecture Theatre will be at 18.25.

    From raiding to full-scale invasion, the development of urban trade to involvement in destructive power struggles, the experience of the Viking Age in Britain and Ireland was varied across regions. This panel discussion, chaired by historian and writer Michael Wood, will consider these regional histories and how they have shaped the cultural memory of the Vikings across Britain and Ireland. Panellists include Stephen Harrison, Trinity College Dublin, Judith Jesch, University of Nottingham, James Moncrieff, Shetland Amenity Trust, and Marc Scully, University of Leicester.

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  • New discoveries from ancient Egypt

    New discoveries from ancient Egypt

    Friday 7 November 2014, 18.30
    BP Lecture Theatre
    £5, Members/concessions £3

    In this lecture, Exhibition Curators John Taylor and Daniel Antoine, British Museum, highlight research methods, CT scans and visualisation techniques used in the preparation of the exhibition Ancient lives, new discoveries. This will include a demonstration of the software and how it enabled researchers to view human remains in new ways, and a discussion on how these results challenge previous assumptions.
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  • Origins of mummification in Egypt

    Origins of mummification in Egypt

    Thursday 25 September 2014, 13.30
    Stevenson Lecture Theatre
    Free, booking essential

    Recent research has shown the first mummified remains to be found in the Nile Valley date from 3500 BC rather than 3000 BC as previously thought. Renée Friedman, British Museum, shares her research on the origins of the mummification process, the relationship between natural and artificial mummification, and how this informs our view of a process so ingrained in popular understanding of the ancient Egyptians.

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  • Palestine, Poland and the PEF

    Palestine, Poland and the PEF

    Lucjan Turkowski’s manuscript ‘Material Culture of the Peasants in the Judaean Hills’ in context

    Thursday 5 June 2014, 16.00
    BP Lecture Theatre
    Free, booking essential

    Carol Palmer, The Council for British Research in the Levant, presents the life story of Lucjan Turkowski and looks at the significance of his manuscript of everyday life in mandate Palestine. Polish ethnographer Turkowski (1905–1976) was exiled to central Asia following the outbreak of the Second World War, and served in the Polish Army in Palestine, working in Jerusalem. He settled in London after the war and became Professor of Ethnography at the Polish University Abroad. The Palestine Exploration Fund supported the posthumous publication of his research on Palestine.

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  • Sorcery, magic and the Viking mind

    Sorcery, magic and the Viking mind

    Friday 2 May 2014, 13.30
    BP Lecture Theatre
    Free, booking essential

    Neil Price, University of Aberdeen, will explore the archaeological and textual evidence for sorcery and magic in the Viking world.

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  • Ten days in the life of Dura-Europos

    Ten days in the life of Dura-Europos

    Gods, cults and temples on the Seleucid, Parthian and Roman Euphrates

    Joint BM/PEF – Evans Memorial Lecture


    Thursday 23 October 2014, 16.00
    BP Lecture Theatre
    Free – booking essential.

    Ted Kaizer, University of Durham.

    Dura-Europos, a small fortress town situated on a plateau looking out over the Middle Euphrates river, was under first Seleucid, then Parthian, and finally Roman control. The rather clear-cut periodization of Dura’s history has of course strong implications for the study of the town’s religious life. Excavations have revealed an astonishing variety of gods and goddesses, and amongst those who received a cult were traditionally Greek deities, indigenous and Roman ones, and gods from the nearby caravan city of Palmyra. Ten snapshots selected from the rich material evidence will be used to showcase not only the variety but also the development of Dura’s religious life. To what degree can a reconstruction of the town’s ritual calendar be attempted?

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  • The Wilderness of Zin – 100 Years on

    The Wilderness of Zin – 100 Years on

    Joint BM/PEF Lecture

    6 November 2014, 16.00
    BP Lecture Theatre
    Free – booking essential.

    Sam Moorhead, British Museum, Portable Antiquities Scheme

    As trauma grips the Middle East today, it is interesting to go back a hundred years to the last year of peace in the region before the outbreak of World War One. The Ottoman Empire was still the major power in the Levant, but Britain and Germany both had major interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. With this in mind, Lord Kitchener realised the importance of completing the Palestine Exploration Fund’s mapping of the Holy Land; the Negeb Desert south of Beersheba had not been covered in the 19th century survey. Therefore, in December 1913, a Royal Engineers cartographic team was sent into the Wilderness of Zin in southern Palestine, with an archaeological smokescreen provided by the PEF which employed two young archaeologists who were later to become famous in their own right: Leonard Woolley and T. E. Lawrence. This short episode brings together numerous strands of political, military, archaeological and social activity on the eve of the Great War, and was also to be an essential experience for the future Lawrence of Arabia. Sam Moorhead edited the latest version of the Wilderness of Zin, published by the PEF and Stacey International in 2003.

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  • The arrival of Christianity in the Middle Nile Valley(Sudan)

    The arrival of Christianity in the Middle Nile Valley(Sudan)

    Thursday 5 June 2014, 13.30
    Stevenson Lecture Theatre
    Free, booking essential

    The arrival of Christianity around AD 500 in the Middle Nile Valley (modern-day Sudan) brought about profound cultural changes as pyramid tombs were replaced by simple burials and monumental temples by churches and cathedrals. Julie Anderson, British Museum, reflects on the archaeological evidence for this change and what it meant for wider society.

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  • The excavations of Machaerus, where John the Baptist was Imprisoned and Executed

    The excavations of Machaerus, where John the Baptist was Imprisoned and Executed

    Joint BM/PEF - Iain Browning Memorial Lecture

    Thursday 2 October 2014, 16.00
    BP Lecture Theatre
    Free – booking essential

    Gyõzõ Vörös, Hungarian Academy of Arts.

    The Herodian fortified palace of Machaerus, overlooking the Dead Sea in Transjordan, is the historical place where, according to Flavius Josephus (AJ XVIII 5, 2), one of the holiest men of his era (known to Jews as Yokhanan the Baptizer; to Christians as Saint John the Baptist, and to Muslims as the Prophet Yahyaibn Zakariyya), was confined and executed by the Tetrarch Herod Antipas. The site of Machaerus was rediscovered by the German explorer, Ulrich Jasper Seetzen in 1807, and more extensive remains were identified by the French Domenican Father Felix-Marie Abel in 1909. Since then, the site has been excavated several times, first in the 1960’s by E Jerry Vardaman, and then in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s by Virgilio Canio Corbo and Michele Piccirillo, both of the Fansciscan Biblical School in Jerusalem. Following Father Piccirillo’s unexpected death in 2008, the Hungarian Academy of Arts has been conducting archaeological excavations and architectural surveys in the ancient hilltop royal castle and city of Machaerus, since 2009. The results have been published in the first of two magnificent volumes. In this lecture, Dr. Gyõzõ Vörös will place the archaeological site of Machaerus in its New Testament context, in order to elucidate the blurred scene of a biblical site, and reconstruct it as clearly as possible in the light of up-to-date historical, archaeological and architectural research.

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  • The longship Roskilde 6: from excavation to display

    The longship Roskilde 6: from excavation to display

    Friday 16 May 2014, 18.30
    BP Lecture Theatre
    £5, Members/concessions £3.00

    Since its excavation in 1997 the Roskilde 6 Viking shipwreck has been undergoing conservation treatment in the Conservation Department of the National Museum of Denmark. Conservator Kristiane Strætkvern discusses the key processes involved in investigating and reconstructing this remarkable survival, and the creative solutions designed for transporting and displaying such a colossal and fragile ship.

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  • The quest for the copper mountain of Magan

    The quest for the copper mountain of Magan

    How early metallurgy shaped Arabia and set the horizons of the Bronze Age world

    Saturday 26 July 2014, 19.00
    BP Lecture Theatre
    Free, booking essential

    More than 4,000 years before petroleum reconfigured Arabia's role in the modern world, copper played a similar part in the development of Bronze Age Arabia. Lloyd Weeks, University of New England, Australia, will discuss the social, technological and economic roles of metals in the early complex societies of the ancient Near East, and the ways in which a Bronze Age copper 'boom' in south-eastern Arabia, ancient Magan, underpinned its integration into the long-distance exchange systems and cultural encounters that characterised the Bronze Age world.

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  • Viking treasures

    Viking treasures

    Thursday 22 May 2014, 13.30
    BP Lecture Theatre
    Free, booking essential

    Exhibition Curator Gareth Williams looks at recent finds of Viking hoards from England and what they tell us about exchange and politics of Viking England.

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  • Viking warfare

    Viking warfare

    Thursday 1 May 2014, 13.30
    BP Lecture Theatre
    Free, booking essential

    Project Curator Thomas Williams discusses the context, development and forms of Viking warfare.
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  • Who were the ancient Egyptians?

    Who were the ancient Egyptians?

    Friday 21 November 2014, 13.30
    BP Lecture Theatre
    Free, booking essential

    Professor Joel D Irish, Liverpool John Moores University, gives an overview of the peoples of the Nile Valley, investigating population origins, biological affinities and migration patterns within and beyond Egypt, drawn from his extensive work in dental anthropology.

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