S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen

Logs, Ife, Staffordhisre Hoard, and Reindeer

1.4 cubic meters of logs shifted this evening. That's my exercise for the day dealt with. (Okay, I only carried half of them through the house. C. did the other half.)

The logs arrived a day early. C. was in only because he was ill. He answered the phone after the delivery guy had tried knocking on the door to no available. The delivery guy double-checked and, to his surprise, he was indeed a whole day early with the delivery.

I spent yesterday out, running errands, seeing exhibits, catching up on all sorts of things. Forbidden Planet didn't have this week's new Linnea Sinclair novel, but I did, for the first time, have the opportunity to test out my free club membership: an hour's leisurely reading, in tranquil circumstances, with table service. Ideal, really! Afterward, debate at the BSFA over its awards shortlist was lively.

Most of the day, though, I spent in the British Museum. The main purpose of my visit was the see the Kingdom of Ife show, mostly astonishing, gorgeous heads with hazy gestures towards what else is known about the period. Human sacrifice. Elegant chameleons. Large cast copper warrior figures. A vessel for ritual pourings of palm wine. An adorable monolith shaped like a mudfish.

It's not nearly as large a show as I was expecting: I spent less than two hours in it, and some of that was back-tracking to revisit the mudfish and other highlights. I was somewhat annoyed by the chronological context map: it showed Ife heads from the fourteenth-fifteenth century, along with other world art of around the same period; except for the British Isles, for which it showed the Lewes chessmen. Dear British Museum: I know you can find *something* from the fourteenth-fifteenth centuries from the British Isles. Really.

The excerpt of the Staffordshire Hoard on show was lovely: shine, carnelians, cloissoné, sword hilt pieces, bird's beaks, bent crosses, encrusted dirt. There's something particularly real about not just seeing objects, but seeing them en route, part of their journey. These object are only passing through the museum, and only passing through between phases of conservation as well.

I saw other things: visiting highlights from the currently closed Yorkshire Museum (including the Gillings sword which, adorably, has its own Blue Peter badge); and the hand axe in one of the early episodes of the History of the World in 100 Objects series. The object that's stayed with me however, vivid in memory, was two swimming reindeer.

An entire, modest room is currently dedicated to these two small reindeer, because they are extraordinary in so many ways. They are the oldest sculpture the museum has. 13,000 years old. They were carved by someone alive in the Ice Age, in an entirely foreign world to the one I live in. And they are gorgeous little creatures: lithe, smooth, noses lifted up, and bodies streamlined together in the current, hooves and horns precisely cut out from the tip of the mammal tusk they are made out of. Each is perhaps five inches long, not large, but rich in evocative spirit. They have come to be here, here in a large glass case, suspended for display and admiration, from such a very, very long distance of time ago.
Tags: london

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