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Blog: Stonehenge

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Last weekend I went once more the the British Museum, on my own this time, to see their new The World Of Stonehenge exhibition. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: it was Quite Good.

It took me flipping AGES to get into the musuem, as there was a MASSIVE queue outside to get your bags checked. Years ago, when I worked around the corner from the BM, you could just wander in, and I spent many happy lunch hours visiting exhibits within or sometimes just sitting and having my lunch in the courtyard out front, but it is Very Different now. There were two queues - one for people who'd bought a ticket for something (e.g. me) and one for people who'd just rolled up. I quickly realised that a) my queue was taking AGES and b) behind me were two people with no bloody idea about personal space. They were the sort of people who think it's FINE to stand so close to you that you can hear their stomach rumbling. I tried the thing of Not Moving Forward when the queue ahead did, and even gently backing INTO them to try and get them to shift backwards, but invariably I'd have to move forward a bit every couple of minutes and they'd be right back in my NECK NAPE. THUS I switched lanes and REVELLED in the fact that I got in AGES before them. HA! Also: TOP TIP for the future!

Once I got through the queue I was directed to a Special Counter, where I thought they were going to quiz me further on the contents of my bag, or ask the reasons for my visit. Instead they were HUSTLING me for CA$H, doing the thing where they make it sound very much like you HAVE to pay to get in, so get confused tourists to make a "donation". "Would you like to give to the British Museum today?" they asked. "NO THANKS!" I said in as jolly a way as was feasible. I did not feel bad about this because a) I pay THE TAXES b) I also paid for a TICKET and c) most of all, once I finally got into the building I bought a small vegan donot and a can of drink which cost roughly A MILLION POUNDS so felt as if I had done my bit!

Anyway, I then went into the exhibition, which was BUSY. VERY busy - I don't think I have been in a room QUITE so full of people since before COVID. It also seemed to be full of EXPERTS as everywhere I turned there was somebody Explaining Things to somebody else, who would then often reply by Explaining The Same Thing back to them. They must have been experts because everything they were all explaining to each other extactly matched what was written in BIG LETTERS on the description boards behind them!

Luckily for me this was not my first RODEO/big exhibition, so I knew what to do - I simply strode purposefully through the first area into the next bit, where people had spread out a bit and had got bored of explaining things to each other. It was still busy though, so I skipped several large chunks until I got to the end, and then went back to the start again - it was getting close to closing time by now, so by this time it had cleared a little and I was able to get a good old LOOK at most stuff.

What I saw was QUITE INTERESTING. As with my previous visit the title of the exhibition was a little misleading, as there was an awful lot of stuff there that was nothing at all to do with Stonehenge. Actually, a surprisingly large amount of it was from PETERBOROUGH or thereabouts! It was more about the TIME that the various iterations of Stonehenge were built in, so I SUPPOSE that the fact it's called "The World Of Stonehenge" is just about excusable. I guess I was somehow expecting there to be some BITS of Actual Stonehenge there!

The really cool thing they did have was a big chunk of Seahenge which was pretty amazing - it was like something from a SPOOKY MOVIE, especially the idea of having an upturned tree in the middle, with its ROOTS splaying out. That was worth the admission on its own, to be honest, but then there were some STUNNING and STUNNINGLY OLD artefacts all the way through which were dead interesting. Also, the THEME of it - which took me a while to GET as I was hopping back and forth - was the way that human civilisation (or at least the bit of it happening in Northern Europe) changed pretty quickly from hunter gatherers to farms to the begins of societies, with stone axes at the beginning and PROPER SWORDS and ARMOUR at the end.

As i say, it was pretty good, although as per I did wonder why Archeologists and Historians are always so completely OBSESSED with EVERYTHING being religious. Reading the boards it seemed like every single thing these ancestors ever did was TOTALLY to do with religion. "We found these broken pots, which would have been buried here AS AN OFFERING", "this sword was buried FOR A CEREMONY", this person was placed like this FOR RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE" etc etc etc. I mean, all right, there might have been a BIT of this, but surely SOMETIMES pots are dropped in a trench by ACCIDENT? Are FUTURE HISTORIANS from SPACE going to fall upon our rubbish tips and be convinced they were grand cathedrals of offerings? "SEE how early HUMANOIDS would ritually BURN A CAR as an offering to their Gods, possibly hoping for an easing of ROAD TAX!"

As I left there was still time to have a quick look at something else before proper closing time, so like a FOOL I went and looked at some Ancient Greek stuff. This was a mistake, as it reminded me that while MY ancestors were tooling around with stone axes and being very pleased with themselves for drawing a very rough CIRCLE, the Ancient Greeks were merrily drinking WINE out of PAINTED AMPHORA and whooping it up with POETRY. Come on, Ancient Peterborians, get your act together!

posted 25/5/2022 by MJ Hibbett

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