It seems the better part of man’s entire existence has been all about dominance and maintaining that dominance for posterity. In this respect, the British Museum’s display of ancient history did not fail to amaze. Stone statues and furniture suggest a hard existence for those whose job it was to fashion these. Being part of a collective that has a history of enslavement, I don’t have to ask what kind of life I would have had in say, early Egypt. From this point of view I moved from one artifact to the next paying homage to the slaves who built them. Pillage and plunder was the (X-Box?) game de jour. Considering that the bulk of these artifacts were found, borrowed or otherwise appropriated from ancient deserts and cultures, England appeared to be quite forthcoming regarding the provenance of many pieces. I marveled at the granite tombs that today would make great hot tubs (my husband is all about function and purpose). The Balawat gates held sway in the corner of the lower museum floor. An imposing 20 feet high, the gates were reconstructed from the palace of Shalmaneser III (858-824 BC). Balawat or ancient Imgur-Enlil, Iraq was a large center of activity with what was thought to be strategic importance. Balawat was decimated with the end of the Assyrian empire, circa 614-612 BC. More pillaging, plundering and loss. I watched the young school children on field trips as they passed the many statues – the boys giving knowing looks at the statue of young King Tut with his tutor – which has a hole where his penis should be. The boys found this particularly funny and before long one daring young soul, after the teacher turned her back, went up and put his hand in the opening. The girls and boys giggled at their new hero. Many of the male statues were fairly anatomically correct (size seemed to matter in some cultures, in others…not so much). But I found it interesting that fertility symbols were expressed through statues prominently displaying male organs. I did not find a statue of a pregnant woman. Maybe I need another day in the museum.
Westminster Abbey offered more recent history (relatively speaking). As I walked in and among the stone carvings and casks of kings and queens and their families, it became clear, after reading inscriptions, that the politics of church and dominance form a solid foundation for English culture. Today’s English propriety appears to have been whittled from a history of attack, parry, retreat, pillage, plunder and pontification of the beneficence of the empire. What is it with power? If lust for it always comes to naught then our young culture doesn’t stand a chance – history being what it is.
Notes to future: Don’t talk during language (Latin) class – then you might be able to understand the Rosetta Stone. Oh, and seriously, if you want to pass on your culture millenniums hence then you should build it out of stone – marble and granite are nice. Buy a Lo-Jack for your culture so some war-mongering toad with a Napoleon complex can’t hijack your valuables.