White marble sculpture of the

Stone staue of Krishna

Asia OA 1872.7-1.131

Interest in the gods and myths of other cultures expanded rapidly during the Enlightenment. The translation of religious texts from Asia and the decipherment of hieroglyphs revealed the religious worlds of India, East Asia, and Egypt to British readers for the first time. Travellers and researchers also brought new information from the Americas, Africa, and the Pacific.

They classified the gods into pantheons, extended divine families, and identified their specific areas of responsibility. The quest was on for universal themes underlying the diversity of human religion, and for its ultimate source. Egypt and India were many people's preferred options.

Writers on religion drew parallels between gods and rituals from different cultures, and especially with the familiar worlds of Greece and Rome. Supposed similarities between the religious imageries of far distant cultures were often used to derive one mythological tradition from another.

On display: Enlightenment: Religion