Visiting the gallery
Travel back through 3,000 years of Egyptian history and come face-to-face with the Rosetta Stone and the Statue of Ramesses II.
The objects in the Egyptian sculpture gallery represent three millennia of pharaonic history. The displays have evolved with the field of Egyptology itself.
Modern Egyptology began with a French scientific expedition accompanying Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1798. After the British defeated the French, they took some of their most important finds, including the Rosetta Stone and the sarcophagus of the last Egyptian pharaoh, both displayed here.
Later, the British Consul-General Henry Salt received permission from Egypt's governor, Muhammad Ali, to collect antiquities, many of which were acquired by the British Museum. He employed excavators such as Giovanni Belzoni to remove sculptures, including the colossal bust of Ramesses II. Later acquisitions came increasingly from well-documented archaeological excavations.
The civilisation of ancient Egypt arose in the fourth millennium BC and only waned in the first four centuries AD, after Egypt was annexed into the Roman empire. This makes it one of the world's most enduring civilisations.
The monuments in the Egyptian sculpture gallery were created for eternity. Placed in temples and tombs, the statues and wall images were meant as vehicles for the spirits of deities, kings and privileged officials.
The Rosetta Stone is famous around the world for having served as the key to deciphering the ancient Egyptian language and hieroglyphic script.
The largest Egyptian sculpture in the British Museum represents one of Egypt's greatest kings: Ramesses II, 'ruler of rulers', who reigned through most of the 13th century BC.
The Egyptian sculpture gallery is also home to the sarcophagus of Nectanebo II, Egypt's last true pharaoh. His reign was cut short by a Persian invasion, and his ultimate fate remains unknown.