Ramesses

One hour at the Museum trail

Go on a whirlwind tour of the history of the world.

From the Rosetta Stone that unlocked the hieroglyphic language of ancient Egypt to the Hoa Hakananai'a statue, this one-hour tour will give you a glimpse of ancient civilisations around the world.

1. The Rosetta Stone (Room 4)

1. The Rosetta Stone (Room 4 – open)

With the decipherment of hieroglyphs in 1822, the culture, history and beliefs of ancient Egypt were revealed. The Rosetta stone is the Museum's most popular exhibit, so don't leave without seeing it for yourself.

2. Sophilos Vase (Room 13)

2. Sophilos Vase (Room 13 – open)

This spectacular bowl and stand were made to hold wine mixed with water for a feast. They were made in Athens around 580 BC. The vessel takes its name from the signature of the artist who made it ('Sophilos made me'). The scenes on the upper part show the arrival of guests to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, parents of the hero Achilles.

3. Parthenon Sculptures (Room 18)

3. Parthenon Sculptures (Room 18 – open)

Carved about 2,500 years ago, these ancient Greek sculptures adorned the Parthenon, a temple on the Athenian Acropolis that once contained a colossal gold and ivory statue of the goddess Athena.

4. Crouching Venus (Room 23)

4. Crouching Venus (Room 23 – open)

This sculpture, from the second century AD, is a Roman version of a much earlier Greek statue of the goddess Aphrodite, or Venus to the Romans. The Greek marble or bronze original, now lost, was perhaps made between 200 and 100 BC. The sculpture makes the viewer a voyeur, surprising the goddess of love as she bathes.

5. Bust of Ramesses the Great (Room 4)

5. Bust of Ramesses the Great (Room 4 – open)    

This section of a larger statue, which weighs 7.5 tonnes, once sat in the Ramesseum, a temple built by Ramesses II, one of the greatest Egyptian pharaohs. Coverage of the bust's transportation to the UK is believed to have inspired the poet Shelley's famous sonnet, Ozymandias.

6. The Ife head (Room 25)

6. The Ife head (Room 25 – open)

A brass casting, probably around 600 years old, considered to depict the Ooni, a sacred king within the West African Kingdom of Ife. In earlier generations this highly naturalistic, striking head was falsely believed by Western scholars to have been inspired by European art. The Ife Head provides a portal into the fascinating history of powerful rulers and kingdoms in medieval West Africa.

7. Tree of Life (Room 25)

7. Tree of Life (Room 25 – open)

This sculpture was made by artists working with decommissioned weapons in Mozambique. It is part of a series of works by artists within the 'Transforming Arms into Tools' project, part of a wider effort of rebuilding in the years after the civil war in the country. It was created specifically for the British Museum in 2004. 

8. Akan drum (Room 26)

8. Akan drum (Room 26 – open

This wooden drum is the earliest African-American object in the British Museum. Collected in Virginia around 1730, it was once thought to be a Native American object. It was in fact made in West Africa over 300 years ago, probably by an Akan craftsperson. It is likely that the drum crossed the Atlantic with its owner aboard a slave ship.

9. Aztec serpent (Room 27)

9. Aztec serpent (Room 27 – open)

Created in what is now Mexico in the 15th or 16th century, this extraordinary double-headed serpent sculpture is mostly made of turquoise pieces over a wooden base, and probably had ritual significance.

10. The Piranesi Vase (Room 1)

10. The Piranesi Vase (Room 1 – open)

This vase was constructed in the 1700s from a great number of classical fragments and modern additions. It belonged to the Italian engraver, architect and antiquarian Giovanni Piranesi (1729–78) who sold it to an English collector. It was made during the period of the Grand Tour, when young Englishmen flocked to Italy to learn about classical civilisation. 

11. Haida House Pole (Great Court)

11. Haida House Pole (Great Court – open)

This pole was made in around 1850 and once stood at the front of a clan house in the village of Kayang, British Columbia, Canada. It features crests – ancestral beings that mark identity and endow families with rights to stories and property. The House and village of Kayang was deserted due to epidemics introduced by Europeans in the 19th century. Chief of the House sold the pole to a doctor who then sold it to the British Museum.

12. Hoa Hakananai'a (Room 24)

12. Hoa Hakananai'a (Room 24 – open)

This statue, known as Hoa Hakananai'a, comes from the ritual centre of Orongo on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Carved from basalt, it has carvings on the back associated with the islanders' birdman cult. It is of great significance to the people of Rapa Nui today.