If you want a wonderful spot to ward off the woozies from jet lag then London is your place. Especially if you are coming from North America or are otherwise accustomed to autos that drive on the ‘right’ side of the road. Because from the moment you walk outside of the airport from which you arrived your survival instincts (or the blare of a lorry horn) will exorcise any bit of weariness you are feeling and flood your body with adrenalin, cortisole and any number of naturally occurring stimulants. For those of you who are wondering what in the world I am talking about just remember this – Look Left.
Although I had not originally planned for a London ‘leg’ of the trip a poorly advised transfer time between connections in Heathrow necessistated a call to BA. And after a few false starts with the customer service notion I was escalated to Joseph. Whilst I am not prone to biblical analogies this man had the grace of Job. Ultimately, Joseph managed a flight plan that would improve the odds greatly that both my body and my bag would arrive in Nairobi on the 17th. This however meant arriving in London 18 hours earlier than planned. I jumped at the chance.
There are roughly 746 things I would recommend doing in London- seriously just ask DeeDee and the Man. However, for a one-stop-shop for any age, nationality, gender or anything that can send in a swab to 23 and me, the British Museum is the place. Today’s mission was a quick hello to my old favorite and a touch of enlightenment.
Languages have always fascinated me. My gandmother was a whiz at 5 of them. I can eagerly utter small contextual notions, but the concept of conjugation has proven elusive and, quite honestly, strikes fear into me. This is one of the reasons I make straight for the slab of the Rosetta Stone that is displayed just off of the rotunda(you cant miss it, just a stones throw away (hahaha) are Rosetta mugs, ties, ball caps, mouse pads, pencils, scarves, and just about any nonsenical memorabilia you could want.)
As phalanx upon phalanx of tourists take a picture and move on, I can just marvel. This chunk of stone, no larger than the poster of David Cassidy that once hung on my wall, held the key to understanding Eqyptian heiroglyphics. You see around 400 AD or so the use and knowledge of heiroglyphics disappeared. Poof! So, a thousand or so years later when people were once again interested in knowing what went on, in say, ancient Egypt for 3,500 years no one had a clue! Said in another way 35 centuries of history became a mystery when heiroglyphics were phased out.
Not to worry, in the summer of 1799 as French and British forces traded barbs over N.Africa the French troops realized what they had come across(nod to my Francophile friends again)when they spied what was left of the Rosetta Stone in a DIY project that a Sultan had done in the mid 1500’s in the town of Rashid. Now, Rashid is a touch up the coast from Alexandria and is also called Rosetta. As it turns out this repurposed stone and its potential value was so key that it found its way into the wording of the Treaty of Alexandria in 1801 and from there a quick trip to the British Museum. (And for the ABBA fans reading this, if Napolean had just let this be his final surrender we never would have had Waterloo! That fab eurovision winner of 1974)
So, why does the Rosetta Stone matter… Well, the Brits turned right around and sent copies of the stone’s markings to scholars the world over and (with another nod to our francophile following) a quarter of a century later the Rosetta Stone was deciphered! You see there are three scripts on the stone, written in two languages – think of doing a crossword puzzle with words and the same one with emojis! So, when it was figured out, the whole world of Egyptian heiroglyphics, history, culture, and so very much more was unlocked.POOF. For a more credible history of the Rosetta Stone see a quickie video
Besides the really, really obvious work of scholars, historians, egyptologist, and oodles more ‘-ists’ it also boggles my mind on the happenstance of finding this slab. It reminds me that significant, meaningful, and plain cool things are to be found in the oddest of places in some of the most unlikely circumstances.
Now, onto the real kickstarter of the British Museum, the Age of Enlightenment!
And because it would not be the end of a blog post without something fun…can you identify why I was so keen to snap this photo in the Enlightenment Room.