Thursday, 22 December 2011

British Museum

I have a great book from the library on the workings of the British Museum in London.

The photos and personal essays by individual workers at the Museum are so varied and interesting.

I have learnt about the oldest board game in the world: the Royal Game of Ur. Apparently the board was found in Southern Iraq with pieces and dice in the 1920's. It dates back to 2600 BC.

Irving Finkel, curator of the Assyrian Collections, was rootling through the cupboards in the 1980's, found something interesting, read the cuneiform and realized that the text was related to the rules for a game. Not the rules themselves, it assumed you knew those, but comments on how to bet etc. It was replaced by backgammon in the Middle East, but seems to be still played in parts of India today.

Can you imagine the complexity of recreating Monopoly several thousand years in the future? or Cluedo? How to explain the hilarity of x did it in the Library with an Iron Bar?

The other thing which I am amazed by is that carbon dating (goes back 50,000 years) and identifying pollen are not the only methods for dating items. Voles' teeth are used too because the evolution of voles is relatively quick due to their short lifespan. Their teeth happen to display changes which can date a site. Beetles are evidence of a particular temperature range at that time and snails provide evidence too.

A site is over 350,000 years old if teeth from the European pine vole are present, because they disappeared from Britain at that point.

This is a BBC book. Why don't people make more of a fuss about how good their books are?

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