Hieroglyph exhibition coming to British Museum October 2022

The British Museum has announced a major new exhibition on hieroglyphs, running from October 2022 until February 2023. 

british museum rosetta stone hieroglyphs

The British Museum has announced a major new exhibition on hieroglyphs, running from October 2022 until February 2023. 

The exhibition, titled ‘Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egypt’, will mark 200 years since the language of hieroglyphics was deciphered, allowing historians and scholars to better understand one of the world’s oldest civilisations. 

The Rosetta Stone will be among the items on display. One of the world’s most famous ancient objects and one of the British Museum’s most popular exhibits, it will be at the centre of the new exhibition’s appeal. The Rosetta Stone was integral to the eventual deciphering of hieroglyphics, after its discovery in 1799. The decree on the stone was written in hieroglyphs, demotic and the known language of ancient Greek, paving the way for experts to decode the ancient language within 25 years, in 1822.

british museum hieroglyphs

The Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone will be just one of 240 objects, however. Others on show include items loaned from national and international collections, many of which will be on public display here for the first time. 

The exhibition aims to “chart the race to decipherment”, highlighting the initial efforts of mediaeval Arab travellers and Renaissance scholars, to the more focussed works of Frenchman Jean-François Champollion (1790 – 1832), and England’s Thomas Young (1773 – 1829).

british museum hieroglyphs

Jean-François Champollion, by Léon Cogniet

Another particularly special item is ‘The Enchanted Basin’ – a large black granite sarcophagus from about 600 BCE, covered with hieroglyphs and images of gods. The museum explains, these “hieroglyphs were believed to have magical powers and that bathing in the basin could offer relief from the torments of love. The reused ritual bath was discovered near a mosque in Cairo, in an area still known as al-Hawd al-Marsud – ‘the enchanted basin’. It has since been identified as the sarcophagus of Hapmen, a nobleman of the 26th Dynasty.” 

The mummy bandage of Aberuait, belonging to the Musée du Louvre in Paris, is among the loaned items and has never been shown in the UK before now. Personal notes from Champollion are also being loaned from France, with the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and lending them to the British Museum.

british museum hieroglyphs Thomas Young

Thomas Young. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Ilona Regulski, Curator of Egyptian Written Culture at the British Museum, said “The decipherment of hieroglyphs marked the turning point in a study that continues today to reveal secrets of the past. The field of Egyptology is as active as ever in providing access to the ancient world. Building on 200 years of continuous work by scholars around the globe, the exhibition celebrates new research and shows how Egyptologists continue to shape our dialogue with the past.”

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