A month to go to visit Hieroglyphs at the British Museum

If you haven't yet been, you have a month to go to catch the British Museum's exhibition, Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egypt.

The show traces the story of the race to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs, from initial efforts by medieval Arab travellers and Renaissance scholars to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799 which provided the key to decoding the ancient signs. The show brings this story to life through some 240 objects including vividly decorated sheets of papyrus and elegantly inscribed tablets which shed much light on the day to day life in Ancient Egypt and bear everything from protective spells to safeguard children, divorce documents and erotic drawings and jokes.

At the heart of the exhibition is the Rosetta Stone – the stone slab that bears the same writing in ancient Greek, Demotic and Egyptian hieroglyphics, which was discovered in 1799 and famously provided a vital key to decipherment. But there are other highlights, most notably the mummy bandage of Aberuait from the Musee du Louvre in Paris, which has never been displayed in the UK, and the 3,000-year-old illustrated Book of the Dead of Queen Nedjmet.

This is a curatorially rich show that brings together different strands from the disappearance of the written language via the European fascination with Egypt to the race to decipher hieroglyphic script and a celebration of the culture revealed by our knowledge of the script.

Temple lintel of king Amenemhat III, Egypt 12th Dynasty credit: British Museum

 Temple lintel of king Amenemhat III, Egypt 12th Dynasty credit: British Museum 

To coincide with the exhibition, there is a beautifully illustrated catalogue, Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egypt, edited by Ilona Regulski and published by the British Museum Press. 

The show runs until 19 February 2023 and is open daily 10.00–17.00 (Fridays 20.30). Adult tickets are from £18, Members and under 16s free.