Body Learning from the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks at the British Museum


We live in times of nips and tucks, selfies and straightening. Billions of pounds are spent each year transforming the body into a newer, improved version. I am interested in the speed of change in recent times. Is there something we could learn from Ancient Wisdom that would still apply in the here and now?

I spent a sunny afternoon yesterday at the British Museum. With its numerous rooms and varied exhibitions, it's a great museum to time travel and cross cultures. Standing under the glass roof (pictured above) never fails to leave me feeling a sense of awe.

Here are some notes from my visit to whet your appetite:

Ancient Lives New Discoveries - Ancient Egypt

  • The use of technology to scan the mummies is remarkable. In the past the only option was to remove the bandages, which would damage the delicate structures beneath. Scanning allows historians to determine minute details about how the Ancient Egyptians lived.
  • They believed the heart was the centre of consciousness and the location of the mind, and the brain was removed in the mummification process (usually through the nose).
  • Many mummies showed poor dental health with numerous abscesses, which suggested they were in constant pain.
  • There was wide-spread cardiovascular disease, shown up as atherosclerosis, or deposits in the arteries. Many Ancient Egyptians died in their 30s and 40s.
  • Healing remedies such as copper, incense, cumin, camphor, myrrh and honey were used to treat skin complaints, dental issues and other health problems.
  • The Eye of Horus was used to symbolise the state of being whole (very different from the modern split of mind and body).
  • The head was considered symbolically important, as it is central to senses, food and speech.

 Defining Beauty the Body in Ancient Greek Art

  • Unusual for that time, the Ancient Greeks considered the body to be beautiful and moral  -not shameful
  • Women were portrayed as wild and passionate and therefore a threat to the stability of male society. Therefore the female body was covered, controlled and contained.
  • The male body was given a God-like depiction, marking strength, skill and perfection.
  • Many pieces showed the balance between movement and stillness, beauty and form,
  • 'The chief forms of beauty are order, symmetry and clear delineation’ – Aristotle
  • It was interesting watching my own reaction to this exhibition- the sheer amount of nudity made me feel a little embarrassed with my parents- it reminded me of the awkward feeling when watching a kissing scene when I was younger!

To visit, go to:  - be quick- it's been extended but this exhibition closes next month.