The British Museum


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The videos below can be seen on Smarthistory because The British Museum generously makes their videos available for distribution.





This virtuosic carving represents a creator god. It is one of the finest pieces of Polynesian sculpture in the West.

Rurutu figure known as A’a



In ancient Rome, official portraits were full of political messages. What does Vespasian’s portrait say about him?

Portrait of Vespasian


Figure of the war god Ku-ka’ili-moku
Islanders grew fruit trees and used the wood to carve figures. This one depicts Ku, the “land snatcher.”

Polynesia, an introduction



Jade pectoral (with Maya glyphs), c. 1000-600 B.C.E., Olmec, Middle Preclassic period, jadeite, 10.5 x 11 cm, Mexico © Trustees of the British Museum
Jade was a prized material for the Olmec, and their carving has been found throughout Mesoamerica and beyond.

Olmec Jade



The turquoise, shell and other materials used on this mask were collected from the far reaches of the Aztec empire.

Mosaic mask of Tezcatlipoca


Mixtec
This rare survival of a Mesoamerican pre-Hispanic book records the life and times of ruler Eight Deer Jaguar-Claw.

Codex Zouche-Nuttall


The small-scale societies of these islands became famous in the West for their ceremonial wooden carvings.

Melanesia, an introduction


Medieval craftsmen decorated metal by hammering from behind, a technique called repoussé. Watch it here!

Medieval Goldsmiths




Vessels like this are an important source of information about Maya society since few of their books survive.

Maya: The Fenton Vase


Maori meeting house
The god of war rules the world outside these sacred spaces, but inside, peace and calm prevail.

Maori meeting house


Collected from Papua New Guinea in the 1880s, this figure would otherwise have been destroyed after its ritual use.

Malagan at the British Museum



From military machines to playful cats, Leonardo’s extraordinary drawings capture his incessant curiosity.

Leonardo and his drawings



Sardonyx cameo showing Trajan and his wife, Roman, 105-115 (BM)
From monarchy, to republic, then empire—at its height, Rome controlled territory from Scotland to the Middle East.

Introduction to ancient Rome


These receptacles held liquid offerings, the surface of the liquid were eyes that saw into the underworld.

Inka stone vessels