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

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

Hans Holbein Dance of Death
Care to waltz? In Holbein’s time, death was a visible part of life—the dance partner from which no one could hide.

About Hans Holbein the Younger

The Hajj
The sacred pilgrimage to Mecca—birthplace of Prophet Muhammad—involves a series of rituals and lasts several days.


Masks and scrolls adorn the square head of this silver-gilt brooch. Extravagant but functional, it fastened clothes.

Brooch from Chessell Down

Oceania feather cape
Hawaiian nobility donned these “red garments” in ceremonies and battle and later gave them to Europeans as gifts.

Feather cape

Mummy portrait of a woman, c. 55-70 C.E., 41.6 x 21.5 cm, Hawara, Egypt © Trustees of the British Museum
Ancient Egyptians made little use of naturalistic portraits, but this changed following capture by Rome.

Egyptian mummy portraits

This “lost or stolen friend” left Easter Island in 1869. Carved of dense volcanic rock, it towers over the viewer.

Easter Island Moai

Snakes shedding their skin was a powerful metaphor for the Aztecs and is reflected in their pantheon of gods.

Double-headed serpent

Stylistic analysis of these brooches and buckles might seem straightforward, but their designs riddle even experts.

Decoding Anglo-Saxon art

Early Writing Tablet recording the allocation of beer, 3100-3000 B.C.E, Late Prehistoric period, clay, probably from southern Iraq. © Trustees of the British Museum.
One of the oldest known forms of writing, cuneiform was the writing system for fifteen languages over 3,000 years.

Cuneiform, an introduction

detail), Zhu Xiuli, Landscape, c. 1985-89, handscroll, ink and colour on paper, 30.3 cm high, China © Trustees of the British Museum
From mountain-shaped incense burners to paradisiacal Buddhist paintings, landscapes are central to Chinese art.

Chinese landscape painting