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Engraved glass ewer by the Cristalleries de Baccarat

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Wooden writing-tablet

Тhis wooden tablet is one of number excavated at the site of the Roman fort of Vindolanda in Northumberland. It contains one of the earliest known examples of writing in Latin by a woman. It is an invitation to a birthday party from Claudia Severa to Sulpicia Lepidina, both 'army wives' living on the northern frontier of Roman Britain.
Pillar edict of Emperor Asoka

Тнis pillar fragment bears an inscription of Asoka, the last emperor of the Mauryan dynasty (reigned about 265-238 вс). The inscription is in Brahmi, the ancestor of all modern Indian scripts. The technique of writing must have developed in India much earlier, but nothing readable survives, making these edicts important historical records.
Rosetta Stone


Тhis stone IS inscribed with a decree issued on the anniversary of the coronation of the Egyptian pharaoh Ptolemy V (205-180 вс). The decree is inscribed in hieroglyphic (suitable for a priestly decree), demotic (everyday script), and Greek (the language of the administration).
Tughra of Suleyman the Magnificent

Тhis calligraphic device is known as a tughra and was the official monogram or signature of the Ottoman sultans. It was developed during the fourteenth century on documents, from which its use spread to seals and coins. The tughra was designed at the beginning of a new sultan's reign by the court calligrapher. It is thought to represent the fabulous bird, the tughri, the totem of the Oghuz tribe from whom the Ottomans were descended.
Cuneiform tablet recording food supplies

As THE WORLD'S first cities developed in southern Mesopotamia around 3400-3000 вс, officials developed a way of recording administrative and economic information. Representations of goods issued as rations or put into store were drawn on pieces of clay using a sharp stick or reed. Circular or crescent-shaped impressions represented numbers. These pictographs became increasingly abstract and the end of the reed was simply pressed into the clay leaving wedge-like lines, or cuneiform (the Latin for wedge is cuneus).
8 The Word

Perhaps the one object that most Museum visitors want to see is not a great work of art or even an Egyptian mummy: it is a fragment of black rock covered with writing, known as the Rosetta Stone. The well-known role of this stone in the understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs is what makes it such an unmissable exhibit. Other objects throughout the Museum have played similar roles in the rediscovery of lost classics of world literature, others demonstrate the formidable power of words while some remind us there are still ancient scripts that have not yet been deciphered.
Mammoth-shaped spear thrower


Spear throwers came into use about 18,000 years ago in Western Europe. The bottom of the spear fits against the hook at the end. Using the thrower to launch the spear sends it with more force, speed and distance than if it was simply thrown by hand.
Gilded wooden figure of a goat

Тhis figure, also known as 'The Ram in the Thicket', may originally have been part of a small stand. It is an example of the beautifully crafted objects, often worked in precious metals and imported materials, which were owned by the Sumerian-speaking elite of southern Mesopotamia. These objects reflect the well-established trade links, wealth and sophistication of this culture.
Pieter van der Heyden (1538-72), Big Fish Eat Little Fish

Engraver Pieter van der Heyden produced more than 150 prints for the publisher Hieronymus Cock, reproducing the designs of Bosch, Bruegel and other artists. In the foreground of this engraving, a child is instructed by its father: 'See the big fish eat the little fish'. He points to the whale-sized fish stranded on the shore, disgorging smaller fish which in turn have swallowed even smaller ones. The text below the frame states, 'the rich oppress you with their power'.
Hiroshige Utagawa (1797-1858), Suido Bridge and Surugadai


This colour woodblock print is from the series 'One Hundred Famous Views of Edo'. It shows kites in the shape of carp being flown over the samurai district of Surugadai for the Boy's Festival in mid-summer. The leaping carp is a symbol of manly perseverance, and is shown here in exaggerated scale, seeming artificially stuck into the landscape.