An exhibition that tells the history of the world through 100 items is to open at the National Palace Museum in Taipei on Saturday to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the museum next year.
“A History of the World in 100 Objects” uses artifacts that date from 2 million years ago to the present to illuminate how humans have shaped the world and been shaped by it, said Daniel Sung (宋兆霖), lead curator of the museum’s rare books and historical documents division.
The exhibition, organized by the museum and the British Museum, is part of a world tour of the latter’s “A History of the World in 100 Objects” exhibition. Taipei is the first leg of the tour in Asia.
Four of the precious objects set to be displayed were revealed at a press conference on Monday.
One is an old stone chopping tool dated to between 1.8 million and 2 million years ago. It is the oldest human-made object in the British Museum and one of the oldest known objects made by humans.
Discovered in Tanzania, the chopping tool was used by ancient humans to chop plants and wood, and break open animal bones to obtain the marrow inside.
“Human beings used these kinds of chopping tools to obtain high-calorie food, which fed the development of a larger and more complex brain that was capable of developing new strategies for survival,” Sung said.
Another object is a clay tablet with cuneiform script written on it dated to between 700 BC and 600 BC. The tablet contains a chapter from the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is considered the world’s first great work of literature.
The two other objects are a 1280 BC granite statue of Ramses II, a celebrated Egyptian pharaoh, and a 1515 woodcut print of a rhinoceros by Albrecht Durer.
An Indian sultan gave the rhinoceros print to the king of Portugal in 1515 when Portugal was aiming to set up its first permanent base in India, the National Palace Museum said.
Visitors can visit the exhibition for art education purposes or if they just want to learn more about world history, Sung said.
“A History of the World in 100 Objects” began as a radio series that was jointly produced by BBC Radio 4 and the British Museum in 2010. The radio series drew millions of listeners and the success led to a book being published later that year.
About half of the items on display in Taipei will be from the original series, with the rest from other collections at the British Museum.
The exhibition runs until March 15 next year.
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