Ice age Art at the British Museum – is spring here?

We visited the Ice Age Art exhibition at the British Museum this week….
Beautiful sunny spring day both in Hastings and London.
      I always like the re-designed inner courtyard of the Museum – the roof is especially striking.
     Unlike previous exhibition ordeals I have described here, the experience was almost civilised – there was no queue, and the rooms were tolerably uncrowded.
     The little things on show were wonderful – I don’t quite know why the exhibition organisers felt the need to show them in conjunction with modern art supposedly inspired by the pieces – I scarcely bothered to read what Picasso thought of something or other – the pieces were fascinating on their own.
     This little woman is the oldest known object made of fired clay  – she is an incredible 30,000 years old, from Moravia in what is now the Czech Republic.
      About fifteen years ago Battleaxe went through a ‘goddess’ phase – I read a number of books about the Female Divine, and collected little reproduction goddess statues, a number of which I still have. As I write, a little model of the 20,000 year old  ‘Venus’ of Willendorf sits, all vast saggy tits and tummy, on the shelf above me.  Here she is on the right of the picture, together with the more recent Lioness Goddess from Catal Hoyuk in Turkey (about 9,000 years old), and a typical ancient Middle Eastern clay female figurine, about 5,000 years old – 
     However, as time passed, the notion of the Great Mother Goddess became less interesting to me – we actually know so little about how ancient people thought, felt and viewed the world. I felt that the few available facts were being manipulated by ‘Goddess’ writers to fit in with their own theories about female power, and that their thinking reflected current modern preoccupations.
     I guess ancient people must have thought women’s capacity to manufacture and produce other humans pretty amazing, particularly as one reads that they apparently had little awareness of the link between sexual intercourse and childbirth. Do I even agree with that? Hmmn, not sure. I can’t quite see why that link is so difficult, particularly as most of the time the same orifice is used for both activities, and it is pretty obvious that no woman can get pregnant without having sex first.
     Childbirth must have been painful, scary and risky for them – fraught with danger, and with a high likelihood of mortality. Maybe people felt the need to make, and carry round, little good luck charms shaped like women who had borne many children – and survived.
     The curators of the exhibition speculated about why the statuettes of women have no faces – again, from what felt to me a modern perspective around ‘sex objects’. Given that, even today, many women in the world go round with their faces hidden because of some magical belief system, I don’t think we can begin to imagine what people thought about these things 40,000 years ago…..

     The animal depictions were far more life-like. No-one knows why. Philosopher wondered what happened to all the ‘practice’ pieces that weren’t so good – the only examples we see are perfect.
     After the British Museum, we walked down to Lincoln’s Inn Fields, stopping for lunch at Loch Fyne in Covent Garden. London had burst out into spring – all the office workers sitting outside eating their sandwiches on the grass, the odd daffodil….
     We went to Sir John Soane’s Museum to see some Piranesi drawings of Paestum. I found the drawings a bit dull – see one ruined temple and you had seen them all. However, I had never visited the Museum before, and it was riveting – a jam-packed hoard of stuff, many stacked in slightly spooky semi-underground rooms. We do so empathise with people who collect stuff. That museum would just suit Battleaxe and Philosopher.
     We enjoy days out in London – even though the train journey from Hastings is, time-wise, no shorter than coming from Birmingham, the whole thing feels less stressful – and of course it is much cheaper. It is easy to get from our house to the station – direct bus door to door. Train is slower, but route is prettier. Charing Cross is smaller and more intimate than the cavernous concrete expanses of Euston, and is right in the centre of things.
     I went to the dentist yesterday morning – one of my real hates. We signed on with a place down in town on the recommendation of the people who lived in this house before us – given what they apparently think of us for daring to purchase/do up their precious house I’m not sure whether we should have relied on this! However, their ‘recommended’ dentist promptly left the practice without shaking more than a tartar scraper at us, and now we are allocated a slightly brusque Greek lady. She said I needed a filling, and she would do it straight away.
     ‘What about an injection?’ I squeaked in horror, hearing her drill revving up in the background
     ‘No need’ she snapped, ‘You strong woman. Is only leetle.’ I can’t remember when I last had anything done without a faced numbed by novocaine. But actually, it was OK…
     This will be the last blog post before Cornwall tomorrow for a week. Weather has collapsed yet again, all wet and foggy today.  It’s a long drive to Lands End from Hastings.
     Gas men still outside, but they are now at final stage – patching and filling the tarmac. Pavements do not look good.

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