The woodblock prints of the great Japanese Edo period artist, Hokusai, are famous around the world. He was also very famous in Japan in his lifetime, and in his 50s produced 12 volumes of Hokusai Manga. As can be seen from one on display at the “A History of the World in 100 Objects” exhibition at the Western Australian Museum, Perth, these books without words were full of sketches and caricatures with humorous overtones.
Object number 78 in the “A History of the World in 100 Objects” exhibition is a woodcut print from 1617, which was produced to mark the centenary of the Reformation. It shows Martin Luther nailing his 95 point thesis to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. Next year will mark the 500th anniversary of this event which changed the history of the world.
A bust of Sophocles in the exhibition from the British Museum at the Western Australian Museum Perth, represents ancient Greek drama. In the fifth century BCE, the plays of Sophocles were performed in the Theatre of Dionysus at the foot of the Acropolis. The theatre, which was the first stone theatre ever built, could seat up to 17,000 people, and is known as the birthplace of Greek tragedy.
Recently, we went to see the exhibition “A History of the World in 100 Objects” at the Western Australian Museum – Perth. The objects come from the British Museum and span about two million years of human history, from stone hand tools to solar cells.
Object number 15 in the exhibition is a fragment of a clay tablet from 700 to 600 BCE, inscribed with a Babylonian account of a great flood. This tablet is the single most famous cuneiform text and caused a sensation when its content was first read in the 19th century because of its similarity to the Flood story in the Book of Genesis.
George Smith, the translator of the tablet, was a self-taught archaeologist who became a celebrity when he read his translation to a meeting of historians in 1872. He made three trips to the ruins of Nineveh near Mosul in northern Iraq to look for further fragments of tablets. Sadly he died of dysentery on his third trip in 1876.