Living with Gods

Jessica Juckes, ITP Assistant

Yesterday evening, I attended the Museum’s BM staff private view for colleagues of Living with gods – people, places and worlds beyond.

Living with gods is part of the fourth collaborative project between the British Museum, the BBC and Penguin Books. It builds on a Radio 4 series of 30 daily programmes over six weeks presented by former Director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor.

Lion Man c. Ulmer Museum

The Lion Man. Stadel Cave, Baden-Württemberg, Germany © Ulmer Museum

The exhibition explores belief as common to all human societies, and suggests that our species might be better called Homo religiosus rather than Homo sapiens. It examines how various themes – such as prayer, pilgrimage, sacrifice, light and water, birth and death, and the senses – are employed, understood or managed by diverse belief systems in connected ways.

The first object we see is the Lion Man – a 40,000-year-old mammoth ivory sculpture with a lion’s upper body and man’s lower body. It is the oldest known image of a supernatural being, and our earliest evidence of religious belief. Have a look at some of the other highlight objects on the British Museum’s blog here.

My favourite object:
Painted and gilded ivory sculpture of St Margaret of Antioch, rising from the dragon’s stomach, France, 1325-50. The (apocryphal) story goes that St Margaret was swallowed by the devil in the form of a dragon, but used her Christian cross to stab at his insides until he coughed her up, complete and alive. Because of this story, she was made the patron saint of women in childbirth, which suggests something interesting about attitudes to women’s bodies and their powers of creating life! There is a fantastic painting of St Margaret and the dragon by Zurbaran in the National Gallery in London.


With St Margaret

Of course, yesterday was also #museumselfieday and my invited friend and I made the most of the privileged out-of-hours access to get a couple of shots!


Happy Museum Selfie Day!