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June 20, 2013 By Andy Ross

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The art of the ancient worlds

There is nothing new under the sun, so the saying goes. Here are some shows that explain something about history and tell us that we live in a world that has been creating and crafting for centuries.

On a recent trip to London, we visited the Life and Death exhibition at the British Museum. The show is amazing; life in all its glory and mundanity in the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum just as they were when they were swallowed up by volcanic ash. There are some beautiful, intricate and detailed mosaics which are fresh and alive still; fish and octopus, portraits and flowers, and a recreation of a walled room with frescoes depicting birds and flowers in a garden. Breathtaking in its colours and design. There are musical instruments and furniture displayed too, preserved by the fiery breath of the volcanic blasts.

The most poignant part of the show comes towards the end with the family tombs of people who died and were embraced by the ash. These memorials are sensitively displayed right near the exit while the final two pieces in the show are busts of people who lived in the cities. The exhibition is beautifully put-together and shows a real regard for the people who inhabited those ancient cities and us, the viewers of them centuries on. Get to it if you can. The show runs until the end of September in London.

At the same time, there is a series about the Dark Ages on BBC iPlayer. The series is fronted by Waldemar Januszczak, and the fourth film is very interesting for those of us in Shetland with the Viking heritage all around. I love the amazing filigree work of the Viking jewellery and the knots and curves in their woodwork and I would especially love to go and see the ship in Oslo

Closer to home, Unst is host to the Boat Haven, a wonderful small museum with boats and artefacts from the islands. On the way there stop to see the Viking longship and longhouse which are open for the summer.