The British Museum sheds fresh light on the eternal search for meaning with an exhibition on the ways in which religion and faith have shaped human societies. The show begins with one of the world’s oldest sculptures, the 40,000 year-old Lion Man carved in ivory and found in a cave in Germany in 1939. Visitors are taken on a journey past Siberian shamanic outfits to Buddhist wheels of life, and on to displays challenging traditional conceptions of religion. Soviet propaganda posters and a copy of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book remind us that belief, in all its forms, remains at the heart of even the most secular communities. The show is accompanied by a BBC Radio 4 series written and narrated by Neil MacGregor, the museum’s former director.
(Photo: Wheel of Life or painted cloth, Painted cloth thangka. This painted teaching or meditation aid, thangka, shows the wheel of life. The lives of humans and the gods are all held by Yama, Lord of Death, whose limbs represent the sufferings of birth, sickness, old age and death. From Tibet, 1800–1900, © the Trustees of the British Museum)