In our ephemeral, digital world where everything is mediated through a computer screen and summoned by the click of a mouse, ancient objects in dusty old museums are essential to future of learning. In the late eighteenth century, a clay fragment from a piece of the world’s oldest literature overturned orthodoxies and advanced knowledge of the past. It’s an important lesson: evidence from the past will help us to rethink what we know which is never complete. Ancient history and the tangible artifact – something real, not virtual – will take us out of the cloud and bring us back down to earth.

Tiffany Jenkins is an author, academic, and ex-columnist for the Scotsman. She wrote the critically acclaimed Keeping Their Marbles: How The Treasures Of The Past Ended Up In Museums And Why They Should Stay There, published in 2016. She is the writer and presenter of the 2016 BBC Radio 4 series, A Narrative History Of Secrecy. She has been a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics, and was previously the director of the Arts and Society Programme at the Institute of Ideas. Her first degree is in art history, her PhD in sociology.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at



  1. Same mistake I've seen thousands of times: You get to the point (5:59) after 6 minutes. Everything before is completely unnecessary to explain your point. Unfortunately after that you continue with obsessive statements. The Gilgamesh Epos is in fact the guide to our future. At 9:35 I gave up listening. And went back to the hotel manager from Switzerland – Erich v. Däniken.

  2. The historical context in which we as humans have been understanding ourselves has changed dramatically. The latest archeological discoveries have catastrophic consequences for the current orthodoxy models about the history of civilization. That is a very interesting issue.

  3. Just because the story of Gilgamesh is 400yrs older than the earliest found records of the Bible story does not make it a original or a copy. The Chinese ancient history have a similar story which may be older than the Sumerian version plus 200+ other flood myths from around the ancient world.

  4. interesting talk…. but thumbs down due to deceptive title. the cuneiform tablet is irrelevant in her view – what matters is cataloging "stuff" in museums. agreed; but more public access is needed. i would rather have access to all artifacts in a warehouse row presentation, than have so-called academics censoring what we see in a glamorous setting. the average "internet scholar" is vastly more intelligent than the "scholars" of old who have falsified most of our collective world history. history is written by the victor indeed.

  5. She sucks at her job. She can't even get her dates right. It's not 2700 years ago, it's 4700 years ago. She doesn't even know what BC stands for and how to calculate time yet she lectures left leaning students, no wonder all are idiots

  6. I still don't know what is this about. How do we know out was ISIS..? there are reports that a very trained and well equipped group pf man stormed the ruins before the attack and "cleaned" everything…I wonder who are the billionaires that have these pieces in their private collections…

  7. Items like this need to be 3D scanned and made available for download and printing. Imagine the impact in a classroom hearing this Ted Talk and the students then touching and experiencing this piece of history. Amazing!

  8. People came before us and achieved many things……..but because of lies, politics and policies, the Truth about the people, their history and such is always lied about, turned around and used to make other people rich. Imagine all the artifacts that don't belong to the rich but they have them in their houses, museums and such showing off and talking lies, when it's not their's to begin with. What's Middle East? SMH.


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