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And the 100th object that shaped history is... er, a lamp


As the final piece of a nine-month series charting the 100 most important objects in the history of civilization, it’s not exactly the steam engine. 

The British Museum and Radio 4 have chosen a solar-powered lamp and charger as the last item in their popular series, A History of the World in 100 Objects.

It beat contenders including the Pill, the television set and the iPad to be named the most contemporary object to shape history. 

But critics and Radio 4 listeners have ridiculed the choice of the lamp to end a series which included the coin of Croesus – regarded as the first form of modern currency – and the 1.4million-year-old Olduvai hand axe, one of the earliest tools.

They felt the decision was ‘boring’ and ‘lame’. 


British Museum director Neil MacGregor unveiled the 100th object – a £30 Chinese-made lamp and charger – in London yesterday. 

He admitted the exhibition and series ‘cheated’ slightly by attaching the charger to a £5 Nokia mobile phone popular across the poorest parts of Africa and Asia.

With 1.6billion people across the world without access to an electrical grid, he said the items were ‘changing the world now’.

Mr MacGregor added: ‘We wanted to have the solar power panel for the lamp but also the charger that has helped give the mobile phone to the world.’

But one BBC listener said: ‘Can’t get excited about the final object – a solar-powered charger just isn’t the Rosetta Stone.’

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