National Archaeological Museum, Athens – Wikipedia

The National Museum in Athens, Greece

the National Archaeological Museum (Greek: Rio de Janeiro, In Latin letters: Ethnikó Archaiologikó Mouseío) in Athens houses some of the most important artifacts from a variety of archaeological sites across Greece from prehistoric times to late antiquity. It is considered one of the greatest museums in the world and contains the richest collection of ancient Greek artifacts worldwide.[1] It is located in the Exarcheia district in the center of Athens between Epirus Street, Boupolinas Street and Tositsas Street, while its entrance is located on Patission Street, adjacent to the historical building of the Athens Polytechnic University.


Museum in 1893

The first National Archaeological Museum of Greece was established by the ruler of Greece, Ioannis Kapodistrias, in Aegina in 1829. After that, the archaeological collection was moved to a number of exhibition spaces until 1858, when an international architectural competition was announced for the site and architectural form. Design of the new museum.[2]

The present site was proposed and the construction of the museum building began in 1866 and was completed in 1889 with funding from the Greek government, the Hellenic Archaeological Society and the Mycenae Society. The main donors were Eleni Tusica who donated the land for the construction of the museum, and Dimitrios and Nikolaos Vernardakis from Saint Petersburg who donated a large sum for the completion of the museum.

The initial name of the museum was Central Museum. It was renamed to its current name in 1881 by the Prime Minister of Greece Charilaos Trikoupis. In 1887 the important archaeologist Valerius Stace became curator of the museum.

During World War II, the museum was closed, and the antiquities were sealed in special protection boxes and buried, in order to avoid their destruction and looting. In 1945 the exhibits were shown again under the direction of Christos Caruso and Semny Caruso. The south wing of the museum houses the Biblical Museum, which houses the richest collection of inscriptions in the world. The Museum of Inscriptions expanded between 1953 and 1960 with architectural designs by Patroclus Karantinos.[3]


The museum features an imposing neoclassical design which was very popular in Europe at the time and is in keeping with the classical artifacts it houses. The initial plan was drawn up by the architect Ludwig Lange and later modified by Panagis Kalkos who was the chief architect, Armodius Vlachos and Ernst Zeller. At the front of the museum is a large garden of neoclassical design and decorated with sculptures.[2]

Expansions and renovations[edit]

Antikythera evibe

The building has witnessed many expansions. The most important was the construction in the early 20th century of a new east wing based on plans by Anastasios Metaxas and the construction of a two-storey building designed by George Nomikos during the period 1932-1939.[2] These expansions were necessary to accommodate the rapidly growing collection of artifacts. The museum’s recent renovation took more than 1.5 years, during which time the museum remained completely closed. It reopened in July 2004, in time for the Athens Olympics, and included an aesthetic and technical upgrade of the building, installation of a modern air conditioning system, reorganization of the museum’s collection and repair of damage from the 1999 earthquake. The Minoan fresco rooms opened to the public in 2005.[4] In May 2008, the Minister of Culture Mihalis Liapis inaugurated the long-awaited collection of Egyptian antiquities and the collection of Eleni and Antonis Stathatos.[5] Today, there is renewed discussion about the need to expand the museum to neighboring areas. A new plan for subterranean expansion is in place at the front of the museum.


The museum’s collections are divided into sections:[6]

to divide Rooms stock samples
Prehistoric group
(Neolithic, Cycladic, Mycenaean)
3-6 and 48[7]
Sculpture group 7-34
Vases and small objects collection (including the Stathatos and Vlastos-Serpieris sets) 42[8] and 49-56[9]
Santorini group 48
Collect minerals 36-39
Egyptian and Near Eastern Antiquities Collection 40-41
The Biblical Museum 1, 9 and 11

Prehistoric collection[edit]

The Prehistoric Collection displays objects from the Neolithic Age (6800-3000 BC), Early and Middle Bronze Age (3000-2000 BC and 2000-1700 BC respectively), and objects classified as Cycladic and Mycenaean art.

Neolithic and Early and Middle Bronze Age group[edit]

There are ceramic finds from various important Neolithic sites such as Dimini and Cyclo of Middle Helladic ceramics from Boeotia, Attica and Phthiotis. Some objects from Heinrich Schliemann’s excavations at Troy are also on display. Key points for the groups include:

Cycladic Art Collection[edit]

The Cycladic collection features the famous marble statues from the islands of Delos and Kyros in the Aegean Sea including Oud player. These mysterious human representations, reminiscent of Art Nouveau, inspired many artists such as Henry Moore,[10] It came from ancient tombs on the islands of the Aegean Sea in the third millennium BC as well as bronze tools and containers.

Mycenaean Art Collection[edit]

The Mycenaean civilization is represented by stone, bronze, and ceramic vessels, figurines, ivory, glass, porcelain, gold seals, and rings from vaulted tombs in Mycenae and other sites in the Peloponnese (Tirence and Dendera in Argolis, Pylos in Messenia, and Favio in Laconia). Very interesting are the two golden cups from Vafeio that show a scene of the capture of a bull.

Finds Heinrich Schliemann[edit]

The Mycenaean collection also includes Heinrich Schliemann’s remarkable 19th-century finds in Messina from the former Grave Circle A and Grave Circle B. Most notable are the golden funerary masks that covered the faces of deceased Mycenaean nobles. The most famous of these is the one that is wrongly called the mask of Agamemnon. There are also finds from the Citadel of Mycenae including bas-reliefs, gold containers, glass, alabaster, amber tools, and jewellery. Other features include an ivory carving of two goddesses with a child, a painted limestone head of a goddess, and the famous warrior vase dating from the 12th century.

Egyptian art group[edit]

The Egyptian collection dates back to the last twenty years of the nineteenth century. It is worth mentioning the donation of the Egyptian government, which offered in 1893 nine mummies from the era of the Pharaohs from the door of the spy. However, the Egyptian collection is mainly by two benefactors, Ioannis Demetriou (in 1880) and Alexandros Rostović (in 1904). In total, the collection includes more than 6,000 artifacts, 1,100 of which are currently available to the public. The collection is considered one of the best collections of Egyptian art in the world. The exhibit includes rare statues, tools, jewelry, mummies, a wooden body marker, a stunning bronze statue of a princess, intact bird eggs, and a 3,000-year-old loaf of bread with a small piece missing. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a bronze statue of the princess-priestess Takoshet, dating from around 670 BC. The statue is 70 cm high and wears a dress covered in hieroglyphics. It was found south of Alexandria in 1880.[11]

Statatos group[edit]

The Stathatos Collection is named after the main Greek donors and benefactors Antonis and Eleni Stathatos. The collection includes about 1,000 objects, mostly jewelry as well as metal objects, vases, and pottery from the Middle Bronze Age to the post-Byzantine era. Characteristic features are the gold jewelry of the Hellenistic period from the Karpenisi and Thessaly.

Artists and antiques[edit]

Some of the ancient artists whose works are on display in the museum are Myron, Scopas, Euthymides, Lydus, Agoracritus, Agassias, Pan Peinter, Wedding Painter, Meleager Painter, Cimon of Cleoni, Nessus Painter, Damophon, Aison (vase painter), Analatus Painter, Polygnotus ( vase painter), Hermonax.

The collections include sculptures, lotrophoros, amphora, hydria, skyphos, crater, blake, lekythos bowls, wall paintings, jewellery, weapons, tools, coins, toys and other ancient items.

Artifacts derived from archaeological excavations in Santorini, Mycenae, Tiryns, Dodona, Vavio, Rhamnos, Lykosoura, Aegean Islands, Delos, Temple of Avaya in Aegina, Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia in Sparta, Pylos, Thebes, Athens, Cave of Vari, Ruins of Antikythera and Mon Various other places in Greece.[2]

The museum houses the terracotta statuette of Daedala, which inspired the designers of the 2004 Athens Olympics masks, Athena and Phivos.

New exhibits[edit]

Two of the museum’s newest exhibits, including a golden funerary wreath from the fourth century BC and a marble statue of a woman from the sixth century BC, were returned as stolen artifacts to Greece in 2007 by the Getty Museum in California, after a 10-year legal dispute. between the Getty Center and the Greek government.[12]

One year ago, the Los Angeles Foundation agreed to return a fourth-century BC tombstone from near Thebes and a sixth-century BC votive inscription from the island of Thassos.[13]

Highlights of the museum[edit]

Archeology Library[edit]

The museum houses a 118-year-old antiquities library containing rare books and publications on ancient art, science, and philosophy. The library contains about 20,000 volumes, including rare editions dating back to the seventeenth century.[14] The bibliography covers archaeology, history, arts, ancient religions, and ancient Greek philosophy, as well as ancient Greek and Latin literature. Of particular value are the diaries of various excavations including those by Heinrich Schliemann. The collection of archeology books is the richest of its kind in Greece. The library was recently renovated with funding from the Alexander S. Onassis Foundation. Its renovation was completed on May 26, 2008, and it is now named after Alexandre Onassis.[15]

Museum activities[edit]

  • Athens National Archaeological Museum, Gallery.

    Preservation laboratories

  • Photographic archives and chemistry labs
  • Organizing temporary exhibitions inside and outside the museum
  • It hosts a large number of archeology-related lectures in its lecture hall annually

The museum can be reached by the Athens metro. The nearest station is Victoria Station (Line 1) which is a 5-minute walk from the museum. The museum includes a gift shop with artifact replicas and a café in the sculpture garden. The museum is fully wheelchair accessible. There are also facilities and guides for hearing impaired visitors. It is located next to the old building of the National Technical University and is served by buses, trolleybuses and metro. It is not served by Proastiakos or the Athens tram.

See also[edit]


external links[edit]

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