Apr 27, 2023
The National Archaeological Museum of Athens is a museum not many people know of when visiting Greece. It houses some of the most facinating and unbelievable sculptures, tombs, gold and pottery pieces dating back to the 7th centry B.C. It is one of the most important museums in Greece.
Located in the central Athens is one of the best museums in the world as it houses from of the some of the best ancient artefacts dating back to the neolithic period up until the Roman Empire.
The collection of Greek antiquities is hard to beat, the collections are continuously changed as the museum making each visit unique.
Why is the museum important?
Originally established to house finds from Athens' 19th-century excavations, the museum has since grown to become the central hub for archaeological artefacts from across Greece. Boasting over 20,000 exhibits, the museum offers a fascinating overview of Greek civilisation from Prehistory to Late Antiquity.
A magnificent neoclassical building from the late 1800s, designed by L. Lange and remodelled by Ernst Ziller, serves as the museum's impressive home.
The Prehistoric Collection displays the great civilisations that emerged in the Aegean from the sixth millennium BC to 1050 BC, including Neolithic, Cycladic, Mycenaean, and finds from Thera's prehistoric settlement.
The Sculptures Collection exhibits the evolution of ancient Greek sculpture from the seventh to the fifth centuries BC, with many unique masterpieces.
Neolithic era and early and mid-Bronze Age collection
The National Archaeological Museum is home to an impressive collection of original bronze works, making it one of the most extensive collections in the world. Many of these artefacts were discovered during systematic excavations carried out during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The collection in the museum is considered one of the greatest in the world.
Zeus or Poseidon
A bronze statue, now known as "Zeus or Poseidon," was found in the Trikiri Channel off the coast of Evia in 1926. The statue had survived a shipwreck and was missing an arm when it was initially discovered. Officials caught a group of antiquities thieves attempting to remove the statue from the seabed two years later, but the statue's other arm was accidentally broken off during the salvage operation.
The statue's identity and creator remain disputed, many experts believe it depicts Zeus due to its flawless anatomy and the positioning of its hands. The hand that was holding an object seems to be too wide to be holding the trident of Poseidon, thus it is believed the statue was holding a thunderbolt which would make the statue Zeus.
The Mask of Agamemnon
One of the most renowned artifacts from the Greek Bronze Age is the gold mask referred to as the "Mask of Agamemnon". Discovered in Mycenae in 1876 by the famous archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, this mask was one of several gold funeral masks placed over the faces of the deceased in the royal cemetery's shaft graves.
The most unique and intricately designed mask became known as the "Mask of Agamemnon" in honour of the legendary king of Mycenae, whose feats and struggles are immortalised in Homer's epic poems and the tragic plays of Euripides.
The Antikythera Mechanism
Better known as the worlds first and oldest computer is shown off in all its glory in the Archaeological museum of Athens. For more information on this fantastic mechanism read our blog post The Worlds Oldest Computer.
The Horse and Jockey
Another of the few bronze statues that survived the test of time and was not melted down for their raw material, The Horse and Jockey is a fantastic example of the Ancient Greek bronze era.
It is said to date back to 140BC - which was known as the last great period of Greek art.
The status is said to depict a kid (the jockey) who has either stolen or the kid is in a race. The leaning is towards winning a race the horse bares a branding on its back right leg that shows a marking of the statue of Nike, which represent victory!
The Kore and Kouros
During the Archaic era, which spanned from 700-530 B.C., the ancient Greeks produced many statues known as Kouros and Kore. Kouros is the singular form, with Kouroi being the plural, while Kore is the female equivalent with Korai as its plural form. These statues were created as votive offerings and were a continuation of the tradition of small bronze statues.
While Kouros statues were often depicted in the nude, Kore statues were always clothed, making them the female equivalent of Kouros. When studying these statues, much focus is given to the anatomy of Kouros and the dress and facial expressions of Kore.
The Kouros and Kore statues were typically life-size and made from marble, with only a few exceptions. They are usually shown in a frontal pose, with their left leg forward and their arms close to their bodies, touching the side of their thighs. The anatomical parts are depicted as simple geometric forms, and the statues exhibit strict symmetry.
At first glance, the Kouros statues seem to have a lot in common with Egyptian monumental sculpture, but there are significant differences. The Kouros statues show a refinement of form toward a definitive realism, which was possible because of the Greek society's reverence for the human form and desire to understand the natural environment. It is worth noting that the Kouros statues depicted mortal human beings rather than deities or political leaders.