The National Archaeological Museum, which was established in 1829 and was placed in a neo-classical building that took 23 years until it was complete in 1889, not only the largest archaeological museum in Greece ever present, but its collection of Ancient Greek art is one of the most unique in the world. Indeed, there are over 11,000 exhibits dating as far back as the Neolithic period through to late Antiquity. For many Archaeology enthusiasts, it is one of the best museums in the world.
1What can be observed on display?
The National Archaeological Museum’s first aim was to collect the numerous findings dating from the beginning of Prehistory to Late Antiquity excavated in local Athens and its surroundings. In later years, it housed objects from all over the country.
The collection is displayed along the museum’s two floors and is divided into various exhibitions, including the Prehistory Collection, the Sculpture Collection, the Vase and Minor Objects Collection and the Metallurgy Collection. Moreover, a relatively rich art collection from Ancient Egypt is also present.
Visitors will get more than a glimpse of the Ancient Greek civilization while they’re visiting this large museum that includes pots carved out of stone, bronze objects, jewelry, mummies, small ceramic objects, ivory, marble and glass objects. There are also several gold funerary masks.
2Let’s take a dive into the ancient treasures: The Prehistoric Collection
The Prehistoric Collection displays the exceptional productions of Mycenaen craftsmanship. The mask of Agamemnon is perhaps the most famous piece in the National Archaeological Museum, and one of the most important handicrafts from the whole ancient world. You may relate it with Homer’s legendary epic “Iliad”. However, scientists have dated the mask back to the 16th century BC and therefore pre-dating the life Agamemnon but it still goes by his name. The mask was discovered in Mycenae in 1876 with five others and was used to cover one important person in death.
3Examine the ability of ancient metal workers: The Bronze Collection
Likewise, The Bronze Collection of the National Archaeological Museum hosts many unique works such as The Artemision Bronze Statue of Zeus, The Jockey of Artemision (which was dated back to 140 BC and found at the same shipwreck as the former), and The Antikythera Mechanism that still baffles the minds of historians and archeologs alike. Many people deem it the first computer in the world.
4Witness the eternal quietude of people: Tombs of the Kerameikos
In 1891, following the establishment of the museum, the ancient cemetery of Kerameikos in central Athens was excavated to discover local items. Two exceptional skeletons unearthed in nearly full form as their Sarcophagi were found protected in a layer of mud. These skeletons were from 460BC and were accompanied by 9 vases as grave offerings which were related to afterlife cult in Classical Athens.
5How and when to visit?
The museum, unlike many others in Athens, remains open 7 days per week (with the exception of public holidays of course) and also during the summer months, from 8:00am to 8:00pm. You can reach the entrance by Patission Street after you stop at Viktoria and Omonoia, the closest metro stations. Try to fetch a combined ticket which is valid for the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, Byzantine & Christian Museum, Numismatic Museum Athens and Epigraphical Museum.