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The National Archaeological Museum of Greece in Athens



National Archaeological Museum



The National Archaeological Museum, the largest and most representative in Greece, is situated in the center of the city in a block between Tossitsa Street, Ipirou Street, Bouboulinas Street and 28 October (Patission) Street where the museum’s entrance is.

It was built in three stages in the second half of the 19th century and, despite numerous alterations and additions made in order to serve new requirements, the building basically retains its neoclassical style. The need to create an archaeological museum was felt already since the foundation of the modern Greek State.Ioannis Kapodistrias (1776-1831) - Oil painting by D. Tsokos

The first such museum was founded by Ioannis Kapodistrias in Aegina in 1829 and as soon as Athens became the state capital, the archaeological collections were housed in different premises (the Hephaisteion, the University and the Technical University). In 1858, an international architectural competition to select the location and the design of the museum took place but with no result.

In 1865, Eleni Tositsa donated a large piece of land near the Technical University for the construction of the building. There had been a large sum of money for the building available since 1858. It was donated by Dimitrios Vernardakis from Saint Petersburg. The construction began in 1866 and was completed in 1880.

The initial designs were made by the German architect Ludwig Lange and, with some alterations, they were realized by Panagiotis Chalkos, the architect in charge. The western wing of the so called “Central Museum” was completed in 1874. At the initiative of Charlaos Trikoupis, the museum was renamed “National Archaeological Museum” in 1881. The southern wing was completed four years later and the eastern wing in 1889.

The famous architect Ernst Ziller took over the final stages of the project in 1888. He redesigned the building’s façade and made several alterations to the original design. In 1891, the Archaeological Society donated the archaeological finds collected from various excavation projects in Greece to the museum. With the many archaeological finds in the 20th century, the museum had to be expanded. The small houses on the eastern side and the apse of the initial building had to be demolished and the construction of the eastern two-storey wing, designed by G. Nomikos, was finished in 1939. All offices were transferred there.

During World War II, all the antiquities were placed in boxes and were buried. They were gradually put back on display between 1945 and 1964 under supervision of director Christos Karouzos. At the same time, storehouses were built at the north wing of the old building. The building suffered heavy damages with the 1999 earthquake. Subsequently, the museum closed for the public in order to be rearranged in view of the 2004 Olympic Games. Since June 2004 part of the permanent collections was on display for the public. One year later all collections were on display again on both floors of the museum. Top

Prehistoric Collection

Cycladic Figurine (3rd century BC) - National Archaeological Museum AthensThe Prehistoric collection is displayed in rooms 3 to 6 on the ground floor. In room 5 there are Neolithic objects (6800-3300 BC) and objects from the early and mid-Bronze period (3rd century BC and 2000-1700 BC). There are ceramic finds from the important Neolithic sites at Dimini and Sesklo in Thessaly as well as early and middle Helladic ceramics from various locations in Boeotia, Attica and Phthiotis. Some objects from Schliemann’s excavations in Troy are also on display.

Room 6 houses the Cycladic collection with the famous marble figurines from cemeteries of the 3rd century BC together with numerous bronze tools and containers. Items that are representative of the Mycenaean civilization are on display in room 4 and the smaller room 3. Among them, the excellent 16th century BC finds that Schliemann excavated from the Mycenaean circle A graves as well as finds from the earlier circle B graves, stand out.

Golden dead mask known as Schliemann’s Agamemmnon, found in grave 5 of grave circle A in Mycenae. It is dated to the second half of the 16th century BC. – National Archaeological Museum AthensMost notable are:

• the gold funerary masks covering the faces of deceased
• stone relief stelae
• golden containers
• silver
• electrum (an alloy of gold and silver)
• crystal and alabaster
• golden and amber jewels
• small bronze knives decorated with gold and silver
  inlays showing battles and hunting scenes.

The Vapheio cups. Pair of gold cups found in the tholos tomb of Vapheio in Laconia. The relief representations depict scenes of bull-chasing. They are unique masterpieces of the Creto-Mycenaean metalwork, dated to the first half of the 15th century BC - National Archaeological Museum AthensThere also are finds from the vaulted tombs in Mycenae and other locations in the Peloponnese (Tiryns and Dendra in Argolis, Pylos in Messinia and Vafeio in Lakonia) including stone, bronze and ceramic pots, figurines, ivory objects, golden seals and rings with precious and semi-precious stones, glass and faience.

Items that attract a lot of the visitor’s attention are two golden cups in relief decoration from Vafeio showing scenes of the capture of a bull. There are also finds from the citadel of Mycenae such as a group in ivory showing two goddesses with a child, a painted limestone head of a goddess and the famous warrior’s vase dating from the 12th century. Top

Sculpture collection

The major part of the rooms of the ground floor is devoted to the exhibition of sculpture from the 7th century BC to the Roman period. The rooms have been arranged in chronological order. In room 7 visitors can see sculpture of the daedalic style, dating from the 7th century BC including the poros metopes from Athena’s Temple in Mycenae and the kore (statue of a girl) dedicated by Nikandre from Naxos to the goddess Artemis at Delos. This is the earliest know life-size statue in ancient Greek sculpture.Geometric amphora from the Dipylon. It is the work of the Dipylon painter and it has the representation of a funeral procession. It is dated to the middle of the 8th century BC. - National Archaeological Museum Athens

The room is dominated by the colossal Geometric Amphora attributed to the Dipylon painter, one of the first Greek works of art to show the human figure (750 BC), representing the exposition of the body of the dead and the mourning in his honor. In rooms 8-13 are the Archaic Sculptures from the end of the 7th century BC until the beginning of the 5th century BC. Important are the kouroi (statues of boys) from Sounio, Anavyssos and Volomandra in Attica, Melos and the sanctuary of Ptoon in Boeotia, including the important grave statue of Aristodikos from 500 BC which marks the liberation of the human figure from archaic stillness and preconises the Classical art. Equally important is the statue of Phrasikleia (kore), discovered in Merenta in Attica.

In rooms 14 and 15 are works belonging to the severe style (480-450 BC), including the votive stele of an athlete from Sounio placing a wreath on his head and a relief from Eleusis, showing Dementer, Persephone and Triptilotemos. Room 15 is dominated by the famous bronze statue of Zeus, or Poseidon, from Artemision in Euboea dating from 460 BC and attributed to the sculptor Klamamis.

In room 16 there are gravestones from cemeteries in Attica including that of a young man from Salamis from 430 BC. Room 17 has parts of metopes, sculptures from the decoration of the Temple of Hera in Argos with scenes of Greeks fighting the Amazons and a marble head from the statue of a goddess.

The famous Poseidon or Zeus from Artemision – Bronze statue in the Severe Style. The God is ready to throw his trident or lightning. - National Archaeological Museum AthensRoom 18 displays gravestones including that of Hegeso (end of the 5th century BC) from the cemetery of Kerameikos. The dead woman is shown seated opposite a slave who is holding a jewel case (pyxis). Rooms 19 and 20 include works from the Roman period, copies of famous bronze sculptures of the Classical period. The importance of the statue of Varvakeios Athena (3rd century BC) lays more in its being a copy of the gold and ivory statue of Athena form the Parthenon made by Pheidias, than in its aesthetic value.

Two well known pieces are displayed in room 21 on the way from the ground-floor to the first floor. The statue of Diadoumenos, a marble Roman copy of a work by the sculptor Polykleitos from Argos (mid-fifth century BC) and the copper statue of a jockey from Artemison dating from the mid-2nd century BC. In room 34, on the other side of the staircase that leads up to the first floor, there are several stelae and a marble altar on display. Room 22 has architectural sculptures from the Temple of Asklepios in Epidaurus that date from the 4th century BC while in room 23 and 24 gravestones of the 4th century BC are on display including the excellent gravestone of Ilissos (ca. 340 BC), made by the workshop of the famous sculptor Skopas.

Rooms 25 to 27 include votive reliefs from various areas of Greece as well as documentary and honorary reliefs from Attica. In Room 28 you’ll see works from the late Classical period (4th century BC) such as the bronze statue of a young man from Marathon, possibly made by B. Praxiteles, and the bronze statue of a boy in his teens from Antikythira, sculpted by Euphramor, both dating from ca. 340-330 BC as well as the gravestone of Aristonautes.

Rooms 29-33 have bronze and marble statues from the Hellenistic and Roman periods including the famous statue of Poseidon from Melos, the colossal statues of Dampphon from the Temple of Despoina in Lykosoura (Arkadia), the “wounded Galatian’ and the group of Aphrodite and Pan from Delos. The bronze statue of Octavianus and the bust of Antinous, Emperor’s Hadrian’s protégé. Top

Bronze collection

A dancing satyr created by a Corinthian workshop (second half of the 6th century)  - National Archaeological Museum AthensThe antiquities on display in room 36 once belonged to Konstantinos Karaponas, a politician and amateur archaeologist from Ipiros. They come from the excavations he conducted himself in Dodone and Corfu but from purchase as well. The collection includes excellent bronze objects, mostly statuettes, such as:

• the young man on a horse from Dodone (550-540 BC)
• a woman wearing the peplos from Pindos (460 BC)
• a dancing satyr created by a Corinthian workshop (second half
  of the 6th century BC)

There also are inscribed metal sheets, tools, mirrors, implements, weapons and fragments of large bronze containers from Dodone, terracotta figurines and small tablets from the lesser sanctuary of Artemis in Corfu as well as the heads from Roman statues and Attic gravestones.

In room 37 there also are bronze objects on display from various areas of Greece (statuettes, containers, implements, weapons) from Geometric and Early Archaic periods as well as jewelry made of precious metals mostly found in sanctuaries. Rooms 37a, 38 and 39 display bronze objects, mostly statuettes of athletes and animals as well as fragments of containers from the sanctuaries of the Acropolis and Olympia. Top

Egyptian collection

The Egyptian collection is housed in rooms 40 and 41. It consists mainly of donations from two Greeks who lived in Egypt, Ioannis Dimitriou from Alexandria and Alexandros Rostovisz from Cairo.

This collection was only recently displayed next to the masterpieces of Greek art. It is one of the richest collections worldwide including works of art from the Neolithic period to the end of the Roman era. It also includes a large number of sarcophagi and mummies. Top

Gold hair net. The medallion at the centre has a repousse bust of Artemis with her quiver. The wreaths encircling the bust are adorned with garnet and emeralds. From the "Karpenisi Treasure". 3rd century BC - National Archaeological Museum AthensStathatos collection

The Stathatos collection is housed in room 42. It includes 970 objects ranging from the Middle Bronze Age to the post-Byzantine period and in contains mainly jewelry, metal objects and pottery as well as stone and ceramic vases.

Of particular artistic value are considered the golden jewels of the Hellenistic period from Demetrias in Thessaly and from Karpenissi. Top

Thera collection

The collection from Thera (Santorini) is displayed in room 48 on the first floor. The impressive fresco's from Akrotiri, with their vivid colors and wonderful composition, are justly considered to be among the finest items of the museum‘s collections. The fact that they have survived in such excellent condition is due to the island’s volcanic explosion which covered the houses of the prehistoric town in volcanic ash.

The paintings include the scene of the naval expedition with the earliest known depiction of a town in ancient Greek art, the images of fisherman, monkeys, boxing children – one of the earliest know depictions of a sport event in Greece and the fresco of the spring. Apart from the paintings, visitors can also admire excellent ceramics, bronze and stone artifacts from Thera. Top

Pottery and small ornaments

The pottery and small ornaments collection is on display in rooms 49 to 56 on the first floor. Representative finds from the Protogeometric to the later Classical period (11th to 4th century BC) are arranged in chronological order. Room 49 houses vases mainly from Attic workshops found in the cemeteries of Nea Ionia, Areios Pagos, Kerameikos and Dipylon.

In this room, visitors can admire an amphora by the Dipylon Painter, which shows a funeral procession similar to that in the sculptures collection in room 7. There also are two terracotta heads of figurines from the Amykaion in Lakonia. Room 50 shows Geometric vases and figurines of various workshops (from Attica, Boeotia, Corinth, Thessaly). One of the highlights is the Dipylon crater with its big volume and high quality representation of a funeral procession.

Room 51 displays:

• vases of the Orientalizing period (7th century BC) in the so called Protoattic style
  found in Attic cemeteries
• early Cycladic amphora’s, the so called Melian amphora’s
• jugs in the wild goat style
• and various small scale artifacts.

The Pitsa tablet. Wooden votive tablet with the painted representation of a sacrificial procession. It was found with three other similar tablets, in a cave in the village of Pitsa, in Corinthia. They are unique specimens of miniature painting, dated to ca. 540 BC - National Archaeological Museum AthensIn room 52 there is an exhibition of Corinthian, Attic and Boeotian black-figured vases as well as a series of important votives from the sanctuaries of Hera in Perachora and Argos, Artemis Orthia in Sparta and Apollo in Thermon in Aetolia. Among the most significant displays here are the ceramic model of a temple from Heraion in Perachora, the painted metopes from Thermon dating from the 7th century BC and the wooden panels from Pitsas in Corinthia.

In room 53 black-figured vases of the 6th century BC are on display as well as terracotta sarcophagi found during the excavations in Clazomenai (1920-1921), small finds from various sanctuaries in Athens and a selection of finds from Lemnos among which is the stele of a warrior with an inscription in an Etruscan dialect.

Black- and red-figured vases from the late Archaic period (500-480 BC) and the early Classical period (480-460 BC) are in display in room 54. In the next room there is an extensive collection of Attic white urns mostly of Attic and Euboean provenance as well as red-figured vases. Room 56 displays vases and figurines from the late 5th and 4th century BC. Top

The Epigraphic Museum

Fragment of limestone with an inscription found on the Athenian Acropolis. The two preserved lines are written boustrophedon (i.e. from right to left and from left to right). The inscription is one of the earliest examples of Greek writing on stone (8th century. BC) - Epigraphic Museum AthensThe southern section of the National Archaeological Museum, with its entrance on Tossitsa Street, houses the Epigraphic Museum, which possesses the largest collection of Greek inscriptions in the world, in total over 15.000. The museum was founded in 1885. It was renovated and extended with six new rooms during the years 1953-1960 according to plans of the architect P. Karantinos.

The earlier inscriptions are in room 11 while the most historically significant inscriptions from various periods can be seen in room 9. The inscriptions in room 1 are the tribute lists of the First Athenian Confederacy. These are invaluable documents for the study of the history of Classical Greece. The earliest inscription from this collection (454-453 BC) is an impressive block of stone of 3,5 meters (49,21ft) high.

Opening hours Opening hours and admission
Location map 28th October Street 24 known as Pattision Street
Nearest metro stationVictoria
For typical words, please consult our Greek Glossary

Photo gallery National Archaeological Museum photos


   Prehistoric collection
   Sculpture collection
   Bronze collection
   Egyptian collection
   Stathatos collection
   Thera collection
   Pottery and small ornaments
   Epigraphic Museum

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