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Archaeological Museum

(updated December 30, 2007)

Virtually all the major places on Crete have an archaeological museum. Usually such a museum consists of one or several large rooms where a number of things from the collection are displayed. In these small museums you often find a collection from the Minoan period. The collection of the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion however is so impressive that tourists really must visit it.

the archaeological museumthe archaeological museum

The archaeological museum in Heraklion houses the largest collection of Minoan art in the world. After the archaeological museum in Athens it's the most important museum of its kind in Greece. In recent years a lot of effort went into the way things are displayed. Previously, the collection was presented in obscure halls with fluorescent lighting. Nowadays, the collection is displayed in modern showcases, which give a much better reflection of the collection. The current style will certainly attract more people.

Museum Heraklion

The museum is housed on two floors. The cases on the ground floor are the most interesting. The rooms on the ground floor follow each other in chronological order. You will, in fact, make a journey through time. Along the trip you will find pictures, jewelry, frescoes and mosaics. In the first area you'll find the collection from the Neolithic and the early Minoan period and the collection ends in the last room with findings from the time of the Mycenaean.

In almost every room you'll find ceramic figures, which depict the snake goddess. According to these figures you can see how the Minoan art developed through the ages. This development is largely parallel to the development of the Minoan culture. In the first area, the figures are primitive and the forms are very abstract. As you continue through the museum, you will notice that the figures become more beautiful and more realistic. Until the height of the Minoan culture, in which the arts are such refined and embellished that it is hard to make things prettier. Later you will notice that the figures become primitive again during the period in which the Mycenaean ruled.

Museum Heraklion

Also according to the earthenware Taurus heads you can see how the Minoan art has developed. In the fourth room, for example, you will find a beautiful black Taurus head with golden horns; one of the finest gems in the collection. These Taurus heads were used by the Minoans to give the bulls' blood back to the earth, so that it didn't lose its fertility.

In the first rooms you'll find a large number of small buttons. These are a type of seals. When you look closely you will see that they all are different. It seems everyone had such a button. This enabled the people to identify themselves, like a sort of passport. The exhibited ceramic tablets are worth visiting. It seems these were used to track stocks. The most famous tablet is the Festos Disk. At the end of the collection on the ground floor you will find a number of fine frescoes from the Minoan period, the fresco with the Dolphins is the most famous among them.

Viewing of the tings mentioned above will be enough for people with a moderate interest. This will take approximately 2 hours. Some people, however, may easily need half a day to look round the museum.

Admission to the museum costs about € 6, -. It is also possible to buy a combination ticket in which you purchase a ticket to the excavations at Knossos at the same time. This ticket costs € 10, - and is cheaper than two separate tickets. A visit to the museum and the palace of Knossos on one day is possible to moderately interested people. People with an above-average interest in the Minoan culture will need more time and should visit Knossos on another day. People who visit the museum without a guide should buy the booklet which explains the collection. You can buy this booklet at the entrance. It costs € 6.50.

The collection of the museum is irreplaceable and therefore invaluable. Therefore, the attendants will look carefully at the visitors. You will notice this if you are trying to make photographs inside, which is strictly forbidden.

It's not hard to reach the museum. The earthquake resistant building, in which the museum is housed, can be found in the east of the center of Heraklion on the Xanthoudidou number 1. This lies within walking distance of virtually all other important places in Heraklion, as the bus station, where almost all buses terminate. Since a few years, the main attractions, including the archaeological museum in Heraklion are indicated on signs very well. Finding the museum may thus not be a problem.

The museum is opened during the summer months on Mondays from 12:30 am to 19:00 pm and the rest of the week from 8:00 am to 19:00 pm. In the summer months it's busy at the museum all the time. There are huge crowds in almost every room. When you arrive at the museum very early, you can visit the museum ahead of these crowds. Otherwise you should try to make a visit after 13:00 pm.

To get a good discription of the collection in the museum you can visit this website.