Friday, May 17, 2013

The National Archaeological Museum of Athens

If you happen to live in a horrible alternate universe in which you can visit Athens but you are allowed to visit just one museum, you must visit the National Archaeological Museum.  For some people, the reason would be the depth of the collection honoring ancient Greek culture.  For me, it is the inclusion of one piece I've always wanted to see, The Mask of Agamemnon.  When archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann discovered the mask placed on face of body he thought he had found the burial site of the Greek hero Agamemnon.  The dating of the golden mask has found it is not old enough to be from the same time period attributed to Agamemnon but the story is great nonetheless.  

One of the recent additions to the museum was an exhibit highlighting recovered treasures and statues from sunken Greek ships.  As you can see, having spent centuries in salt water has destroyed much of the marble statues except for the parts that ended up covered by the sand and dirt at the bottom of the sea.

Here are the surviving parts of a bronze statue.

And now a close up of the face.  What a remarkable beard!

One of the largest and most imposing statues was this bronze piece of possibly Zeus or Poseidon.  The question is did the sculptor intend to have him hold a lightening bolt or trident.

One of the most interesting pieces was this sarcophagus which may not seem too remarkable at first... 

...but with a closer look you will notice that the head and the body don't seem to match very well.  This is because as Athenian cemeteries became more and more crowded these sort of tombs had to be reused and as they were the faces of the statues were changed.  Unfortunately, this gentleman had his head placed on the former tomb of a woman. 

Sure, it is missing its head, arms, and legs but the detail that remains on the armor is amazing.  

Now this is what I call a belt buckle.  

And there is no way I can finish a post on ancient Greek statues without posting one last photo.  

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