The Archaeological Museum in Crete's capital Heraklion is one of the most important museums in Europe and presents above all fascinating treasures from the Minoans, Europe's oldest advanced civilisation.
If you are interested in Greek history, the Archaeological Museum in the capital Heraklion is a must on your holiday in Crete.
Next to the famous ruins of Knossos, left over from the palace of the legendary King Minos, the Iraklio Archaeological Museum is Greece's most important collection of ancient artefacts after the National Museum in Athens. It is one of our Top 10 Sights of Crete and Top 10 Sights of Greece.
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PICTURES: National Archaeological Museum on Crete
Located in Freedom Square in the historic old town of Heraklion, the museum was built between 1937 and 1940 on the foundations of a Franciscan monastery that fell victim to an earthquake in 1856. In 2007, the museum, designed by architect Patroklos Karantinos, underwent a major renovation. In May 2014, the museum was reopened as modern and impressive as never before and now presents 5,500 years of Crete's history.
Tip: If you have to choose between the Palace of Knossos and the National Archaeological Museum because of time constraints, choose the museum where there is significantly more to see!
Exhibitions at the Archaeological Museum in Crete
You should plan at least 3-4 hours for a visit to the Archaeological Museum of Crete. 24 chronologically and thematically sorted rooms display finds from a wide variety of Cretan and Greek cultures, first and foremost the Minoanswho lived almost exclusively on Crete and were the first advanced first advanced civilisation in in Europe. The main sites of the exhibits are the archaeological sites of Knossos, Phaistos, Agia Triada and Kato Zakros.
The oldest exhibits in Crete's Archaeological Museum date from the 7th millennium BC and can be found in Room 1. The most recent artefacts have been dated to around 400 A.D. and are located in Room 20. Objects found thereafter up to the present are exhibited in the Historical Museum in Heraklion.
Tip: On 18 May, International Museum Day, and on the last weekend in September, the Archaeological Museum of Crete can be visited free of charge.
Highlights of the Iraklio Archaeological Museum
Among the most famous objects in the Archaeological Museum of Crete are clay vessels with linear writing, the reaper vase made of black soapstone, a boar's tooth helmet, the wall painting of a bull jumper, a stone coffin from Agia Triada, the bull's head rhyton and, of course, the famous Phaistos Disc and the arguably even more famous snake goddesses.
The Phaistos Disc (Hall III)
The completely intact clay disc was discovered in a small room in the Phaistos Palace and has Minoan pictographic writing on both sides. The spirally printed inscription with 45 different characters is considered the earliest known example of typography. Researchers have still not been able to unravel the meaning of the text.
The Serpent Goddesses in Faience (Room IV)
The two finely crafted snake goddesses, probably in the form of mother and daughter, are among the most beautiful sculptures found of the Minoan culture. They come from the treasury of the palace of Knossos and are around 4,000 years old.
If you look closely, you will discover not only the snakes on the arms, but also the opulent traditional Minoan robes, the expressive eyes and the panther as a headdress.
The Bull's Head Rhyton (Hall IV)
In Minoan culture, a rhyton was a drinking or dispensing vessel. The incredibly naturalistic bull's head rhyton made of blue-black steatite is clearly one of the most beautiful examples. It proves once again the importance of the bull in Minoan culture. The left side is original, the right side and the gilded horns have been added.