Heraklion Archaeological Museum - History and Facts | History Hit

Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Heraklion, Crete, Greece

The Heraklion Archaeological Museum explores the ancient history of Crete.

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020

About Heraklion Archaeological Museum

The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is a museum dedicated to Crete’s ancient past, spanning the time from the Neolithic period to the Roman period, being a period of around 5,500 years.

The highlight of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum is possibly its extensive Minoan collection, being one of the most comprehensive in the world and including everything from sarcophagi to wall art. The Minoan culture is specifically attributed to the island of Crete and immediately preceded the Mycenaean period.

Spread over twenty rooms, the Heraklion Archaeological Museum houses a myriad of archaeological artefacts excavated around Crete, including from Knossos.

Heraklion Archaeological Museum history

The first archaeological collection in Heraklion was created in 1883 when Crete was still under Ottoman occupation. This collection was created by Joseph Hatzidakis and was housed in two rooms in the yard of the cathedral church of Heraklion Town, the church of Saint Minas. When Crete was set free, this collection was donated to the Greek State. The collection grew with donations and findings from excavations around Crete which made relocation necessary.

The first room of the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion was constructed in 1904-1907 on the ruins of the Catholic Monastery of Saint Francis that had been totally destroyed by the earthquake of 1856. A second room was later added and finally, in 1937 the present building was constructed with designs of the architect Patroklos Karantinos.

These designs were innovative for its era and included natural lighting, additional rooms for new findings, a library, and a storehouse.

Heraklion Archaeological Museum today

The museum’s exhibition contains more than 15,000 artefacts, covering a period of 5,000 years, from the Neolithic era to the Graeco Roman period.

The exhibits, collected from excavations carried out in all parts of Crete, come mainly from the prehistoric era and form a valuable record of the artistic, social and economic life of the island during the ancient period.

The permanent exhibits include examples of pottery in a variety of practical yet imaginative shapes, household utensils, tools, weapons and sacred axes, carefully and ingeniously made and frescoes, which, with their harmoniously drawn figures and colourful compositions, give insight into a world characterized by tenderness, vitality, sensitivity and charm, a world which took a simple yet intense joy in life and nature. Highlights include the Minoan statues from Knossos and the Phaistos Disc.

Getting to Heraklion Archaeological Museum

There is a paid car park at the port in front of the old Venetian ship yards that is a 15 minute walk away. The museum is a 10 minute drive from Heraklion Airport.

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