Spanish National Museum of Archaeology - History and Facts | History Hit

Spanish National Museum of Archaeology

Madrid, Community of Madrid, Spain

The Spanish National Museum of Archaeology displays historical artefacts from throughout the country’s history as well as from around the world.

Peta Stamper

09 Apr 2021

About Spanish National Museum of Archaeology

The Spanish National Museum of Archaeology (Museo Nacional de Arqueologia) in Madrid displays historical artefacts from throughout Spain’s worldwide history.

The periods covered by the Spanish National Archaeological Museum range from prehistory to the 19th century and include Ancient Roman and Greek works, Egyptian mummies, Moorish objects and Iberian pieces such as the famous sculptures, the Lady of Elche and Lady of Baza.

Spanish National Museum of Archaeology history

The Spanish National Archaeological Museum was founded in 1867 by the Royal Decree of Queen Isabella II – a year before she was deposed in the Glorious Revolution. The museum’s founding reflected the European trend of creating great national museums to exhibit each nation’s past, particularly colonial ventures, and satisfied the demand for a major institution where the collections of historical artefacts belonging to various organisations could be brought together under one roof.

The idea took hold thanks to advances in archaeology at the time and  a growing awareness of the valuable cultural heritage which, because of invasions, wars and government confiscations, required protection.

Originally located in Madrid’s Embajadores district, in 1895 the museum was moved into a purpose-built neoclassical building designed by architect Francisco Jareño, built between 1866 and 1892. The building experienced extensions into the 1960s and closed in 2008 until 2014 for renovations.

Spanish National Museum of Archaeology today

Today, visitors enter into the museum through the forecourt, finding themselves within a replica of the Cave of Altamira, known for its prehistorical cave drawings. Walking amidst displays of ancient art including Greek ceramics, Visigoth votive crowns and Islamic Iberian ivories, you can spend hours reading the permanent display’s informative panels, exploring the mockups and touching replicas – an accessible experience for all visitors.

A particular highlight is the Lady of Elche, a limestone bust designed with incredible proportion, harmony and a face influenced by Greek art. A cavity in the back of her head suggests she was once used to store relics. After exploring the artefacts, stop by the shop and terrace cafe for a snack on the sunny terrace.

Getting to the Spanish National Museum of Archaeology

Madrid’s extensive public transport is the easiest way of reach the museum, catching the 1, 9, 19, 51, 74 buses that stop directly outside. Subway lines 4 and 2 take you to underground stations Serrano and Retiro respectively. For drivers, there is a public car park at Colon Square or Serranopark near the Plaza de la Independencia.