The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is one of the largest and most important museums in Greece, and among the most important museums in Europe. It houses representative artefacts from all the periods of Cretan prehistory and history, covering a chronological span of over 5,500 years from the Neolithic period to Roman times.
The singularly important Minoan collection contains unique examples of Minoan art, many of them true masterpieces. The Heraklion Museum is rightly considered as the museum of Minoan culture par excellence worldwide.
During the Venetian occupation period the Catholic Monastery of Saint Francisco used to be in the same place. Until it's destruction in the earthquake of 1856, it had been one of the richest and most important monasteries in Crete and had contained great Byzantine frescos.
The construction of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum started in the beginning of the 20th century and was completed by 1940.
A new refurbishment began in 2002. At the moment (summer 2013) the new permanent Sculpture Collection and the Gallery of the Minoan Frescoes of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum are open for the public with free entrance. In addition, the temporary exhibition of the museum highlights is housed in a special gallery at the north side of the Museum.
From the 24th of May 2013 until the 30th November 2013:
Monday: 13:00 - 20:00
Tuesday-Saturday: 08:00 - 20:00
Sunday and national holidays: 08:00 - 15:00
Highlights of the museum:
The marble portraits of nobles or members of the family of emperors. The most of the portraits were found in Gortina, the first capital of Crete.
Three fragments of a plaster relief fresco representing bull-hunting or capturing within a rocky landscape with olive-trees. The main part of the fresco, the bull’s head, is a masterpiece of Minoan naturalism. Knossos, Palace, Neopalatial period. (1600 – 1450 BC)
The “Prince of the Lilies”, an emblematic image of Minoan Crete, was part of a large mural composition in high relief. The figure, composed of three non-joining parts, is portrayed life-size. According to the excavator of Knossos, Arthur Evans, hе was the “Ruler of Knossos”, the “Priest – King”, a personifications of religious and secular authority. However, other scholars suggest different reconstructions and interpretations, according to which the “Prince” may be a boxer, or a commanding ruler, while the crown is attributed to a priest or a sphinx.
Knossos, Palace, Neopalatial period (1600 – 1450 BC).
The famous female figure with Mediterranean features and vivid make-up, named “La Parisienne” by A. Evans, was probably a leading priestess. Knossos, Palace, Final Palatial period (1450 – 1350/1300 BC).
Clay model of a Minoan house. Detailed rendering of the outer façades and features of the architectural design.
Libation vase (rhyton) of limestone in the shape of a lioness’s head. Knossos. New-Palace period (1600 – 1500 BC).
Luxurious gaming board, know as the “Chessboard”, with inlays of ivory, crystal and glass paste, covered with gold and silver leaf on wooden base. Knossos. New-Palace period (1600 – 1500 BC).
A unique exhibitistheclay disc of Phaistos with hieroglyphic sandideograms in scribedonit. The inscriptions on the disc run in a spiral from the edge to the centre of it. The script has not yet been deciphered. Phaistos. New-Palace period (1600 – 1500 BC).
Libation vase (rhyton) of serpentine, in the shape of a bull’s head. Knossos, New-Palace period (1600 – 1500 BC).
Faience figurines of the “Snake Goddess”, the goddess, or priestess. Her bared breasts suggested her capacity as fertility goddess. The snakes and the feline on her head are an allusion to her dominion over nature. Knossos. New-Palace period (1600 BC).
The Agia Triada sarcophagus was found in a funeral chamber in the cemetery at Agia Triada and is dated to 1300 BC. It is made of poros covered with a thin layer of lime-plaster, which bears painted representations. The scenes depicted are associated with worship connected with death or afterlife.
The famous bees pendant in the shape of two bees, or wasps, storing away a drop of honey in a comb. The pendant was found in the necropolis near to the Malia palace. Malia. (1800 - 1700 BC)