Madrid’s Museum of Archaeology

Madrid is full of museums and I’ve been trying to explore as many as possible. Many of these museums offer certain hours which are free for all visitors for all visitors  Like many other places in Europe, there are also lots of museums which are completely free for students under 25. Because auxiliares are on a student visa, if you’re one under 25 (like me!) you can see a lot of incredible things without paying one centimo. I’ve been trying to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity on my days off in Madrid, and I’ll be documenting some of the museums as I visit them.

I’ve already visited what I refer to as the Big Three museums: the Museo del Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza. Sadly, none of these museums allow photography inside, so the posts about them are mostly featuring their exteriors. However, today’s museum had no restrictions toward photography!

I headed to the Archaeology Museum under the mistaken idea that it was the recently re-opened Anthropology Museum, but was planning to visit both regardless. I took a bus on a rainy day (one of quite a few, recently) to the Biblioteca Nacional and walked around the corner to find the museum, along with quite a few other residents of Madrid (and their children) looking for something cheap to do on a rainy Saturday.

The entryway featured an interesting timeline on the wall identifying dates, artifacts, and historical time-periods, as well as a few empires. There was also a very interesting interactive map showing similar information, though it was very popular so I couldn’t really get a good picture.

Archaeology Timeline in entry

 

 

The first set of rooms are about prehistory and included this interesting bones display of various huge animal parts, including an elephant tusk and femur (not pictured)! I quickly realized that all the informational plaques around the museum were in English as well as Spanish. As a foreigner living in a land that speaks a different language, I don’t assume that information will be provided in my first language. While I still read the Spanish plaques to work on my second language, I appreciated the ability to always have the option to read something I didn’t understand in English. 

There were a ton of sections on Iberian prehistory and the different people groups that lived on the peninsula. There were also quite a few stelas, including this one about a warrior.

Warrior Stela 

As someone who studies and teaches language, I was also really interested in a group of a few stelas grouped together that showed the evolution of languages in the early history of Iberia. The Phoenicians brought their alphabet to Iberia, and there is evidence of this in this group of stelas, of which I only have a photo of one, unfortunately.

A stela using the Phoenician alphabet

The museum’s exhibits didn’t just include Iberian history, but many other pieces as well. They had quite a few pieces from Ancient Greece, including the pottery and writing tablet below.

Greek pottery
Ancient Greek writing
Ancient Greek and Roman marbles

 

Because Iberia (as Hispania)  was once part of the Roman Empire, there was a huge portion of Ancient Roman artifacts. One of the most impressive rooms was this below, which featured huge tile-works. Some of these were the floors of Roman villas in Hispania, with the one on the floor representing the different months and seasons of the year.

Room of Roman tile-works

 

 

There were also Ancient Roman road markers, coins, and declarations of law.

The Romans were not the only ones to include the Iberian peninsula in their kingdom. Spain was part of the Muslim kingdom of Al-Andalus, as I mentioned in my post about Toledo. This portion of history has left behind some beautiful and intricate architectural carvings.

Intricate pillars
15th century doorway arch

While I was looking at the above arch, I saw a man (not the ones in the picture!) reach up and touch the side of it. A 15th century carving! I just stared at him aghast and he looked not a bit sheepish as he walked away. I still can’t believe this happened.

Carved 15th century ceiling

The displays moved on into the 16th and 17th centuries and included this beautiful Baroque sedan chair. At first I was a little envious of the opulence, but I realized just how small the interior was and all of a sudden I was far less envious of the person who sat in the chair in a warm Spanish summer.

Sedan chair

The displays shifted dramatically after this exhibit. Now featured in the following portion of the museum were pieces from the Middle East and Egypt. I’m still not really sure what the connection is to these pieces and Spain, though I do know that Spain and Egypt have a pretty close relationship, as evidenced by the Templo de Debod. 

Rock with writing in cuneiform

I got very excited to see the pieces with cuneiform on them. As I become more and more interested in languages, it’s increasingly more interesting to see all the different ways that humans across time have come up with to communicate with one another in a physical way. I’ve learned about cuneiform in school but did not think that I would ever see an example in person. Given that as an American citizen I cannot or should probably not travel to the places where these artifacts would be found, and that many priceless treasures are being destroyed in the Middle East, I am very appreciative that I had the opportunity to see a few. While there are of course tricky and questionable politics involved in museums exhibiting pieces taken from other countries, I’m grateful to have seen these pieces of the history of writing.

Piece of sarcophagus with hieroglyphs

There were also a few fascinating Ancient Egyptian artifacts, including the pictured sarcophagus lid with hieroglyphs. When I was in 5th grade, we studied Ancient Egypt and I learned all about hieroglyphs. I’d love to visit Egypt someday, but in the meantime I’m glad I had the chance to see these pieces while living in Spain.

The museum was full of some great pieces from the whole history of the Iberian peninsula, as well as other cultures, and I was very impressed. I’m also glad to have saved money on the entrance fee, but the museum was so interesting I wouldn’t have minded having to pay.

 

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