Saturday, October 17, 2009

A visit to Naxos Archaeological museum (2009)

The Archaeological Museum of Naxos is located pretty centrally on the castle of the old town. It houses a rather fine collection of Cycladic figurines and mycenaean grave goods from the numerous LH cemeteries on the island. We went last year with K and A (seven years old at the time).
On the way up to the museum we spotted this rather nice spolion in a yard wall...

The museum is in the old town which is essentially the medieval castle of Naxos. There are many "Frankish" arches in evidence such as the one on the left and many heraldic designs of the various dukes and counts and lords who were installed after the fourth crusade (don't get me started).

The museum is housed in a Francescan building which shares this side of the square with the Ursuline building, all very tangible signs of the Catholic church's attempt to convert fellow Christians to caesaropapism on the one hand and the heresies of Rome on the other.

Strictly no photography is allowed in the museum (in clear contravention of Law 3028/2002) despite the potential for outreach. Inside, the museum houses a nice cycladic collection with good Late Helladic (second millennium BC) gravegoods and some kitsch looking Roman sculpture. In the open air part, there is assorted sculpture from all ages which is presumably not considered special enough to warrant a guard or protection from the elements. Most of the photos which follow are from the outside part of the exhibition as the lack of a guard allows some photographs to be taken.

The open air section has a large mosaic in the middle, showing the bull carrying Europa off in its centre and animal forms around the edges. In style it is not very different to mosaics from the late antique period all over the Roman empire. The outside section is really quite chaotic and without labelling. On the right, we have classical and gothic capitals rubbing shoulders without seeming to mind the millennium which separates them.

Amongst the many loose sculptural finds from all ages in the open air section, there was also this rather exciting archangel in the "stumpy dumpy" style of the late and post-Byzantine era.

On the left, above, we have various bits of sculpture with an unfinished kouros and on the right, an unfinished Kouros amongst more sculpture of various periods.

On the left, capitals from various periods and in various "styles" - note the very vernacular low relief moustachioed cubes. On the right, a rather nice capital with a medieval / late byzantine figure between two animals, reminiscent of the mistress / master of the animals motifs from many centuries before.

This is the only shot inside the museum I managed to shoot before being told that it was forbidden. It shows a rather nice seated Cycladic figurine from the end of the third millennium BC.

Korinna and Cousin A with the spolia... a walk up to the museum is an opportunity to walk through the town of Naxos and talk about the processes which lead to the incorporation of spolia in newer structures (which themselves become old).

A final few words on the museum: don't miss it. It is old-style with old style labelling and the sleepy-eyed guard will tell you (the ticket lady doesn't talk) that the reason you are not allowed to take photos is that the artefacts are unpublished (this is the case for some, not all the items).

The problem with this logic, of course, is that the excavations were in the late forties and early fifties, and the excavator is dead. This is compounded by the fact that no one in the ephor's seat since has the good sense to get up off their arses and make even a preliminary publication of the important bronze age cemeteries the grave goods of which are in the museum.

If they have enough money to waste on fancy-schmancy touch screens with exceedingly little information stored on them, all but one of which were inoperable (through either faults of design or omissions in the training of the local staff) only months after installation, then why is there no money to make a publication of the old digs? Perhaps because the kick-back off purchasing fancy schmancy touch screens sits better in the baggy pockets of ministry officials such as "bounce" Zachopoulos than the ghostly thanks of the original archaeologist...

Another (totally) final thing: don't be scared by the way the exhibits rattle and move about in their wooden cases as you walk over the creaking wooden boards of the museum. The ministry is informed. That's why they spent money on touch-screen machines that don't work.

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