Friday, August 20, 2010

Archaeological Museum of Heraklion - temporary exhibition

The museum houses all the finds from excavations not housed in local museums on the island of Crete. It is undergoing a long restoration and reorganization. My last visit was in 2000 during my large Cretan road-trip. Crete is best known in archaeological circles for the prehistoric Minoan civilization which flourished in the late bronze age and has been the subject of much study and theorizing since. The material remains of the Minoan culture forms the bulk of the normal exhibition and also of this temporary exhibition. So:

One hall for 4,000 years of finds is ambitious enough. When that 4,000 years takes us from the NL to Roman times and the subject is Crete, it would be easy enough to see that one hall would be well less than enough. Nevertheless, the curators have managed to cram into this one spare room a veritable treat of Minoan and cretan stuff and I challenge anyone to tell me that their fave piece from the Heraklion Archaeological Museum is not on display. The only thing missing for me was an LM diadem that I am quite fond of - but it is a minor piece that I liked because of the depictions of clothing in the figured scenes. There were also far fewer seals than a sealy person would have liked, but this is to be expected.

So, finds: yes, many and good. All old friends were there. Layout: The layout took a mainly chronological approach through the hall with some thematic display cases covering "external contacts" or "trade". The texts accompanying the exhibition were mainly old-school descriptive labels with a paragraph or two introducing display cases. The layout and lack of space meant that odd pieces became bedfellows in the same cases. For example the Anemospilia boar's head dagger was juxtaposed with the bee pendant from Chrysolakkos. The shortness of space meant that there was no description of the findspot or contextual information about most of the objects sot the visitor will never know about the youth sacrificed with the boar knife in front of the wooden xoanon with the clay feet. I am curious how they will treat these pieces in the final museum, or indeed what they will do with the dodgy reconstruction of the Lilly Prince.

Anyway - in all a good starter-pack of Minoan art, but for me it needed better texts to persuade me that the exhibition which is coming will not be just another same-old same-old storehouse of antiquities with labels.

The bee pendant from Chrysolakkos and the boar's-head dagger from Anemospilia: unlikely bedfellows

Prince of the lilies: wishful victorian thinking or just bad reconstruction?

Where are your lilies, oh man from the siege rhyton? and why is your head facing the wrong way?

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