Thursday, December 09, 2010

Reopened archaeological museum in Nafplio / Nauplion / Nauplio

On one edge of Constitution Square, opposite the old mosque which now serves as a cinema, sit the Venetian-era barracks of the town's military garrison. This building now houses the offices of the local ephorate of antiquities and the town's archaeological museum. I am particularly fond of the ephorate here as they issued me my very first free-entry card to the antiquities of Greece and did so in one day! It was not until many years later that I realized how lucky I was to get the card issued so fast.
External view of the Museum of Nafplio on Constitution Square.

Following a lengthy refurbishment which seemed to last most of the present decade and which saw little seismic stickers put all over the building and the bulk of the Mycenaean finds go to the new museum at Mycenae, the Nafplio Archaeological Museum has been re-opened with a new layout and a refreshingly decent set of texts accompanying the finds. A lot of stuff has come out of storage, not least the Francthi child burial (more about that later) so the visit I made in April this year felt in part like a visit to old friends, and in part like a new museum altogether.

The museum houses finds from many of the sites of the Argolid, including Tiryns, Asine, Berbati, Francthi, Dendra / Midea, Kazarma, Nauplion itself and probably more that I do not recall. It used to be the best collection of Mainland Bronze Age stuff in Greece after the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, although now I would think the title of second best has to go to the Mycenae museum itself.

The museum is organized on the first and second floor of the building as before, with the first floor dedicated to the prehistoric periods and the second to the Iron Age onwards. The finds are exhibited either according to findspot / period or according to type - meaning that we have all the Franchthi finds in one corner, and all of the Dendra finds in another, but at the same time, the MH vessels are placed separately from the figurines, which are separate again from a bunch of sherds with imprints on their bases showing either mats or leaves.

The truth is that visiting with A in the pram was not 100% practical (despite the AMEA / wheelchair lift which we preferred not to use) so we did not spend too much time on the top floor which in any case has marginal interest.

The Bronze Age floor or more accurately Neolithic and Helladic floor was really quite fun. First in on the left, there are the finds from the Kazarma tholos including some nice palatial style jars, together with a good photograph of the state of the tholos at present (only the back wall is standing). Moving round the room clockwise, we have the cemetery of Dendra along the wall, joined by Asine later on and the Dendra panoply in the middle of this part of the room. The panoply is displayed nicely along with other bronze finds from the tomb allowing the visitor to build a good sense of what goes with what and what finds are from which tombs. The Dendra finds are displayed next to a scale model showing the placement of each tomb in the hillside. This provides another valuable link to the findspot which enhances the visitor's understanding of the finds as part of a functional whole rather than as individual pieces of art each independent of those around it.
Kazarma: display of palatial style vases together with other grave goods.

Dendra: Model of the cemetery showing the relative locations of the Tholos Tomb, the Cuirass tomb and the other Chamber tombs.

Dendra: Nice schematic LH murex shell on grave goods .

Dendra: the finds from the Cuirass tomb, all together in one case.

Further down we pass the Asine finds, with some good diagrams of the tombs as excavated and this is followed by some cases containing only figurines, whether wheelmade or hand made from a number of different locations and of different sizes, all presented together. These include the famous Lord of Asine.
Asine: sketches showing the findspots and context of the finds together with decent texts.

Asine: the "poor" man's Vapheio cup! ceramic Vapheio cup showing a goat rather than the bull one would expect...

Various sources: various figurines whether wheel-made or coiled, all together in one case. The so called Lord of Asine is the solitary head to the right of the image.

Moving on, there are finds from the MH (including some stirrup jars with simple painted motifs) and part of the plaster floor of the megaron at Tiryns showing two dolphins, heraldically opposed.
Various: MH era ceramics, including a coarse-ware bowl with carbonised figs.

Tiryns: painted decoration from the floor of the throne room of the megaron.

Moving on clockwise, we enter the MH period properly and this is represented by burial goods from Berbati and elsewhere. The finds reproduced in the burial of the MH with articulated skeleton are in stark contrast to the finds on show from the LH graves of Dendra.
MH burial reproduction: A is surprised at the austere nature of the grave goods.

The EH is represented by impressed hearths and pottery from Tiryns and Berbati, and the room finally closes with the NL just before the door leading us to feel that perhaps we should have gone anti-clockwise rather than clockwise round the room! Apart from the Urfirnis pot which used to be the highlight of the Franchthi section in the old museum, there are now a great number of small finds on display along with one of the famous child burials of NL Franchthi - again articulated with the grave goods in place in the display. The Franchthi section also has photographs and drawings of the cave itself with much information.
EH Pot bases: Impressions with plaster "positives", with some EH sauceboats in the background (sauceboats are the archetypal EHII type shape).

EH hearth: one of a number of such ceramic hearths decorated with relief patterns. This one is from Tiryns.

EH hearth: one of a number of such ceramic hearths decorated with relief patterns. This one is from Berbati (I think)...

Franchthi cave: Decent text introducing the visitor to the complexities of the NL.

Franchthi cave: Urfirnis ware - the best of the best of NL ceramics.

Franchthi cave: infant burial on display.

Franchthi cave: repaired ceramic bowl - shows the value of ceramics at the very beginning of their use.

The texts are well thought-out and the layout of the finds (especially the articulated skeletons) adds much to the visitors' understanding.

As I said - this is one of my fave museums anyway, but I think I have to give it a thumbs-up for the way it has been refurbished, re-planned and re-opened. Well done Δ ΕΠΚΑ!

Second floor: ceramic masks - an opportunity for some interaction with A.

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