Iraklion (Heraklion) Archaeological Museum in the center of Iraklion in Crete houses the largest collection in the world, of items related to the Minoan Civilisation that flourished in Crete 4000 years ago.
Bull leapers, Iraklion Museum, Crete, Greece
Consider a visit to Iraklion Museum as an inseparable part of your visit to Knossos and the rest of Minoan sites in Crete. Here you will be able to admire the originals of all the beautiful frescoes seen in the Palace of Knossos.
Iraklion (Heraklion) Archaeological Museum was founded in 1883. Initially, when it was still simply a collection of antiquities, it was housed in two rooms near Agios Minas.
This space, however soon proved to be too restricted to hold the precious objects, which daily grew in number especially after the proclamation of the independence of Crete in 1898. The collection therefore had to be moved to a large sector of the old Turkish barracks.
At the same time attempts began to be made to build a proper Museum and to find a suitable plot of land for the purpose. Eventually, preference was given to the area formerly occupied by the monastery of Agios Frangiskos. The building that was erected was demolished in 1937, however, since it was not proof against earthquakes, and its place was taken by the present Museum.
The rooms were opened to the public after the Second World War, with the material classified chronologically.
Renovation and extension works going on at Iraklion Museum do not permit visiting the entire collection. A small sample of exhibits displayed in a temporary space at the basement of the museum can be visited. The first two rooms on the main building opened on August 14, 2012, on the way to the completion of all works by summer 2013.
The Museum houses ancient objects discovered at the most important archaeological sites in Crete: Knossos
, Tylissos, Gortys
, Agia Triada
, in a great number of tombs, in the caves of Kamares, the Idaean cave, the Diktaean cave
, the cave of Eileithyia and so on.
The most interesting and best preserved of the finds are exhibited in the 20 rooms of the Museum. Minoan art is nowhere better represented, and this makes the Museum unique and has made it known the whole world over.
The exhibits are classified into the following main categories:
|Visit the IMAGE GALLERY for more exhibit details
Belonging to the Vasilike style, the polychrome vases from the Kamares Caves, the vases of plant and marine style and those of the palace style are especially notable.
The clay sarcophagi were widely used during the post-palatial period. The dead were laid inside them in contracted position. They are of two types: those in the shape of a chest or a box with four feet and a lid, and those in the shape of a bath. The motifs painted on them are decorative or are taken from nature (schematised flowers, fish, octopuses) or have religious significance (double axes, sacred horns etc). The ship depicted on one of them may symbolize the journey of the deceased to the other world. The one from Agia Triada, made of stone, is unique.
Gold and ivory jewelery and ornaments in general. Miniature magic pendant with representations of an open palm, a snake, a snail, a scorpion and a spider, perhaps to ward off the dangerous serpents and insects. Bull's heads and small lions from Agia Triada. The famous piece of gold jewelery showing hornets or wasps sucking at a drop of honey from the honeycomb, a gold pin with a flower at the end of it, gold leaves and earrings from the cemetery of Chryssolakkos near Malia. (Click here for a large view).
Gold rings with religious scenes etc.
From the large and the small palaces, villas of the wealthy classes and mansions. Mural paintings combined with reliefs form a category of their own.
Clay figurines and others made of stone or precious materials. Figurines and other dedications from the cave of Eileithyia at Inatos in South Crete. The figurines are connected with human fertility: loving couples, pregnant women, and women suckling their babies.
Mainly vases made of marble or semi-precious and precious stones. Those which come from the sacred treasuries of the palaces at Knossos and Zakros are outstanding. A special category is formed by the stone utensils used in religious ritual which carry various representations in relief.
Household utensils, tools, weapons and ceremonial axes. An important collection of bronze weapons and tools. Bronze dagger blades from the tholos tombs of Messara and the cave at Trapeza.
Particularly interesting seal stones from the pre palatial tombs at Messara, in a variety of shapes. Some of them are plastic, in the shape of quarrier, birds and so on, and in different materials, mainly ivory and steatite. In most cases, they have two faces to produce seals but in the case of the seal stone from Fourni, Archanes there are fourteen.
Some seal stones came to Crete from Egypt or Asia like the Babylonian cylinder seal (exhibit 1098) from the period of King Hammurabi (1750BC).