Friday, 23 May 2014


heraklion archaeological museum

THE NEWLY-OPENED Archaeological Museum in Iraklion / Heraklion, Crete is stunning.

We were lucky enough to visit on its first day – as we later discovered – I wondered why there were staff members in clusters as well as attendants in the galleries – and the wealth of Minoan objects from all phases and sites, lucidly displayed with informative wall panels but as yet few individual labels, was rewardingly wonderful visually and intellectually.
The galleries are spacious and excellently lit, with many larger exhibits on open display, and the others in cases of such high-quality glass that it creates no reflections and seems virtually invisible – occasionally hazardous but brilliant to behold.  I know zero about Minoan history and culture beyond the popular notions of bare-breasted deities and bull-leaping athletes, so was unprepared for the amazing egg-shell-thin ceramic cups and bowls, tapering vessels and decorated dishes. 
Most of the now-questionable reconstructed frescoes are placed in an upper gallery, preserving the images by which Knossos has been best known but clearly showing how fragments were imaginatively and freely interpreted by the infamous Arthur Evans.  

Also wonderfully, photography is allowed for all already-published exhibits, although the numerous other  off-limits items indicates how much previously unseen material is now available for visitors as well as scholars.  In some ways the lack of labels was an asset, enabling one to just look and look.  

And this summary barely scratches the surface of the wealth of items in room after room, offering continual interest and indeed requiring a second visit – incidentally not at all expensive especially on a combined ticket with Knossos – which is extraordinary in its own, sadly trashed state.  In fact, since its finds are safely in the Museum, the loss of Knossos both to the original excavations, rebuilding, concrete additions and general degradation, and to the ongoing destruction by thousands of daily visitors, seems a worthwhile sacrifice, preserving other sites like Phaistos and many other as yet unexcavated Minoan locations from the tramping hordes.    

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