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The Bull Relief from the North Entrance, Knossos
The Bull Relief from the North Entrance, Knossos
This museum houses the most important collection of Minoan art and artefacts anywhere in the world. Twenty galleries on two floors display the exhibits in chronological order from the Neolithic Period to the Greco-Roman period. The magnificent Minoan frescoes are displayed in the upstairs rooms.
Room 1
Neolithic and Prepalatial Periods (5000 - 1900 B.C.)
In this room one can see the early evolution of pottery styles from those found in Partira and Pyrgos, dated from 3000 to 2600 B.C. which used uneven firing techniques, to the more advanced Vasiliki-style pottery which was named after the settlement of Vasiliki where they were first found. The Vasiliki-style ware includes jugs, cups, and long-spouted vessels which have a mottled surface which has been created by fluctuations in the fire intensity. The lower polychrome decorations of the Prepalatial Period used white and cherry-red paint on a black background and are considered forerunners of the famous Kamares-style of the next period.
In this room (Case 7) some exceptional specimens of stone carving can be seen such as the two pyxis (small containers) from Mochlos and Zakros. A miniature sculpture of a clay bull with acrobats clinging to the horns is displayed in Case 12. The sealstones of this era, made of soft material such as bone, steatite and from imported ivory, are displayed in Case 16.
Gold and crystal jewellery of fine quality from the Mochlos, Mesara and Arhanes tombs are displayed in Cases 17 and 18A.
 
Room 2
Old Palace Period (1900 - 1700 B.C.)
The exhibits in this room are mainly of the finds from Knossos and Malia.
Snake Goddess from Knossos
Snake Goddess from Knossos
Early examples of the distinctive red Kamares-style pottery found at Knossos are in Case 23. The Kamares-style pottery was named after the cave of Kamares where it was first found, although it is believed that it was made in Festos. The Kamares-style is characterized by dark colours, abstract spiral and curvilinear designs and relief patterns. Miniature clay figures found in the peak sanctuaries of Palaikastro, Kalo Horio, and Mount Youktas are in Case 24. Case 25 contains the famous Town Mosaic from Knossos made of faience, a series of glazed plaques that depicts multi-storied Minoan houses.
 
Room 3
Old Palace Period (1900 - 1700 B.C.)
The room contains finds from Festos.
Case 30 displays the original pieces of pottery found in the Kamares Cave, the name of which was given to this distinctive pottery style. A vessel with white flowers and a fruitstand with a toothed dropping rim, painted in the Kamares-style are displayed in Case 43. A large archive of seals of the period are displayed in Case 40. Case 41 contains the famous Festos Disc, a large circular clay slab with writing on both sides. The pictographs spiral from the centre to the outer edge. Scholars have not been able to decipher the disc, as they have not been able to decipher the Minoan hieroglyphic script or the Linear A script.
 
Room 4
New Palace Period (1700 - 1400 B.C.)
The objects in this room cover the height of the Minoan Civilization, apparent in the creativity and stylistic development of their art. The pottery style changes in this period from the Kamares-style to the Flora and the Marine-style. The paint themes change from abstract to specific flora or marine themes. The colour relations are reversed, and dark decoration appears on a light-coloured background. Examples of the new style appear in many cases in this room.
The faience techniques developed in this period gave a glazed surface to pottery designs mixing sand, clays, metal oxides, alkali and colour with resin. The famous Snake Goddesses in Case 50, as well as a cow and a wild goat suckling their young (Case 55) are displayed in this room.
Exceptional stone designs from the New Palace Period are displayed in this room. The bull-head from the Little Palace of Knossos is made of serpentine (dull green mineral with snake-like markings). Its eyes were inlaid with jasper and rock crystal; it is displayed in Case 51. The lioness head in Case 59 is made of alabaster limestone. The leopard and the double axe sceptre (Case 47) from Malia is made of schist (a fine-grained rock with its component materials arranged in parallel layers and splitting into thin irregular plates). The game board with ivory, rock crystal, faience, gold and silver is displayed in Case 57. Ivory work is also exceptional in this period. The famous Acrobat of Knossos, which shows a boy executing a somersault is displayed in Case 56. Work in ivory, bone, gold and bronze is displayed in Case 52.
 
Room 5
New Palace Period (1450 - 1400 B.C.)
The decline of the Minoans is obvious in the deteriorating quality of art from this period. The same decorative themes on the pottery continue, but on new types of vessels and with a new formalism. In this period, the Palace type of pottery appeared in Knossos, the only remaining palace after 1450 B.C. The Palace-style had more strict geometric principles of design in contrast to the naturalistic principles of the Floral and Marine types of pottery. It represents a departure from concrete to abstract decorative design. Palace-style amphorae with octopuses can be compared with the earlier, more naturalistic Marine-style octopuses. Many Egyptian objects found at Knossos are displayed here, giving evidence of the extent of trade between the two cultures. Case 70a contains a clay model house from Arhanes which shows how a modest Minoan dwelling would have looked. Tablets bearing Linear A and Linear B script exist in Case 69. Linear A was the original Minoan script, still undeciphered. The Linear B script appears in this period in Knossos, and has been shown to be a form of the Greek language, thus indicating that at this time (after 1450 B.C.) Mycenaeans were in Knossos.
 
Room 6
New Palace and Postpalatial Periods (1450 - 1300 B.C.)
Finds from tombs and cemeteries near Knossos, Festos, and Arhanes are exhibited here.
This room contains the museum's finest gold and ivory jewellery in Cases 87 and 88. The number of weapons shows the influence of the more militant Mycenaeans on Minoan culture. Two helmets, one reconstructed in boar's tusk and another original in bronze with cheek pieces, are also in this gallery.
 
Room 7
New Palace Settlements and Caves (1600 - 1450 B.C.)
This room contains some exceptional examples of stone carving from Agia Triada. The work in black steatite forms reliefs on vases that are among the best in the Minoan era. The Harvester's Vase (Case 95) shows a procession of men giving thanks for the harvest. Farmers follow a priest or a king dressed in scaly clothes and holding a long staff. A man is playing an instrument and musicians are singing. Another exhibit with reliefs on a black steatite rhyton shows some athletic events: boxing, wrestling, and bull games (Case 96). In Case 97 the Chieftain Cup is displayed. It shows an official receiving tribute.
Case 101 contains jewellery; one stunning piece is the Bee Pendant found near Malia. Huge copper ingots, in Case 99, weigh 29.5kg. Originally, archaeologists thought the ingots to be a form of exchange, but they were probably raw material destined for the workshops. Case 89 contains bronze figurines in a stance of worship. On the wall are three huge bronze double axes erected on wooden poles. The double axe was an important symbol to the Minoans.
 
Room 8
New Palace Period (1700 - 1450 B.C.)
In this room finds from the palace of Zakros are shown. Two of the best museum pieces are here, examples of the exceptional levels that stone carving had reached in the Minoan era. The beautiful rock crystal rhyton has a handle of green-stained crystal stones (from the bronze threading wire) and is an exceptional work of art of this period. The Peak Sanctuary Rhyton is made of chlorite, and it presents a mountain shrine with wild goats, double axes, birds and plants in relief.
 
Room 9
New Palace Period (1700 - 1400 B.C.)
Finds from smaller sites in eastern Crete are displayed here.
Case 123 contains terracotta figurines from a peak sanctuary at Piskokefalo showing ordinary Minoans at worship. The museum's largest collection of seal stones is in Case 128. A flask from Palaikastro in Case 120 depicts an octopus.
 
Room 10
Postpalatial Period (1400 - 1100 B.C.)
Artistic decline is evidence of domination by the Mycenaeans. Case 132 contains a clay sculpture of a dancing troupe with a lyre player, more plainly rendered than works of previous periods.
 
Room 11
Sub-Minoan and Early Geometric Periods (1100 - 800 B.C.)
Case 153 shows the passing of the Bronze Age to the use of the new metal, iron, for most weapons and tools. Cases 149 and 158 contain votive offerings to the Minoan goddess of childbirth, Eilithia. These give evidence that Minoan beliefs and traditions continued even as outside forces showed increasing strength. There is also a display of ceramic articles (Case 148) from Karfi.
 
Room 12
Mature Geometric and Orientalizing Periods (900 - 650 B.C.)
An eastern influence, especially Egyptian, becomes clear. An example of this influence is the jug in Case 163. Case 170 contains a small piece of jewellery of intricately worked gold.
 
Room 13
Minoan Sarcophagi
A collection of sarcophagi from various periods is displayed here. These sarcophagi have two different shapes: box-shaped with lids and bathtub shapes. These may actually have been bathtubs which had been used by their owners for this purpose. The Minoans buried their dead in a foetal position, with their knees drawn up to their chests; this accounts for the small size of the sarcophagi.
 
Room 14
Hall of Frescoes: New Palace Period
The frescoes of the New Palace were made originally in relief from a mixture of lime and sand. An example is the bull-head fresco at the North Entrance of Knossos.
The Minoans used plaster techniques to paint. The colours were produced from minerals inserted in wet plaster. When the wall was dry they added additional colours supplemented with unidentified substances. The paintings were usually two-dimensional, avoiding emphasis on depth. In some cases, miniature drawings depicting everyday life were made.
Along the left-hand wall is the fresco from the Corridor of the Procession at Knossos. Between the doors to the other galleries is the red and white griffin fresco from the Throne Room at Knossos. On the far side are naturalistic frescoes from Agia Triada, some of which are blackened by fire. On the opposite wall are some of the most famous works from Knossos: the Lily Prince, the Bull Sport, the Blue Ladies, and the simple fresco of the dolphins. The lily frescoes are from a villa at Amnisos.
In the centre of the room is the famous Sarcophagus of Agia Triada. It is made of limestone which has been covered with plaster and painted, similarly to the frescoes. The paintings represent funeral ceremonies. On one side there are, in fact, two paintings since half of the figures look to the right and the other half to the left. The female on the left pours the contents of a vase into a crater while performing a purification ritual. The figures on the right bring gifts to a priest. On the opposite side a sacrifice of a bull is shown. The bull has already been killed, and the blood is being collected in a pot. Other animals are presented beneath the table waiting to be sacrificed. Flute music is played during the sacrifice. The blood is carried by a woman to a priestess standing between double axes who collects it in a large jar. Lyra music is played during part of the procession.
 
Room 15
More Frescoes from the New Palace Period
The most famous of these is the priestess, called "La Parisienne" by archaeologists. This is a detailed portrait of a woman with bright red lips, huge eyes, and long hair.
 
Room 16
Frescoes from the New Palace Period
The "Saffron Gatherer" displayed here was originally restored as a boy. Archaeologists later decided that it should, in fact, be a blue monkey. Both versions of this fresco are displayed.
 
Room 17
This gallery contains the collection of an Iraklion doctor, the Giamalakis Collection. The collection contains artefacts from all periods including a bronze figure of a boy with a ram over his shoulder There is also very beautiful Venetian jewellery.
 
Room 18
Minor Arts from the Archaic to Roman Period (650 B.C. - 400 A.D.)
A bronze statue of a youth from Roman Ierapetra (1C B.C.) is the highlight of this gallery.
 
Room 19
Archaic Period (650 - 500 B.C.)
Larger pieces from the Archaic period and examples of metal work are displayed here. Included in the displays are incredible bronze shields from the Ideon Andron Cave. Also the freize of horsemen displayed above on the left of the room was part of a 7C temple in ancient Rizinia (Prinias).
 
Room 20
Classical Greek and Greco-Roman sculpture are displayed in this room. Included here are statues found at Gortyn, on the left wall a huge statue of Hadrian with a decorated corselet depicting Romulus and Remus suckled by a she-wolf and on the back wall the statues from Gortyn include some of Aphrodite (Aphrodite in the Gardens; Torso of Aphrodite; Aphrodite kneeling in a bath). There are also statues from Knossos on the left wall, among them a Roman youth; and two large portals from a home. On the right wall there are statues from Kissamos, Chania (female figure probably Hestia) from Hersonisos (Roman empress), from Lyttos ( head of Trajan) and from Malia (the Malia Sarcophagus 2C A.D.). To the immediate right of the door there some Classical, Hellenistic and Roman reliefs.

Important  notice: The Museum is closed since November 2006 for renovation.
Read more on:  
http://www.heraklion.gr/en/city/archeological-museum/archeological-museum.html
http://odysseus.culture.gr/h/1/eh151.jsp?obj_id=3327

Photos of Archaeological Museum of Heraklion:


Marble relief depicting a Labour of Heracles
Marble relief depicting a Labour of Heracles
The gold ring showing a goddess and her worshippers
The gold ring showing a goddess and her worshippers
Pottery from Mochlos and Vasiliki
Pottery from Mochlos and Vasiliki
Vasiliki style from Vasiliki, Ierapetra
Vasiliki style from Vasiliki, Ierapetra
A bronze shield from the Ideon Andron Cave
A bronze shield from the Ideon Andron Cave
Lioness head rhyton from the Treasury Room of Knossos
Lioness head rhyton from the Treasury Room of Knossos
Saffron Gatherer fresco
Saffron Gatherer fresco
Prepalatial-style pottery with characteristic light on dark decorations
Prepalatial-style pottery with characteristic light on dark decorations
A scene on the stone sarcophagus from Agia Triada
A scene on the stone sarcophagus from Agia Triada
Rock crystal vase with a necklace threaded on bronze wire
Rock crystal vase with a necklace threaded on bronze wire
Steatite rhyton in the shape of a bull's head, from the little palace at Knossos
Steatite rhyton in the shape of a bull's head, from the little palace at Knossos
Girl on a swing from Agia Triada
Girl on a swing from Agia Triada
The unusal shaped rhyton from Karfi
The unusal shaped rhyton from Karfi
Daughter Goddess with two snakes and a panther on her head
Daughter Goddess with two snakes and a panther on her head
The Boxer Rhyton from Agia Triada
The Boxer Rhyton from Agia Triada
Helmet made from boar's teeth
Helmet made from boar's teeth
Daughter Goddess with two snakes and a panther on her head
Daughter Goddess with two snakes and a panther on her head
Bull Rhyton or libation vase from Zakros
Bull Rhyton or libation vase from Zakros
Kamares-style pottery from the palace of Festos
Kamares-style pottery from the palace of Festos
The Harvester 's Vase from Agia Triada
The Harvester 's Vase from Agia Triada
New Palace Period Octopus flask from Palaikastro
New Palace Period Octopus flask from Palaikastro
Clay votive figurine from Peak Sanctuary of Petsofas
Clay votive figurine from Peak Sanctuary of Petsofas
Bronze figure of a boy with a ram from the Giamalakis Collection
Bronze figure of a boy with a ram from the Giamalakis Collection
Marine-style vase from the New Palace Period
Marine-style vase from the New Palace Period
Roman statue
Roman statue
The Parisienne fresco from Knossos
The Parisienne fresco from Knossos
Marine-style pottery from the New Palace Period
Marine-style pottery from the New Palace Period
Bronze Roman statue from Ierapetra (1C B.C.)
Bronze Roman statue from Ierapetra (1C B.C.)
Snake Goddess from Knossos
Snake Goddess from Knossos
The Bull Relief from the North Entrance, Knossos
The Bull Relief from the North Entrance, Knossos