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Archaeological Museum of Agios Nikolaos


Postpalatial stone chalice from Makrigialos
Postpalatial stone chalice from Makrigialos
The town of Agios Nikolaos in eastern Crete, is home to the second-finest archaeological museum in Crete founded in 1970 and consisting of eight rooms. The collection contains recent finds, mostly from eastern Crete. The finds are in chronological order beginning with the Neolithic era, Minoan remains, and ending with Greco-Roman finds. One of the museum's most famous exhibits is the Goddess of Mirtos. This libation vessel is in the form of a female figure and was discovered at the Bronze Age settlement at Fournos, near Mirtos. The museum also contains important specimens of the Daedalic Period (seventh century B.C.) when, for a brief period of time, Crete led the Greek world in setting the foundations of the great art of sculpture for the next centuries. The head of a clay statue of a woman, considered to be one of the masterpieces of Greek art, is displayed in the museum
Room 1
The largest collection in the museum is from the Agia Fotia cemetery near Sitia. It is one of the largest prehistoric cemeteries in Greece, having 252 graves from the Prepalatial Period (3000 - 2300 B.C.). The many graves ranged from simple pits for child burials to early versions of chamber tombs. Many of the graves were for multiple use and contained artefacts that were for use in the afterlife or were considered valuable or favoured by their owners.
The impressive number and variety of vases found (c1500) is made even more so when one considers that none of them were made with a potter's wheel but with flat stones used on a turntable.
Postpalatial female statue in a worshipping position from Makrigialos
Postpalatial female statue in a worshipping position from Makrigialos
The sole decorative feature of the pottery found at Agia Fotia is incisions or engravings. One of the more noteworthy exhibits is a bird-shaped vase with incised plumage. This is an early version of a common Cretan shape. These artefacts were not made with a potter's wheel but with turntables displayed in Room 2.
Several hundred bronze blades of unusual size and sharpness were found in the graves of Agia Fotia. Noteworthy is the folded blade. This is an example of a rare custom of rendering the dead person's weapon useless at the time of burial. Also of special interest are the fish hooks which are the earliest of Minoan Crete.
Room 2
The second pottery group represented in the museum is from the Prepalatial settlement (2600 - 2300 B.C) near Mirtos at Fournou Korfi. The pottery is distinctively different from that found at Agia Fotia. The Goddess of Mirtos is the most famous example from this period. The unusual bell shape, long neck, and rustic facial features make this a prize exhibit of the museum.
The Vasiliki-style pottery is also well represented in the museum. As mentioned earlier, this pottery is distinguished by its reddish-brown colouring and mottling which was done on purpose by uneven firing. Fine examples of this technique are in Room 2, especially noteworthy is the long spouted “tea-pot”.
Exquisite examples of Prepalatial jewellery are also represented in the museum of Agios Nikolaos.
Goddess of Mirtos
Goddess of Mirtos
In Room 2 there is an elegant Minoan hairpin and the gold crown or diadem, which was found folded in a silver box. The latter is a rare find in Minoan graves of this age as the practice of leaving valuables in graves did not appear until much later but it is thought that this is one of the origins of the custom.
Stone works, considered important in Cretan art history are also displayed in the museum. The artist tried not to disturb the natural colouring or the veins of the rock but accentuated them for artistic appearance. Elegant examples of this are in Room 2.
 
Room3
Room 3 covers the Postpalatial Period with pottery decorated with marine motifs found near Makrigialos. The case in the centre of the room contains jewellery and ivory carvings. Well-represented in the museum are articles from the Peak Sanctuaries of the New Palace Period especially from Petsofas above Palaikastro in eastern Crete. Many of these finds reveal clothing and hair fashions of this time and positions and methods of worship. A outstanding example of this is the black steatite triton, which shows two males, one pouring a liquid on to the other's outstretched hands.
In Room 3 there is also a representative selection of two types of clay Minoan sarcophagi: the larnakes (chests) and the bathtub style. Several sarcophagi decorated with birds and marine-life representations are also displayed here. Note the holes at the bottom of the sarcophagi for water drainage, possibly illustrating their dual use as coffins and bathtubs!
The superb, unique gold pin with Linear A signs engraved on it, was a gift to the museum in 1981 from the archaeologist J. P. Oliver. This is found in the jewellery case in the middle of Room 3.
 
Room 4
Room 4 displays a New Palace Period child's burial pithos uniquely shown just as it was found, in its entirety and undisturbed. Also in this room are the new style of straight-sided funeral urns of this period found in the cemeteries of Sitia and Kritsa. This new style, however, still has the Minoan bull's horn motif. The potter's wheel found in a grave in Kritsa is also exhibited in this room. This completes the display of the potter's flat (slow wheels) stones in Room 2.
The early Stone Age display in Room 4 includes the Subminoan Geometric and Orientalizing artefacts. These finds exhibit the dark ages of artistry in eastern Crete in that they are of a simple design.
 
Room 5 and 6
Rooms 5 and 6 contain finds from the Daedalic Period (7C B.C.), thought to be the final years of glory of ancient Crete. The items include the Archaic head of a clay statue found near Sitia, votive offerings from Olous and a collection of oil lamps (one with seventy nozzles).
 
Room 7
The Greco-Roman period finds are exhibited in Room 7 and are mostly from a Roman cemetery at Potamos in the city of Agios Nikolaos dated first century A.D. They include glass perfume bottles; their function was originally mistaken and they are wrongly called "tear bottles". The most extraordinary exhibit of this era is the athlete's skull that was found with the wreath fixed to it and a coin in his mouth. The coin, which stayed in place for 1900 years, left traces of green oxidation on the jaw bone. The coin was the traditional payment to the ferryman Charon for the dead person's journey across the river Styx. More interesting, however, is that this coin is from the western city of Polirinia, near Kastelli, Chania.
 
Open daily 8:30-15:00 except Monday. Ticket 3 euro, 2 for special categories.
Address: 74 Konstantinou Palaiologou Str., 72100 Agios Nikolaos (Prefecture of Lassithi)

Photos of Archaeological Museum of Agios Nikolaos:


Postpalatial Minoan ivory crocodile from Milatos
Postpalatial Minoan ivory crocodile from Milatos
Postpalatial triple cult vessel from the cemetery of Myrsini
Postpalatial triple cult vessel from the cemetery of Myrsini
Pithos, with an infant burial as found in the cemetery of Kritsa
Pithos, with an infant burial as found in the cemetery of Kritsa
Steatite Trident - an example of superb Minoan workmanship
Steatite Trident - an example of superb Minoan workmanship
Wreathed head and obol of Charon from the Potamos cemetery, (1C A.D.)
Wreathed head and obol of Charon from the Potamos cemetery, (1C A.D.)
Postpalatial triple cult vessel and plastic birds from the Myrsini cemetery
Postpalatial triple cult vessel and plastic birds from the Myrsini cemetery
Small head of feline from the Prinias Peak Sanctuary
Small head of feline from the Prinias Peak Sanctuary
Steatite Trident - an example of superb Minoan workmanship
Steatite Trident - an example of superb Minoan workmanship
Jewellery from the Early Minoan cemetery in Mochlos
Jewellery from the Early Minoan cemetery in Mochlos
Vasiliki-style teapot ware of Prepalatial Period from Mirtos
Vasiliki-style teapot ware of Prepalatial Period from Mirtos
Phallus shaped idol from the Neolithic Cave of Pelektia, Zakros
Phallus shaped idol from the Neolithic Cave of Pelektia, Zakros
Wreathed head and obol of Charon from the Potamos cemetery, (1C A.D.)
Wreathed head and obol of Charon from the Potamos cemetery, (1C A.D.)
Late Minoan Incense Burner
Late Minoan Incense Burner
Head of a clay statue found near Sitia from the Daedalic period (7C B.C.)
Head of a clay statue found near Sitia from the Daedalic period (7C B.C.)
Postpalatial stirrup jar from the Kritsa cemetery
Postpalatial stirrup jar from the Kritsa cemetery
Koumasa or Mirtos-style jug of the Prepalatial Period
Koumasa or Mirtos-style jug of the Prepalatial Period
Goddess of Mirtos
Goddess of Mirtos
Postpalatial female statue in a worshipping position from Makrigialos
Postpalatial female statue in a worshipping position from Makrigialos
Postpalatial stone chalice from Makrigialos
Postpalatial stone chalice from Makrigialos
 
Visit the area of the sight: Agios Nikolaos