Sunday, July 11, 2010

Museo Arqueológico Nacional - Spain's Archeological Record

I was going through the photos on my cell phone and I came across some pictures I had "sneaked" at the National Archeological Museum in Madrid.  The first photo shows the exterior: as you can see, it less than imposing because it is behind a barrier of construction trucks and fences.  Reconstruction of the exterior and interior started some time ago, and most of the building is not open to the public. I'm not sure when they expect to finish it or if perhaps the work has been affected by Spain's financial crisis.

The collections are, of course, also closed and packed away.  However, the musuem set out a very nice five-room exhibit of particular treasures from its various collections, and it's still worth a trip even if you won't get to see every last sphinx and stele ever found.

Here we see a couple of things that are in the proto-history room.  The first is a rather snooty looking sphinx-like creature is known as the Bicha de Balazote. It was found in Balazote, which is in Albacete. Bicha (bug or critter, as we'd say here) is a corruption of the French word biche, meaning female deer or doe, but it certainly doesn't look like either. The figure is limestone, and is thought to date to the 6th century BC. Its origin is unclear, although it may have a Greek influence.

The next is an imposing pile that was probably part of a temple of some kind, also from the 6th century BC.  You can't see it very clearly here, but there are interesting carvings on it.  It was found in Aragon.

While there is not a huge amount to be seen in this currently limited exhibit, it spans millennia and reminds one yet again how long the Iberian peninsula has been inhabited and the vast number of peoples that have swept over it during those scores of centuries.  The museum's webpage has more information about the exhibt, and there is also a detailed description of each of the items  (you have to burrow down several levels to get to it).