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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

World's Most Popular Archaeology Museums


Many people are just not satisfied by a photo of historical, natural or artistic items, which is why they visit museums. For those with a strong interest in history and unearthing it, there is nothing quite like the experience of archaeology museums. These museums focus on the field, including archaeological exhibits as a regular part of their offering to the public. Traveling to archaeology museums around the world may not be the easiest task, but the most popular of these museums offer extensive or unique collections, well worth your time.

The National Archaeological Museum of Naples


The National Archaeological Museum of Naples in Italy has one of the world's top archaeological exhibits of Greek and Roman antiquities, particularly those from nearby Pompeii and Herculaneum. Some of the exhibit's features include mosaics, sculptures, glass and silver.

At the museum in Naples, a visitor could expect to see a number of items from or about the historic city of Pompeii that was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Among these are the Temple of Isis, which is a special exhibit that includes wall paintings removed from the temple as well as artifacts from it, and a Pompeii model that was created in the 19th century to give an accurate representation of what the city would have looked like prior to the eruption. Additionally, there is a section called the "Secret Cabinet," which contains erotic and sexual items that through archaeology were discovered and preserved, but for some time, such items were deemed inappropriate for the public to view. The "cabinet" was re-opened in 2000, though visitors must be at least 11 years old.

Istanbul Archaeology Museums


The Istanbul Archaeology Museums in Turkey feature a wide array of tools and artifacts through the region's history. The museums' archaeological exhibits include the Kadesh Peace Treaty -- dating to 1258 B.C. and considered the oldest peace treaty in the world -- that was signed between Ramesses II of Egypt and Hattusili III of the Hittite Empire, and the Alexander Sarcophagus, a late fourth century B.C. stone sarcophagus adorned with bas-relief carving of Alexander the Great.

Traveling to archaeology museums around the world, it is uncommon to find one that technically includes three interconnecting museums. The Istanbul Archaeology Museums consists of the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of the Ancient Orient and the Museum of Islamic Art. Together, they house over one million objects that represent nearly all eras and civilization in recorded history.

Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology



The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in Cambridge, Mass., is one of the oldest museums in the world devoted to anthropology. Affiliated with Harvard University, the museum contains one of the most comprehensive collections of human cultural history in the Western Hemisphere. The museum's archeological exhibits focus on the native people of North America as well as displaying casts from Mesoamerican monuments and objects from the Pacific Islands.

Though some of the museum's artifacts are permanent fixtures, like the Louis and Clark and Hemingway collections, others are part of a rotating schedule of exhibitions. Without traveling to archaeology museums throughout the Americas, a visitor to the Peabody has the opportunity to see one of the largest and most extensive collections of indigenous people of North America and Mesoamerica. Additionally, because of the museum's close connection with Harvard, the collections at Peabody are available for teaching, publication and artistic purposes. Given notice, the museum may grant approval for limited access.

Qin Shi Huang Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum




Though this may not fit into the same definition with other archaeology museums, the Qin Shi Huang Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum, which features the now-famous Terracotta Warriors depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, is a unique type of archaeological museum in its own right. The museum, rather than focusing on numerous archaeological exhibits, centers on the warriors. As the figures remain in the trenches where they were first found by a farmer in 1974, the museum in Shaanxi Province, Xi'an City, Lingtong County, Qinling Town gives the feel of an archaeological dig still in progress.

Devoted to the figures that date from 210 B.C., the pits once held more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses. Traveling to archaeology museums like Qin Shi Huang can be difficult, which is why a small number of the warriors and a number of artifacts discovered in the area tour countries around the world, giving those of us who have difficulty traveling to archaeology museums in other countries the opportunity to view the life-size figures that guarded the emperor's tomb.

Penn Museum



Penn Museum (The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) in Philadelphia, Pa., features a variety of exhibits from cultures around the world. A site ideal for those with trouble traveling to archaeology museums in all the countries they may like to explore, long-term archaeological exhibits at Penn Museum include features on Africa, Egypt, Buddhism, Islam and ancient Greece and Rome.

One of the prominent archaeological exhibits at the museum features more than 100 ancient artifacts from the Amarna period in Egypt and the time of Tutenkhamun, some of which have never before been on display. For this ancient culture, this period was a time of religious and cultural experimentation. Another long-standing exhibit contains nearly 25,000 artifacts from excavations in the Levant, which includes areas in modern Israel, the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon. The collection is the largest from the region in any of the museums in the United States and Western Hemisphere.

The National Archaeological Museum in Athens



The National Archaeological Museum in Athens includes artifacts from a variety of locations in Greece important to archaeology, such as Santorini, Mycenae, the Aegean islands, Delos and the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia in Sparta. The collection of artifacts from Greek antiquity is considered the richest such collection in archaeology museums worldwide.

Among the 11,000 archaeological exhibits at the museum is the wrongly-named Mask of Agamemnon, one of the most famous pieces in the collection. The museum encompasses sculpture, metalworks and pottery, among other collections, from the archaic period through classical Greece and the Hellenistic era. Like a number of other museums, it does not focus just on the culture of its own country, but has collections of Egyptian and Cypriotic antiquities that were presented to the museum from various donors.

The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

Living Images: Egyptian Funerary Portraits in the Petrie Museum (UNIV COL LONDON INST ARCH PUB)

Located in London, U.K., the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology has an estimated 80,000 objects, making up one of the largest collections of Egyptian and Sudanese items in archaeology museums worldwide. It may come as a surprise when traveling to archaeology museums that such a large number of Egyptian artifacts are housed in London, but much of the Petrie Museum's collection comes from documented excavations.

Among this extensive collection are one of the earliest pieces of linen from Egypt, two lions from the temple of Min at Koptos and the earliest example of glazing. Much of the collection consists of firsts, or at least earliest, archaeological finds of their kind.


Kelsey Museum



If your a Classic's buff or love the lives of the ancients like I do, the Kelsey Museum in Ann Arbor, Michigan is a trip you just can't miss. Kelsey Museum "houses a collection of nearly 100,000 ancient and medieval objects from the civilizations of the Mediterranean and the Near East in the William E. Upjohn Exhibit Wing. Aside from the permanent collection, new exhibits are presented on a regular basis at Kelsey.

I'm a bit partial to the seal artifacts found in Iran, such as the Stamp Seal showing Ibex from Tepe Giyan, Iran. Kelsey has an amazing collection of these which I've only begun to investigate.

 Visitors are always welcomed if you'd like to check out their visitor information page for more details.

Picture Sources
© Istanbul Archaeological Museums
© UPENN 
© Kelsey Museum

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Archaeology in Action 2014

Dr. Brian Redmond, curator of archaeology, discusses working at the Burrell Orchard site earlier this summer. The Archaeology in Action field school is open to adult museum members. For more information or to volunteer, visit www.cmnh.org/ArchaeologyinAction.

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