Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid, Spain

Category: Madrid

Are you planning an upcoming trip to Madrid—Spain’s capital and largest city—and need some ideas as to what to do and see while you’re there?  Do you have an interest in archaeology and ancient artifacts?  If so, you’ll definitely want to check out the Museo Arqueológico Nacional.  The Museo Arqueológico Nacional, or National Archaeological Museum of Spain, is one of the most interesting places to visit in Madrid, allowing you to tour some of the most interesting pieces from the collections of past Spanish monarchs.  To help you become a bit more familiar with this attraction, below we have compiled some interesting facts regarding the Museo Arqueológico Nacional, including its location and history and a description of some the collection contained within the museum.

Museo Arqueológico Nacional:  Information and History

The Museo Arqueológico Nacional is an archaeological museum in Madrid, Spain, situated next to the Plaza de Colon, or Columbus Square, in the city’s downtown region.  The museum shares its building with another Madrid treasure, the National Library of Spain, which contains some of the most significant Spanish texts and historical documents ever assembled.

Museo Arqueológico Nacional was founded in the late 19th century, or more specifically, in 1867, through a Royal Decree of Queen Isabella II.  The purpose of the museum was to bring together certain items of historical value that were then housed by different institutions throughout the country to create a complete collection under one roof.  Thus, the museum quickly became a depository of sorts and a place to exhibit the numismatic, archaeological, ethnographical and decorative art collections of Spain—collections compiled by the Spanish monarchs.

The current venue for the Museo Arqueológico Nacional (and National Library) was designed by renowned Spanish architect Francisco Jareño and built in the neoclassical style that was very popular during this era.  Construction of the building commenced in 1866 and spanned a whopping 26 years until it was ultimately completed in the summer of 1892.  Three years later, in 1895, the collection was moved to this location.

The Museo Arqueológico Nacional has seen many renovations over the years, beginning in 1968, when an extension was added to the building that vastly increased its area.  More recently, in 2008/2009, the museum was once again remodeled, with only the highlights from the collection being shown to the public during this construction.  Today the museum has narrowed its focus down to significant artifacts and archaeological pieces, and many of the items, including the decorative arts collection, have now been moved to other venues.

Museo Arqueológico Nacional:  Collection

The permanent collection of the Museo Arqueológico Nacional offers tourists a unique journey through the history of Spain, from prehistory to the 19th century. This includes prehistoric, Egyptian, Celtic, Iberian, Greek and Roman antiquities, as well as medieval objects representing the Visigoths, Muslims and Christians.  Its collection includes excellent pieces from all periods and styles, including Egyptian sarcophagi and mummies; Hispano-Roman decorative art; Moorish archaeology; and Mudejar masonry and ceramics. There is also a partial reconstruction of the Altamira Caves, and a library specializing in scientific publications on art, history, archaeology and museology.  In addition to the very popular replica of the Altamira Caves, some of the museums most highly-prized treasures are the busts of Lady of Elche and Lady of Baza, the Biche of Balazote, the Treasure of Guarrazar and the Crucifix of Ferdinand and Sancha.