The National Archaeology Museum (in Portuguese, Museu Nacional de Arqueologia) is the largest and most important archaeology museum in Portugal. Situated in the city of Lisbon, a few meters from the Tagus River, it’s the perfect place to visit on a Belém itinerary – one of the most touristy areas of the Portuguese capital!
The collection of the National Archaeology Museum has thousands of archaeological artifacts and historical pieces of the most diverse types. Among them, Egyptian antiquities, Roman mosaics, and granite statues stand out, as well as examples of archaic jewelry and Latin epigraphy!
So, do you want to know more about the National Archaeology Museum: Best Tips For Visiting In 2023? Keep reading!
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- Brief History of the National Archaeology Museum
- How to Get to the National Archaeology Museum
- What to See at the National Archaeology Museum
- More Posts about Portugal
- More Posts about Museum Guides
- What Photography Gear Do I Use?
Brief History of the National Archaeology Museum
The National Archaeology Museum was founded on December 20th, 1983, thanks to the initiative of José Leite de Vasconcelos, an aristocrat who distinguished himself in the areas of archaeology, ethnography, philology, and linguistics. For this reason, the museum’s initial collection consisted of donations from its founder and also from Estácio Veiga (a Portuguese archaeologist and writer).
Originally nicknamed the “Portuguese Ethnographic Museum” (in Portuguese, “Museu Ethnographico Português”), the National Archaeology Museum was installed in the western wing of the Jerónimos Monastery, where the monks’ dormitory used to be, and opened its doors in 1906. And since then, it hasn’t stopped receiving more and more archaeological artifacts!
How to Get to the National Archaeology Museum
No matter which area of Lisbon you’re in, it’s very easy to reach the National Archaeology Museum. This is because the museum is served by bus (lines 79B, 201, 714, 727, 728, 729, 751), tram (number 15E), train (Cascais Line), and even by boat/ferry!
If you’re driving, you can park at Afonso de Albuquerque Square (in front of the National Palace of Belém and the National Coach Museum), or next to the Tagus River, in the Terreiro das Missas car park (between the Belém Dock and the Belém Fluvial Station) or the Electricity Museum car park.
And since Belém has such a rich heritage when it comes to monuments, museums, and palaces, why not dedicate an entire day to getting to know this historic area? For example, in the vicinity of the Jerónimos Monastery, you can visit the:
- Belém Cultural Center (and the Berardo Collection Museum)
- Calouste Gulbenkian Planetarium
- Jerónimos Monastery (and the Navy Museum)
- MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology
- Monument to the Discoveries
- Museum of Popular Art
- National Coach Museum
- National Palace of Belém (and the Museum of the Presidency of the Republic)
- Navy Museum
- Pastéis de Belém House
- Tower of Belém
- Tropical Botanical Garden (belonging to the National Museum of Natural History and Science)
As the capital of Portugal, the city of Lisbon hosts a large number of National Museums, which you can (and should) add to your itinerary. In addition to the National Archaeology Museum, you can also visit the:
- National Coach Museum
- National Museum of Ancient Art
- National Museum of Contemporary Art of Chiado
- National Museum of Costume
- National Museum of Ethnology
- National Museum of Natural History and Science
- National Museum of Theater and Dance
- National Museum of the Azulejo
Opening Hours & Ticket Prices
The National Archaeology Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 6 pm, with the last entry at 5:30 pm (through the eastern entrance) or 5:45 pm (through the main entrance). In addition to Mondays, the museum is closed on January 1st, Easter Sunday, May 1st, June 13th, and December 25.
As for tickets, these cost €5 (normal rate) or €2.5 (reduced rate for holders of a Youth Card or Student Card, and over 65 years old), while children up to 12 years old don’t pay admission.
TIP: Like the other monuments and museums managed by the Directorate-General for Cultural Heritage, the National Archaeology Museum is free on Sundays until 2 pm, for all residents in Portugal!
What to See at the National Archaeology Museum
Statues of Callaeci Warriors
The Statues of Callaeci Warriors (in Portuguese, Estátuas de Guerreiros Calaicos) are two granite statues, which represent warriors wielding shields. Classified as a National Monument in 1910, one of them is 2 meters high and the other is 2.5 meters high.
Dating back to the 1st century BC, the Statues of Callaeci Warriors were discovered in 1785 in the Castrum of Lesenho or Castrum of Outeiro Lesenho (in Portuguese, Castro de Lesenho ou Castro do Outeiro Lesenho) – a proto-historic castrum located in the Boticas municipality, in the Vila Real district.
This Zoomorphic Statuette (in Portuguese, Estatueta Zoomórfica) of a suid (a pig or a wild boar) was offered to Endovelicus, the god of the underworld and health in Celtic mythology. As far as is known, Endovelicus was a highly venerated deity in the territory of Lusitania, before and during the Roman occupation.
The Zoomorphic Statuette you see in the photo was found in the Sanctuary of Endovelicus, a temple built on Mont of São Miguel da Mota, in the Alandroal municipality and Évora district. In the Iberian Peninsula, this type of stone statue is known as “verraco”.
Statuette of Mercury & Bust of Mercury
The Statuette of Mercury (in Portuguese, Estatueta de Mercúrio) is a massive cast bronze sculpture from the 2nd century AD — that is, from the Roman period. And its origin is the Archaeological Station of Monte Molião (in Portuguese, Estação Arqueológica de Monte Molião), an archaeological site in the Lagos municipality and Faro district.
As for the Bust of Mercury (in Portuguese, Busto de Mercúrio), it’s a figurative bronze also cast and possibly from the 4th century AD – that is, still from the time of the Romans. And this one came from the Castrum of Columbeira, in the Bombarral municipality and Leiria district.
“Furious Hercules” (in Portuguese, “Hércules Furioso”) is a Roman mosaic panel from the 3rd or 4th centuries AD, which was found in the Lusitan-Roman Villa of Torre de Palma or Roman Station of Monforte (in Portuguese, Villa Lusitano-Romana de Torre de Palma or Estação Romana de Monforte) – an archaeological site in the Monforte municipality and Portalegre district.
In this mosaic panel, it’s possible to see Hercules (in Roman mythology) or Heracles (in Greek mythology), the famous Greek hero. Beside him, his wife Megara mourns the moment when Heracles kills their own children, after being driven mad by the goddess Juno (in Roman mythology) or Hera (in Greek mythology).
“Indian Triumph of Bacchus”
The “Indian Triumph of Bacchus” (in Portuguese, “Triunfo Indiano de Baco) is another of the Roman mosaic panels from the Lusitan-Roman Villa of Torre de Palma (or Roman Station of Monforte). In fact, both panels are part of the so-called “Mosaic of the Muses” (in Portuguese, “Mosaico das Musas”) – a rectangular mosaic formed by eleven figurative panels!
The “Mosaic of the Muses” is one of the most important works of the National Archaeology Museum!
Bacchus (in Roman mythology) or Dionysus (in Greek mythology) was the god of wine and theater. And one of the most popular episodes in his history was the big trip he took to India. The “Indian Triumph of Bacchus” portrays precisely a procession in the East, with sixteen characters: the god Bacchus/Dionysus, the god Pan, Silenus, the Maenads (or Bacchae), and satyrs.
Portrait of a Woman
This Portrait of a Woman (in Portuguese, Retrato de Mulher) dates back to the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, time of Roman Lusitania. Made of marble, this sculpture of a female head was discovered in the Roman Ruins of Milreu or Estói Ruins (in Portuguese, Ruínas Romanas de Milreu our Ruínas de Estói), an archaeological complex in the municipality and district of Faro.
According to some archaeologists and historians, it’s probable that the young Roman lady in this Portrait of a Woman is Julia Flavia, the daughter of Emperor Titus. The main reason is that Julia Flavia was the creator of this elaborate hairstyle!
Stele of the Children of Compedio
The Stele of the Children of Compedio (in Portuguese, Estela dos Filhos de Compedio) is a granite stele from the 2nd-3rd centuries AD. Not everyone knows, but stelae are stone columns with commemorative inscriptions or relief images, often used as tombstones.
This was found in a village in the Melgaço municipality (in the Viana do Castelo district) and donated to the National Archaeology Museum by Dr. António José de Pinho Junior!
The two anthropomorphic figures in relief, which decorate the upper part of the stele, appear to be the deceased mentioned in the epitaph – the Children of Compedio. And from their clothing, it’s suspected that the figure on the left is male and the figure on the right is female.
Urn with Lug Handles
This Urn with Lug Handles (in Portuguese, Urna de Orelhetas) is a unique ceramic piece in the National Archaeology Museum. Dating back to the Second Iron Age, more specifically the 4th-3rd centuries BC, it was found on the Cerro do Castelo de Garvão – an archaeological site in the Ourique municipality and Beja district.
This large vase with a lid with perforated lug handles was produced using the decorative techniques of stamping, painting, and coroplasty. And its dimensions are quite impressive: 66 centimeters high and a diameter of more than 46 centimeters!
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