The National Archaeological Museum (MAN), which houses one of the world's most important antique collections, has just reopened after a comprehensive remodelling process that lasted for six years. Through the implements and works of art of the various Mediterranean cultures, its exhibits span from prehistory to the 19th century.
Located in the heart of the Salamanca District, it covers a series of chapters in the history of universal art that are not represented in the large museums of the nearby Art Walk, such as Greek ceramics, Visigoth votive crowns and Spanish Islamic ivories. The rich collection of this institution founded in 1867 is now on display thanks to a new museological plan which gives the exhibits as much as artistic value as it does archaeological, and includes informative panels, mockups and replicas that visitors can actually touch.
In the new MAN, the Lady of Elche continues to occupy a privileged spot. When comparing it with other Iberian works, the proportion and balance of the face are surprising, indicating a strong influence of Greek art. However, the beads and tunic are clearly local and provide a perfect example of Iberian outfit. Contrary to prior opinion, some historians suggest that it was a full-body sculpture which was subsequently converted into a bust. Like many sculptures of the time, the Lady of Elche has a cavity in the back which, it is thought, was used to store relics. Some theories suggest that the Lady of Elche is a goddess and others consider it represents a queen or a dead woman.
Other valuable pieces on display are the Treasure of Guarrazar, an incredible example of Visigoth goldsmithing, the Pot from Zamora, made from ivory, and a collection of Greek vases, considered by specialists to be one of the best in the world.
National Archaeological Museum
Address: Serrano, 13
Metro: Serrano (L4)
Cercanías train station: Recoletos
Public car park: Plaza del Descubrimiento - Centro Colón
Telephone: (+34) 91 577 79 12
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday, from 9:30 am to 8:00 pm. Sundays and public holidays, from 9:30 am to 3 pm. Monday, closed.