The Best Archaeology Museums of Spain

1. Museo Nacional de Arte Romano (Merida)

The Museo Nacional de Arte Romano was built in 1986 by the prestigious Spanish architect Rafael Moneo. The building is built with red brick and follows the style of the Trajan’s arch found in the city and is built in the form of a Roman basilica. The building is very impressive and there are 3 stories. The ground floor gives one the message of monumentality because it has the whole height of the building and the roof is covered with skylights, so it is like one is outdoors with all of the light. There are 10 brick arches that are impressive in size. At the end of the building is a huge Roman statue, together with three large marble carvings of heads in the form of medallions about 4 feet in diameter. On the right side are the galleries with steel guard rails, but open to the main gallery. One can find many marble sculptures of people on the left side of the main gallery.

One of the prize exhibits of the museum is the marble bust of Augustus Caesar, which is supposed to be the best in Europe. There are many large floor mosaics that have been hung on the walls of the galleries, like wall hangings, and one can inspect them up close in the galleries. The most impressive mosaic has a hunting scene in the middle and all around it are designs of flowers in many colors. The galleries have many important collections of glass and Roman coins. All in all the museum is visually stunning and is the best Roman age museum in Spain. This building won the prize of the best public building built in Spain between 1983 and 1993. The architect Rafael Moneo was the first Spanish architect to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize (in 1996 - this is the equivalent of the Nobel prize).

This museum has the largest collection of Roman artefacts in Spain. It has more than 30,000 artefacts from Merida, which was the capital of the Roman province of Lusitania. Many of the sculptures in the museum came from the excavations of the Roman theater and amphitheater. Besides the mosaics there are collections of pottery, glassware, coins, and bronze objects.

2. Museo Arqueológico Nacional (National Archaeology Museum), Madrid

The National Archaeology Museum in Madrid is located in a neoclassic building that is shared with the National Library. It has artefacts from the prehistoric to the Baroque.

It has a replica of the Altamira Cave paintings of boars, bison and horses. The real Altamira Cave is located near Santander and is not accessible to the ordinary visitor because the paintings have been threatened by the number of visitors in the past. This replica is located under the garden.

A famous artefact in the museum is the Iberian sculpture of the Dama de Elche. She was supposedly a 5th century BC Iberian woman. Her headgear is similar to the mantillas and hair combs that are used in Valencia. There are also many ancient Visigothic votive crowns that were discovered near Toledo and date back to the 8th century.

Among Roman remains are statues of Tiberius and his mother, Livia. There is an Islamic collection that is one of the best in Spain. There are also collections of Spanish Renaissance lusterware, Talavera pottery, and some rare 16th- and 17th-century Andalusian glassware. An outstanding choir stall from the palace of Palencia dates from the 14th century.

3. Seville Archaeological Museum

This important museum contains Roman objects found in the nearby city of Itálica, the Tartessian treasure unearthed at Carambolo and Oriental pieces. It is located in a Neo-Renaissance building designed by Anibal González for the Latin American exhibition of 1929. The building has a façade with a mixture of baroque and neoclassic architecture.

This museum has the most extensive collection of Roman works of art, collected from all of the province. There is a huge collection of Roman marble statues and many beautiful floor mosaics. The collection is one of the biggest in Spain. The museum has marble statues of the emperors Augustus and Hadrian. They have life masks when the emperors died. The emperors were not handsome, yet when the marble statues were made, they appeared handsome, like gods. So this was their propaganda at that time. So when you see a statue of a Roman emperor anywhere, remember that they were not handsome and their features were made beautiful on purpose.

Also of interest in the museum were recreations of Roman tombs. They were like big cabinets with open shelves. On top were life masks of plaster done when the people died. Below on the shelves were ceramic urns where the ashes of the dead were placed.

4. National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona

The Tarragona Archaeological Museum was founded in the first half of the 19th century. This is the oldest museum of its kind in Catalonia. Tarragona is the modern city that was named Tarraco and founded by the Romans. This was the capital of Hispania Citerior. Many of the archaeological sites in and around the city are the source of the impressive collection of Roman artefacts in the museum.

In 1960 the museum was transferred to its current home in a specially built building that incorporates a section of the Roman walls. It is housed in a new 4 story building on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. The museum has a large collection of Roman artefacts, such as pottery and sculpture. They also had a big collection of mosaics, some with very large dimensions. There is also an impressive coin collection, ceramics and precious metals. The most popular mosaics depicts the head of Medusa.

5. Alicante Provincial Archaeological Museum

This is the city's museum of archaeology. An old hospital was remodeled into a brand new and modern museum. One can see the history of Alicante, from ancient times to modern times. The exhibits in this museum are very well done and explain history very well. This museum is one of the best in Spain and it received international recognition as the 2004 European Museum of the Year for the "originality and intelligent approach" of its exhibits.

6. Cordoba Archaeological Museum

Located in a Renaissance palace and an adjoining new building, it exhibits one of the best Roman art collections in Spain.