Chania Archaeological Museum

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Location: Town
Don't miss: Museums guide (free admission dates and other useful info)

The Archaeological Museum of Chania is one of the most significant cultural centers in Crete, with a huge collection of ancient findings from various periods that offers insight into the rich history of the island. Its foundation was decreed in 1899 and the archaeological collection began to be compiled in 1900. As it was originally housed in government buildings, a number of items were destroyed in a 1934 fire, while others were lost during the Second World War. In 1963, the exhibits were moved to the impressive main church of the Monastery of Saint Francis, which dates back to the Venetian period.

Due to the need for more modern and spacious installations, the museum shut down in 2020, and its collections were transferred to a brand new specifically designed building with a modern infrastructure. Located in the historic Halepa district, the new building comprises two linear masses, one straight and the other angled. Making the most out of the inclination of the ground, the structure seems to be hulk-sunken in the ground, dynamically thrusting up towards the Aegean Sea. This is a symbolic reference to the findings of past civilizations, which have been brought to light out of the very same Cretan soil. Additional facilities include a cafe, a gift shop, a car parking area, and rooms capable of housing temporary exhibitions, educational programs and events.

The new museum opened on the 16th of April 2022, boasting over 4,100 pieces. The permanent exhibition is arranged in three large halls on the ground floor, while the upper floor displays items from a private collection. The first gallery provides invaluable information about the island’s distinctive climate, and geographical features, as well as about its key position at the crossroads of three continents. Here, visitors can see artifacts from Gavdos, where hundreds of tools attest to human activity since the Paleolithic period. There are also Neolithic objects from the area of Chania, followed by Minoan findings from Kasteli Hill. These consist of remarkable Linear A and Linear B tablets, roundels, seals, and grave goods illustrating the importance of the palatial center of ancient Kydonia.

The second gallery focuses on the transition from prehistory to history and the city-states of Kydonia and Aptera. Exhibits encompass marvelous statues and mosaics, figurines, clay pots with relief emblems, glass and marble vessels, as well as reconstructions of the city-states’ founding, topography and cults.

The third gallery revolves around aspects of everyday life up to the 4th century AD, unveiling the worlds of women and children, the status of men, religious customs and funerary practices. Besides a plethora of artifacts, it comprises a reconstruction and video presentation of the so-called Miser’s House, which was destroyed in a tremendous earthquake in 365 AD, the imposing statue of Emperor Hadrian from the sanctuary of Diktynna, and outstanding sculptures from the Asklepieion of Lissos.

The collection on the upper floor features objects from the 4th millennium BC to the 3rd century AD, such as vases, figurines, seals, jewelry, weapons, and tools. Among the numerous pieces that stand out is a sealstone depicting a Minotaur, a clay boat model containing a honeycomb, a bronze dagger with an elaborate gold hilt, and a gold diadem with a Medusa head, to name but a few.

Accessibility: The museum's facilities are wheelchair-friendly and tactile exhibits with Braille signage have been incorporated into the collection.

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