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  • Writer's pictureFrancisco Teles da Gama, MA

A Brief History Museu Nacional de Arqueologia in Lisbon

What is the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia?

The Museu Nacional de Arqueologia is Portugal’s national museum of archaeology in Lisbon that was founded in the late 19th century and displays items from over 3,000 sites.

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Museu Nacional de Arqueologia History

The 19th-century scholar José Leite de Vasconcelos had a keen interest in the history and culture of the Portuguese people. In 1893, he founded a museum dedicated to this topic. It also housed the collections of archaeologist and writer Sebastião Estácio da Veiga, to which were added numerous others, from for instance government departments, the archaeological collections of the Portuguese Royal House and those from the former Museum of Fine Arts, along with other pieces obtained through private donation.

In 1903, the archaeological museum was moved from Lisbon’s Academy of Sciences to Belém, to the former monks’ dormitory of the Jerónimos Monastery, and opened to the public three years later. Over the ensuing century, the collection was greatly enriched by widespread archaeological excavations that uncovered many of the wonderful treasures you’ll find exhibited here. Today, the museum displays pieces from over 3,000 archaeological sites, narrating the story of more than half a million years of occupation of Portuguese territory. Its diverse sections include Roman coins, religious icons, and the largest collection of classical sculpture in the country.

Highlights of the collection include Roman mosaics, mostly from the south of Portugal, that are decorated with themes from mythology, as well as the collection of archaic goldware exhibited in the Treasure Room. The 500 or so Egyptian antiquities were acquired by the museum’s founder on a trip to Egypt, as well as by Queen Amélie of Orléans and the noble Palmela family.

Over the last century, the museum has established itself as a leading light in European archaeology, through the conservation and restoration of the treasures in its possession.

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