My impressions from the Museum of Cycladic Art

I recently visited the Museum of Cycladic Art, at 4 Neofytou Douka St. and 27 Vasilissis Sophias Ave. The Goulandris shipowner family, well-known for their support to Greece's heritage (different strands of the family are also behind the Museum of Natural History in the Athenian suburb of Kifissia and the Museum of Contemporary Art in the island of Andros) is behind this central Athens museum. Initially established to house the archaeological collection of Nicholas and Dolly Goulandris it has grown to be quite a gem in Athens' list of museums.
Corner of Vasilissis Sofias Ave. and Neofytou Douka St.

Entrance of the Museum of Cycladic Art, at 4 Neofytou Douka St., Athens, Greece 

Temporary exhibitions are hosted in a long hall to your right ("the new wing") as you enter the Ground Floor. The current one (running till April 10, 2013) is called "Princesses of the Mediterranean in the dawn of history" and showcases findings (golden artifacts like ornaments) found in ancient tombs, belonging to women who posessed power and/or wealth. It includes exhibits from what is currently Greece, Italy (including from the Vatican Museum) and Cyprus. Photography in the temporary exhibitions is not permitted but you can take a good look at it through the museum's official websiteThe Ground Floor also hosts the museum shop, a cafe inside an atrium and takes you, through a ramp, to the annexed Stathatos Mansion  which also hosts temporary, special events.

My 5-minute sum-up of the permanent collections has as follows:
Cycladic figurine
Floor No.1 [notice I'm not saying "first floor" so as to not confuse my US readers!] holds the collection that gives the museum its name: Marble figurines and other artifacts from the Aegean island group named the Cyclades from the early Bronze Age (that's about 3200 to 2000 BC)! The name Cyclades comes from the rather cyclical shape this island group seems to form when seen from the sky (which is a good starting point for crafting theories on aliens inhabiting earth and the like, but that's another story...!). I'd be a phoney if I pretended to make expert judgements (read here) but the way the collection is set up (just like the rest of the museum) is a real feast for the eyes and you get a strangely cosy feeling walking around these marble figurines which are 4 to 5 thousand years older than you.

Floor No.2 continues chronologically from floor no.1 but expands geographically to include a much larger part of Greece. Besides the exhibits themselves I was intrigued by a short and most informing presentation on the Linear A and Linear B scripts (ancient forms of writing) in one of the several touch-screen presentations (if only the touch-screen was a bit more responsive...). If you devot enough time here you can see exhibits and read about various aspects of life in ancient Greece (athletics, death, music, the status of women) and how they passed into art.

Stone-made ship anchor, from the early to mid-bronze age 

Animal shaped figurines and more, at the 2nd floor of the Museum of Cycladic Art 

Screen explaining the basics of the Linear B script - Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens 

Floor No.3 holds the permanant Cypriot Collection. It is the most visually stunning display of ancient artifacts I've seen in Greek museums as the exhibits are held by -almost invisible- metal tongs, mid-air against a bright blue background. Again, there's a whole number of screens for those who want to delve deeper into the subjects presented (coins from Cyprus). An interesting piece of trivia I learnt while here: The English word "copper" derives from ancient Cyprus (due to its vast copper reserves); "Cuprium aes" (‘metal of Cyprus’) was the name given to "copper" back in those days.

Glass bowls / vases from the Cypriot collection - Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, Greece 

Cypriot collection - Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, Greece

Money and copper in ancient times - Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, Greece 

Floor No.4 is the most interesting one if you have children with you. It follows the life of an ancient Greek boy as it goes through several stages in life. A timeline in the form of a long comic strip is drawn here -at a height suitable for a small child to gaze- while the wall's background has photographs from the life of this imaginary ancient young man. A video is also presented towards the end of the hall. I would suggest that if you come to Athens with very young children the Goulandris museum, and its 4th floor, should certainly be part of your vacation. It might even entice your young ones to be less restive while you visit other archaeological sites and museums.

The life of an ancient Greek boy, portrayed in the 4th floor of the Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, Greece 

The life of an ancient Greek boy, portrayed in the 4th floor of the Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, Greece 
The Stathatos Mansion, at 31 Vasilissis Sophias Ave, pictured above, has become part of the Museum of Cycladic Art (connected via a ramp/corridor).

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