National Museum of Archaeology 125 years have passed

Discover the museum's collection!

"Religions of Lusitania. Loquuntur saxa"

José Leite de Vasconcellos, founder of the National Museum of Archaeology, was the great researcher who, 100 years ago, for the first time, studied exhaustively and methodically the Lusitanian Religions that gave rise to the remarkable work of the same name.
In his honor, on June 27, 2002, an exhibition “Religions of Lusitania - Loquuntur saxa ”, was inaugurated at the National Museum of Archaeology. curated by José Cardim Ribeiro.
In this exhibition it was possible to find local divinities of the peoples that inhabited the territory that came to be called, in Roman Period, Lusitania, many of Greco-Roman origin, as well as others imported from distant places.

Roman patera depicting the myth of Perseus (1st - 2d Centuries AD)National Museum of Archaeology

A museum built to house a nation's archaeological heritage

The National Museum of Archaeology is the largest Archaeological Museum in Portugal and one of the most important museums devoted to ancient art found in the Iberian Peninsula. Located in Lisbon, the museum was founded in 1893 by the archaeologist José Leite de Vasconcelos and was officially opened at Jeronimos Monastery, in 1906.

" Laurel Leaf " - spear point (Upper Paleolithic)National Museum of Archaeology

The Museum results of José Leite de Vasconcelos' efforts to create an archaeological museum dedicated to the history of Portuguese man.
The museum is one of the most important centre for archaeological research in Portugal.

Vase. Cardial ceramic with decorative elements - Early Neolithic (Fifth millennium BC)National Museum of Archaeology

The collection includes artefacts from prehistoric times to XX th century.

Anthropomorphic Schist Plaque (Chalcolithic Period)National Museum of Archaeology

The megalithic tombs, or ‘dolmens’, of Alto Alentejo, were commonly built from huge granitic dales, and are especially impressive for their monumentality. As funerary items, the engraved shale plaques are iconic typological marks. In some dolmens, dozens – at times even more than one hundred plaques – have been found, confirming the tradition of collective tombs within these monuments, a primitive agro-
pastoralist practice.

Engraved plaque, in shale, Megalithism, Dolmen of Idanha-a-Nova. National Portuguese Treasure.

Cerimonial Torc (4th - 2nd centuries BC - Second Iron Age)National Museum of Archaeology

The main collection

The main nucleus of the collection consists of Archaic jewellery kept in the Treasures Exhibition Room. It is one of the most important collections of its kind in the Iberian Peninsula.

Chalcolithic pair of earrings made from gold-leaf. (Copper Age)National Museum of Archaeology

Pair of earrings made from gold-leaf.
They are notable exemplars of Estremadura Chalcolithic jewelry

Necklace - Iron Age (6th - 5th centuries BC)National Museum of Archaeology

A necklace from the Iron Age, found in Vale da Malhada Portugal.

Vale de Malhada, Sever do Vouga. Portugal

Bronze Age Skewer with zoomorphic details (Late Bronze Age)National Museum of Archaeology

Metal artefacts

The museum's metalwork collection is representative of the mineral and metallurgical history of the Iberian Peninsula, which includes tools created in copper from the Chalcolithic period (middle of the 3rd century BC). In addition to these the collection contains the oldest iron tools found inside tombs located in the Alentejo region dating to the first Iron Age (7th-6th Century BC). Of particular importance is a group of artefacts named the "Atlantic Bronzes" and farming tools from the Roman Period.

Ritual incense burner. Thymiaterion (7th - 6th centuris BC, Iron Age)National Museum of Archaeology

Ritual incense burner from the Iron Age. The piece consists of two parts, with a figure of a bull set upon a tripod. The piece bears close resemblance to a similar artefacts widely used throughout the Mediterranean, the provenance of which is believed to have its origins in Cyprus.

Etruscan mirror (-99/99)National Museum of Archaeology

Etruscan mirror, possibly showing Helen1st cent. BCE – 1st cent. CE

Etruscan mirror (-99/99)National Museum of Archaeology

Etruscan mirror, possibly showing Helen1st cent. BCE – 1st cent. CE

Bird-shaped oil lamp (14th century AD - Islamic Period)National Museum of Archaeology

Bird-shaped oil lamp from the Islamic Period

‏‏‎ Female Bust ‏‏‎ Female BustNational Museum of Archaeology


The museum also has the largest collection of Classical sculpture in Portugal. From this period, items of particular technical and stylistic value are the togate statues from Mertola, the Apollo from the Herdade do Álamo (Alcoutim), the scultures of Quinta das Longas (Elvas), the sarcophagi from Troia (Grândola) and Castanheira do Ribatejo (Vila Franca de Xira) and the female female portrait of Milreu (Faro).

Frieze of sarcophagus lid showing philosophers and Muses Frieze of sarcophagus lid showing philosophers and Muses (200/290)National Museum of Archaeology

Frieze of sarcophagus lid showing philosophers and Muses.
National Museum of Archaeology
Inv.: 994.21.1
3rd cent. CE – Roman period

Base of a sculpture - soldier (2nd century AD)National Museum of Archaeology

S. Miguel da Mota's Sanctuary

Notable also is the collection found in the Sanctuary of S. Miguel da Mota (Alandroal) which is the largest collection of its kind sculpted from marble typical of Vila Viçosa/Estremoz.
In 1890, José Leite de Vasconcelos began archaeologial campains in S. Miguel da Mota's Sanctuary (Alandroal)and many sculptures and inscriptions were gathered there.

‏‏‎ Statue of Apollo ‏‏‎ Statue of ApolloNational Museum of Archaeology

Nude Apollo a symbol of divinity, next to him is a shepherd's bag. This figure of a young Apolo is the protector of shepherds, culture and knowledge. This is one of the largest classical sculptures found in Portugal. From what remains of the head/hair it can be deduced that the head was made according to hellenistic practices. These types of sculptures were common in the second century AD.

Herdade do Álamo, Alcoutim

Bust of Dionysus (2nd century AD)National Museum of Archaeology

Bust of Dionysus or a young Bacchus, crowned with a traditional "corimbus", his shoulders and chest are covered by one of the animal skins dedicated to the Gods – panthers, leopards and wolves. The dreamlike look of the sculpture's face, and the almost baroque quasi feminine style of its execution, suggests this sculpture was created by the "pathos" school during the period of Hardian (2nd century AD) known for the it sculptures of Antinous, Hadrian’s companion.

Frieze of sarcophagus lid showing philosophers and Muses Frieze of sarcophagus lid showing philosophers and Muses (200/290)National Museum of Archaeology

Frieze of sarcophagus lid showing philosophers and Muses. The Muse Clio.
National Museum of Archaeology
Inv.: 994.21.1
3rd cent. CE – Roman period
Convento de Chelas, Lisbon

Roman Nymph (2nd century AD)National Museum of Archaeology

This sculpture represents an idealized nymph, which represents the classical understanding of feminine beauty and her association with the element water. Nymphs, female divinities, were idolized by the Greeks, they resided in water, mountains, forests and fields representing the elements and forces of nature. For this reason representations of nymphs during roman times could be found in fountains and springs and buildings with water features. Stylistically, the work bears many resemblances to 4th century AD Greek sculptures, however the way the eyes have been sculpted allows one to trace its origins to the second quarter of the 2nd century AD.

Statue Silenus (or Bacchus) resting (1st century AD - Roman Period)National Museum of Archaeology

A statue of Silenus, featured as an elderly man resting with a glass of wine in hand. The sculpture was found in the Roman Theater of Olisipo (Roman Lisbon). This theater saw major renovation works under the time of Nero.

Statue of a Gallaecian warrior (1st century AD)National Museum of Archaeology

Emblematic of the Castro Culture in North Portugal and south of Galiza are the monumental granite statues of Galaico, or the Lusitano, Warrior, as it has been popularized. The robust monolith demonstrates typical attributes of the warriors: the shield, the short sword, the cloth and iron knit, the bracelet - or viria, and the torque - the ritual gold necklace reserved for princes.

The museum has the largest and most significant collection of Castro sculpture in the Iberian Peninsula. The collection also possesses the "Verraco" zoomorphic sculptures, probably created for totemic purposes.

Mosaic panel depicting muses Apolo and Dafne. Painel VI. Mosaico das Musas. (4th century AD)National Museum of Archaeology

Roman mosaics

Even though many Roman mosaics have been found in Portugal, this collection cannot be considered of international importance, especially when compared to collections in neighbouring Spain and Northern Africa.

The most important items are mosaics from the Roman villas of Torre da Palma, Santa Vitória do Ameixal, Milreu, and Montinho das Laranjeiras.

The most common themes found in these mosaics come from classical mythology: the Journey of Odysseus, Orpheus, the Labours of Hercules. Almost all the mosaics date from the 3rd Century BC.

Mosaic panel depicting muses Mosaic panel depicting muses (4th centuruy AD)National Museum of Archaeology

The Mosaic of the Muses is part of a set of 11 figurative dress panels depicting mythological scenes. The was found in the roman villa of Torre de Palma, in Monforte, Portalegre.

The Muses are displayed in the following order:
Clio (History)
Euterpe (Music)
Erato (Lyric Poetry)
Thalia (Comedy)
Melpomene (Tragedy)
Urania (Astronomy)
Calliope (Epic)
Polyhymnia (Hymns and Pantomime)
Terpsichore (Lyric Poetry)

Mosaic panel depicting muses «Triumph of Bacchus» . Mosaic of the Muses. Panel X (4th century AD)National Museum of Archaeology

The Triumph of Dionysus/ Bacchus

Bacchus’/ Dionysus’ voyage to the East is a well known episode of ancient mythology. The god returns to the west with a large court: Silenus, Bacchae, nymphs, satyrs, the god Pan. They carry with them the thyrsi embellished with flowers, stocks of grapes, garlands of ivy, and musical instruments. Bacchus/ Dionysus leads the procession.
The mosaic shows a procession of sixteen characters moving towards the right. A carriage is pulled by tigers and driven by a satyr and Pan. One of the Bacchae carries a thyrsus, the other a flute. The Mosaic was found in the roman villa of Torre de Palma, in Monforte, Portalegre

Mosaic panel depicting muses "Hercules Furens". Mosaic of the Muses. Panel IX (4th century AD)National Museum of Archaeology

Hercules in Fury

Hercules (the Roman name for Herakles) is the son of Zeus and Alcmena and possibly the most famous of Greek heroes. Zeus’ wife Juno, out of jealousy, has maddened the hero, so that he no longer recognizes his children. Hercules is about to kill his children (depicted on their knees). Megara, his wife, is anguished. The motif of Hercules possessed by madness is rare in mosaics.

Gold buttons from the Late Iron Age (Late Iron Age)National Museum of Archaeology

Gold jewellery

The museum's collection, built over more than a century, has over 1.000 items of gold jewellery dating from Pre-History to Classical Antiquity. The collection, which was kept from the public, is available for all to see, since 1980, and displayed diachronically.

Some of the most important items found in this collection are: the treasures of the Herdade do Álamo (Alcoutim) and Baião, the Arrecadas from Paços de Ferreira, the notable Torc of Vilas-Boas ( (Vila Flor)

Signet ring with representation of Mars (1st & 2nd century AD)National Museum of Archaeology

It is known that, in the first phase of the Empire, gold was scarce, being fundamentally used in coinage, which allowed long distance trade.
With the growth of the Empire, its use in goldsmithing increased and the use of jewelry became common after the conquest of territories where there were precious metals.

Roman jewellery is also well represented in the Museum collections, like multiple neckless and rings with gems depicting mythological thems, as this exemple of signet ring with Mars. He is depicted naked with a helmet, in his right hand he carries a staff and in the left a spear.

Roman hospitality plaque (31)National Museum of Archaeology

Roman Inscriptions and Epigraphy

José Leite de Vasconcelos was a noted epigraphist, and because of his love for his profession, the museum boasts one of the best national collections of epigraphy. The vast majority of the collection is of Latin epigraphy. It entails funerary (primarily plaques, stellae, arae, cupae, cippi) as well as votive monuments (mainly arae). The museum also holds a collection of important Early Christian epigraphy.

Pedestal in honour of Divus Augustus (1st century AD)National Museum of Archaeology

A marble pedestal with the following inscription: DIVO.AVGVSTO / C(aius) . ARRIVS . OPTATV[S] / C(aius) . IVLIVS . EVTICHVS / AVGVSTALES a dedicatory plaque to Divinio Agustus by holy men of his his divinity's clery. To become a clergyman during roman times was a possible form of emancipation from slavery.

‏‏‎ Roman coin with a representation of Rome and SaturnNational Museum of Archaeology


The museum's coin collection consists primarily of coins from the Portugal's Roman period. There are over 30.000 Roman coins in the museum's archives, which include items of some of the first coinages produced in Lusitania. The vast majority of this collection comes from widely dispersed findings and treasures.

Of these, those dating to the Republican period (Santana da Carnota, Mértola) and to the late Roman period (Porto Carro, 3rd Century AD, and Troia, 4th Century AD) are of particular significance. With the exception of Sirpens (Serpa), all mints producing coins in territories which are now part of modern Portugal are represented.

Plated denarius of Julius Caesar showing Aeneas carrying his father Anchises (-47/-46)National Museum of Archaeology

Plated denarius of Julius Caesar showing Aeneas carrying his father Anchises on his shoulder and holding the palladium in his right hand.
National Museum of Archaeology.

Aureus of Faustina I Aureus of Faustina INational Museum of Archaeology

This aureus representing Faustina I deified with an inscription: DIVA.FAVSTINA. In the coin reverse is represented Ceres with the inscription AVGVSTA

Aureus coin of Hadrian showing Hercules (119 - 128 AD)National Museum of Archaeology

Aureus coin of Hadrian showing Hercules.
119 d.C. - 128 d.C.
National Museum of Archaeology

Golden Egyptian funerary mask (4th - 1st Centuries BC)National Museum of Archaeology

Ancient Egypt

The Collection of Ancient Egyptian art contains 584 items, of which 309 can be found on display. It has several origins. The initial collection was purchased by José Leite de Vasconcelos in 1909 during his visit to Egypt. Later the collections of Queen Amélie of Orléans and of the Palmela Family were added. Despite its relatively small size, this collection covers the history of Egypt from the pre-dynastic to the Coptic eras.

Wrapped mummy of Sukhetsahor (-250/-200)National Museum of Archaeology

Mummy of Sukhetsahor a man 51 to 60 years (1.66 m +/- 4 cm).from the Initial Ptolemaic period, Akmin 250-200 B.C. (2.200 years).

Pabasa CT-3DR sagittal view and sarcophagus lateral view (-663/-323)National Museum of Archaeology

Sarcophagus with the mummy of Pabasa.
Late period 663 - 323 B.C
Man 40 to 50 years, 1,62 m ± 4 cm

‏‏‎ ‏‏‎ (1st century AD)National Museum of Archaeology

Greco-Roman world

The museum holds a diversity of items stemming geographically from the Greco-Roman Mediterranean and chronologically from the Classic and Pre-Classic period. In this collection are items collected by José Leite de Vasconcelos in Greece and items purchased at auctions (a recent example of this is an ancient Panathenaic Amphora originating from Pompeii or Herculaneum).

Springtime (19th century)National Museum of Archaeology


Of particular note are the nuclei of Popular Religious Art, which contain religious iconography, votive offerings, votive panels, amulets, and pastoral arts (spoons, horns, gunpowder horns), looms for weaving, musical instruments (including an 18th Century Accordion), toys, and smoking paraphernalia, Portuguese faience from the 17th to 20th centuries from several factories and periods, as well as pottery from Barcelos, Gaia, Caldas da Rainha, Mafra, Nisa, Estremoz, Redondo and the Algarve.

Roman lamp with Dionysian narrative (30/100)National Museum of Archaeology

From the Prehistoric times to XX century can be found in this incredible collection!

Credits: Story

António Carvalho, Director National Museum of Archaeology

Curation and texts:
Filomena Barata (Museu Nacional de Arqueologia, Direção-Geral do Património Cultural)

Other support texts:
National Museum of Archaeology. Matriz Net
Luís Raposo, National Museum of Archaeology.

Digital production:
Luis Ramos Pinto

Language revision:
Joy Littlewood (independent scholar based at Oxford)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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