Treasures of Granada

Unique works from the Archaeological Museum of Granada

By Museo Arqueológico de Granada

Museo Arqueológico de Granada

FacadeMuseo Arqueológico de Granada


In 1879, the Provincial Archaeological Museum of Granada became one of the first provincial museums founded in Spain. Its first collections brought together works of art seized from convents in 1835, and architectural material from buildings demolished during the urban interior reforms undertaken in Granada in the nineteenth century.

Until the mid-twentieth century it shared premises with the Museum of Fine Arts. It then underwent a long pilgrimage through various city buildings such as the Convent of Santa Cruz la Real, the first floor of the Town Hall, and a building in Calle Arandas. It was in 1919 that it found itself in the Casa de Castril, with a first exhibition which was strictly archaeological.

In 1974, due to the professionalization of archaeology and the methodological innovations in archaeological excavations, a new permanent installation was put in place, ranging from the origins of human settlements in the province to the Christian conquest of 1492.

Since 1984, when responsibility for cultural matters was transferred from the state to the Regional Government of Andalusia, the Museum's exhibition has been partially updated, and artifacts recovered from excavations and from more recent chance findings, as well as various teaching resources, have been added.

A global restructuring process, initiated by the civil service, is currently underway, which has as its focus the museum's exhibition and an assessment of the true and unique value of each piece, concentrating on improving conservation methods, on new styles of teaching, and on the application of new technologies.

Bottle (5500 - 4500 BC.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada

Paleolithic and Neolithic

10 million years ago early hominids appeared in the eastern part of the African continent. As they evolved, they migrated to Europe and Asia. Traditionally the idea has been held that they lived from day to day, taking resources which were most readily available from around them and moving on when there were no longer enough of these. Today we know that their economy and everyday life were based on a more complex system that comprised the use of resources, the location of settlements, and population management. In this sense, the study of prehistory in the province of Granada provides us with the keys to understanding this viewpoint. The evolution of man can be traced in this single site, with an archaeological significance that attests to 1.7 million years of human occupation.

Frontal Bone (Middle Palaeolithic, Mousterian, 100,000-30,000 BC.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada


Judging by its physical characteristics—the great thickness of its bones, its developed supraorbital torus, its quadrangular eye sockets—this fossil corresponds to the forehead of a neanderthal boy aged around seven, He lived 75,000 years ago in the Cave of Carigüela, very near what today is the town of Piñar.

The Neanderthals remained relatively unchanged until a very late date, when the first Upper Paleolithic cultures had already appeared across the rest of the continent. This means that the south of the Iberian Peninsula was perhaps his last refuge from the advance of anatomically modern man, Homo sapiens.

Funeral Plate (2600 - 2200 BC.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada

This is a funeral stele drawn on slate, with the highlight being the central anthropomorphic figure.

Shoes of Vegetable Fiber (Neolithic. 5500 - 4300 BC.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada

Esparto grass sandals found in the Cueva de los Murciélagos [Cave of Bats] (Albuñol) by a local resident in 1831. They are noted for their exceptional condition and they are one of the few organic prehistoric remains preserved in the Iberian Peninsula.

Diadem (5500 - 4300 BC.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada

The diadem from the Cueva de los Murciélagos is a fine gold band that was created using the goldbeating technique.

According to the account of Manuel de Gongora, the diadem was found on the skull of a male skeleton, which was part of a collective burial. Although this story is hard to believe, the workmanship of this piece never ceases to amaze.

Crucible (Chalcolithic. 3200 - 2800 BC.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada

From the Copper to the Bronze Age

The big change that took place in the Copper Age was the emergence of mining and metallurgy. It was not introduced all over southern Spain at the same time; while in the high Guadalquivir Valley copper objects were present between 3750 and 3500 BC, in the central regions of Granada evidence of this process would only be seen later. We know of several Millaran fortified villages with circular bastions. Examples of this are El Malagón (Cúllar), Cerro de la Virgen (Orce), and Las Angosturas (Gor).

Anthropomorphic Idol (3200 - 2800 BC.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada

This piece represents a female idol from the Copper Age settlement of Malagón (Cúllar).

It is an articulated idol made of ivory, which is missing its head and maybe its arms, and is just over 16 cm in height.

Cup (1800 - 1500 BC.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada


During the Bronze Age, between about 2250 and 1575 BC, the Argaric Culture developed in the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula.

A large number of Argaric villages are known, usually located close to resources such as river valleys, farmland, and copper ore lodes.

They were composed of rectangular houses made of stone with wooden roofs. In these houses staple goods were produced and consumed: grain was ground, fabric was spun, and textiles and tools were manufactured.

Funerary Urn (1900 - 1600 BC.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada

The custom of burying the dead in the ground inside houses, within a large vessel or pithos, now appeared. This has been interpreted as an attempt to legitimize the ownership of the house and the right to live in the town.

The interment shown is a child urn burial in the town of Fuente Amarga in Galera.

Carinated dish with metal inlay (850 - 750 BC.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada

This font seems to come from Cerro de los Infantes in Pinos Puente, where there was a Late Bronze Age settlement characterized by large oval huts whose inner space was not partitioned, rather it was split into different areas for domestic tasks and craft work.

Cinerary Urn (350 - 300 BC.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada

Colonizers and Iberians

In the early centuries of the 1st millennium BC there were major transformations in the indigenous Late Bronze Age societies in the southeast Iberian Peninsula, due both to their own internal dynamics and to the arrival of different peoples from the central and eastern Mediterranean—Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeks—who settled on our Mediterranean coast. Therefore in the province of Granada there were two cultural areas that functioned somewhat differently: the area of Phoenician-Punic influence on the coast and the area of indigenous Iberian influence inland.

Alabastron (701 - 620 BC.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada


In the necropolis of La Laurita, 22 alabaster urns were found. They were brought from Egypt and probably came from plundering the tombs of the pharaohs. Several of them have cartouches and hieroglyphic inscriptions of Orsorkon II, Takelot II, and Chechonq III, pharaohs of the Bubastite XXII dynasty, dating from the ninth and eighth centuries BC, except for one which is even older.

Alabaster funerary urns contained cremated human remains, accompanied by personal objects belonging to the deceased which were burned to differing degrees, such as rings, bracelets, pendants and amulets.

The hieroglyphic text reads as follows:

"... Your heart will be inebriated to do what constantly pleases your heart. Be intoxicated until eternity. Be happy being sober. What she constantly loves is drunkenness. Braid a crown and put it on your head (after) this has been smeared with incense. Always act according to your heart. Protect the Ka Osor(kon) in Bubastis...".

Bubastis is a place in the Nile Delta; Osorkon was a character related to the Bubastite royal family who must have lived at the time of the Libyan kings, between the ninth and eighth centuries BC.

Scarab (350 - 300 BC.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada

In this scarab, Harpocrates is seen sitting on a lotus flower.

Kotyle (690 - 620 BC.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada

The pieces you see here were part of the trousseau left in the tombs. Many are luxury items of eastern origin only within reach of the highest social classes, in this case the first Phoenician settlers of Sex.

Decorated Ostrich Egg (701 - 620 BC.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada

The use of the ostrich egg in the Phoenician burial ritual draws the eye. The ostrich egg is sacred in character, and in the necropolis it acquires an apotropaic function, driving away evil, and acting as the seed of life and recovery.

Kylix (500 - 400 BC.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada


These pieces of Greek pottery were found buried in a grave together with other luxury imported objects: several Greek ceramic vases, polychrome glass ointment bottles, loom weights, metal and ivory objects, shells, and an ostrich egg shell. These objects form a ritual cache, buried after a banquet or ceremony in which perfumes and ointments were used.

Perfume Vase (600 - 400 BC.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada

The ointment bottles feature prominently among the toiletry items. These types of ointment bottles, along with ivories and Attic ceramics, are considered luxury products that reached the settlements through trade. They usually appear in the necropolis, forming part of the deceased's trousseau, as well as in sanctuaries, inside votive urns, and very occasionally in household settings.

Anatomical Cuirass (400 - 301 BC.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada

The presence of this shell in the south of the Iberian Peninsula links the area to trade from Southern Italy and Sicily from the last decades of the fifth century and throughout the fourth century BC.

Roman God Mercury (75 - 124 AD.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada

Under Rome's control

Romanization is the gradual adoption of the Roman ways of life by the Iberian peoples. This process began in the late third century BC after the victory of the Roman armies in the Second Punic War against the Carthaginians for control of the southern Iberian Peninsula and continued until the first century AD when the Iberian populations were fully integrated into the Roman administration. At this time the cities, territory, society, and beliefs of the Phoenician-Punic and Iberian populations in the province of Granada were transformed, together with their material culture.

Amphora (1 - 100 AD.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada


These jars were used to store and transport oil, wine, and preserves. The pivot at the base meant they could be put on ships. The jars had corks or ceramic lids and were then sealed with a layer of lime and sand where the name or stamp of the owner was recorded. In the Phoenician and later Roman city of Sexi—Almuñécar—the best preserved or salted fish were produced and then traded throughout the Mediterranean.

Potsherd (50 - 150 AD)Museo Arqueológico de Granada


This Roman pottery is located on the grounds of the church of La Cartuja, on the outskirts of Granada. It comprises five ceramic furnaces.

In these potteries, tiles and bricks, large pots, jars or dolia, fine tableware, and luxury ceramics were produced from red, glazed, and glossy clay, called terra sigillata. They were manufactured using standardized molds, meaning it can be linked to Andalusia's largest ceramic production center, Villares de Andujar (Jaén), of which the Granada pottery was probably a branch.

Bust of Ganymed (101 - 300 AD.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada

This Ganymede sculpture comes from the Alhambra, where it had been since the sixteenth century. It is the fragment of a life-size sculpture that originally had to be worked in two pieces, of which only the top one is preserved.

The piece from the Archaeological Museum of Granada is a Roman copy of a Greek original from the classical era, the fourth century BC.

Robed Figure from Periate (200 - 300 AD.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada

This bronze sculpture is a portrait of an important person whose civil role the sculptor wanted to highlight, both by his hand gesture and the ostentatious rings, symbols of power and prestige.

Venus from Paulenca (300 - 400 AD.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada

Venus, the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility, has endless representations in the history of art. Here the craftsmanship of the robe stands out, semi-transparent, clinging to her body with a belt, leaving one breast exposed.

Brick (500 - 699 AD.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada


The slow dissolution of the Roman world in the fourth and fifth centuries, due to the continual crises and the threat of invasions, was a turbulent time for the Hispanic provinces, resulting in a less organized society.

Many people left to live in the countryside, which was a setback for urban planning, but cities continued to maintain their status as capitals, their judicial administration, and their religious functions.

One of the most momentous changes that occurred during these centuries was the gradual Christianization of society.

The first council held in the Hispania Baetica by the Christian church, took place in the city of Iliberi, in the early fourth century. 37 churches from all over Hispania were represented.
The topics discussed were of exceptional importance and would lay the foundations of what was to be the great Catholic church.

Cup (1232 -1492)Museo Arqueológico de Granada


The presence of Islam in Spain lasted eight centuries (from 711 - date of the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula – to 1492 – when Granada was taken by the Catholic Kings). The golden era of the Caliphate of Córdoba during the first 300 years came to an end in an age of fragmentation, or of taifas, which would be followed by new attempts at unification during the Almoravid and Almohad Empire. Thus, after the breakdown of Almohad power, a last Muslim dynasty, the Nazari, would choose Granada as the capital of its kingdom from the year 1237. The Archaeological and Ethnological Museum of Granada is home to pieces of Hispanic-Muslim art of great artistic value, which highlight the work of the Al-Andalus artisans who, looking sometimes for simplicity and others for luxury, used repetition to fill their entire surroundings with religious symbology, from architectural spaces to the decoration of everyday objects.

Ataifor with horse (901 - 1000 AD.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada

This piece, known as The Horse Plate, was a great work of glazed ceramic with decoration painted in green and black (copper and manganese), known in scientific jargon as "manganese green".

Iconographically, the figure of the horse ridden by a knight is frequent in Oriental art, although the image of a horse ridden by a bird is less common.

Astrolabe (1481) by Ibn ZawalMuseo Arqueológico de Granada

In the Islamic world significant advances were also made in the study of the stars.

An astrolabe is a precision instrument, used by scientists, astronomers, and navigators to locate the stars, observe their movements, and find their bearings.

The astrolabe of Granada is one of the forty preserved in the world.

Nasrid Capital (1300 - 1400 AD.)Museo Arqueológico de Granada

Architectural elements are also decorated either with epigraphs or animal or plant motifs—leaves, palmettes—in this example we see an original form of decoration.

Credits: Story

Treasures of Granada

Organised by:
Museo Arqueológico de Granada
Consejería de Cultura de la Junta de Andalucía

Curated by: Museo Arqueológico de Granada y Servicio de Innovación Cultural.
Textoss: Museo Arqueológico de Granada, Recopilación. Exposición "Tesoros de Granada". 2012, Servicio de Innovación Cultural y MUSARAÑA. Gestión Integral de Museos. s.l.
Photography: Javier Algarra, Vicente del Amo Hernández, Rafael Gómez Benito y Archivo Dirección General de Bienes Culturales y Museos.
Digital Edition: Servicio de Innovación Cultural.

Museo Arqueológico de Granada.

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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