The National Archaeology Museum of Spain occupies a huge, Neo-Classical building in the elegant Salamanca neighbourhood, and contains more than 1,300,000 artworks and artifacts that span millennia, and have been gathered from around the world. After an expensive and lengthy renovation, the museum reopened its doors in 2014 with more than 10,000 sq m (12,000 sq yds) of gallery space to show off its dazzling collection. Major attractions include enigmatic female statues, sculpted by Iberian tribes more than 2,000 years ago, glittering collections of Visigothic goldwork and even some curious and unique early calculators.
Calle Serrano, 13 • 915 77 79 12 • http://www.man.es/man/home.html • Open 9:30am–8pm Tue–Sat, 9:30am–3pm Sun and public hols; closed 1 & 6 Jan, 1 May, 9 Nov and 24, 25 & 31 Dec • Adm €3 (free 2–8pm Sat, 9:30am–3pm Sun)
The main entrance is on Calle Serrano. The collection is laid out chronologically, with the Prehistoric section on the ground floor; Roman, Late Antiquity, Medieval Al-Andalus and Protohistory galleries on the first floor, and the Modern and Medieval Era collections on the second floor. Coins and medals are displayed on a mezzanine level between the first and second floors. The museum’s star exhibit, Dama de Elche is found in Room 13.
This magnificent hoard of Visigothic votive crowns and crosses, discovered in a Spanish orchard in the mid-19th century, dates back to the 7th century. One of the finest pieces is the golden votive Crown of Recesvinto, studded with blue sapphires.
This is Spain’s answer to the Mona Lisa – a polychrome bust of a female figure which dates from the 4th century BC. The “Lady of Elche” is remarkable for its sophistication, the superb quality of the carving and the woman’s enigmatic expression.
The museum’s collection of coins and medals is one of the largest and finest in Europe. Among the earliest coins are a Carthaginian trishekel and a silver tetradrachm engraved with the profile of Ptolemy IV, both of which date to the 3rd century BC.
This exquisitely carved, ivory urn is considered to be one of the greatest jewels of Islamic art, and was commissioned by Al-Hakam II, the Caliph of Cordoba, for Subh, a Basque slave who became his favourite concubine but died young.
Another of the remarkable Iberian statues depicting a female figure, the 4th-century BC Lady of Baza is seated on an armchair, and features the same inscrutable expression as her more celebrated neighbour in the same gallery.
Dating back to between 1000 and 800 BC, this Bronze Age engraved stone discovered in Cáceres is thought to be a funerary stela, and depicts a heroic figure surrounded by chariots and weapons.
This large Roman marble well is carved with graceful figures from Greek myths, including the birth of Athena in Olympus. The well was acquired by Felipe V in the 18th century.
Purchased for the museum’s collection in 2007, this elegant praying figure was carved around 2,500 BC in Mesopotamia (now Iraq). Sumerian votive figures like this one were commissioned for temples.
The museum has an extensive collection of Roman art and statuary. This richly decorated sarcophagus, carved in Rome for a wealthy patron and brought to Hispania, depicts the story of Orestes, who figures prominently in several Greek tragedies.
This cabinet of bronze and ivory rods and strips, engraved with multiplication tables, is a rare 17th-century calculator. It was invented by John Napier of Edinburgh and is often called “Napier’s bones”.