The Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos has an unusual location, set in a 3000 year old cemetery in Athens! Featuring artefacts from the surrounding Kerameikos Necropolis, it helps to explain the funerary rites, rituals, and practices of Ancient Greece.
Getting To The Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos
The Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos in Athens, is located in the Kerameikos cemetery at 148 Ermou Street. Some online sources led me to believe that the museum was actually some distance away from the archaeological site of the cemetery, but this is NOT the case. The museum is to be found within the Kerameikos site itself. You might also assume that the nearest metro station would be Kerameikos. Nice try! The nearest one is Thissio.
Kerameikos was a district in the north-west of ancient Athens. Part of this was within the ancient walls, and contained buildings for local artisans. The other part was the Necropolis, or cemetery, and this lay on the other side of the walls. In fact, visiting here gave me a much better idea of the extent of the old city walls, and the general layout of ancient Athens. By the way, if you are walking around the site and hear the sound of running water, that will be The River Eridanos. It's more of a stream nowadays!
The area outside the old city walls has burials dating back to the bronze age. Given everything Athens has endured during the centuries, it is amazing that anything survived from this period at all! The Necropolis is dotted with statues, tombs, and marble blocks with inscriptions that have stood the test of time. It is a very interesting place to walk around, and it starts to build up a mental picture of how Athens looked over 2000 years ago.
It is also a site where things are still discovered. A day after my visit there, it was announced that another Well had been uncovered. One can only wonder what else may lay underneath the ground! Note – Many of the sculptures such as the ones above are copies. The originals are kept in the museum itself.
Inside the Museum of Kerameikos
Onto the Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos itself! This is a relatively small and compact museum, with four rooms centred around an open air quadrangle in the middle. Three of these rooms contain sculptures and other artefacts from the necropolis. The other room contains additional archaeological finds from various eras.
I still find it astounding how some objects such as the ones above have survived through the ages! Without them, we would be left totally in the dark as to how ancient civilisations developed and evolved.
Note the ‘swastika' on the object above. I talked briefly about this ancient symbol in a previous article about the Numismatic Museum of Athens. It has been used in numerous cultures through the centuries, and is still in use in Hindu and Buddhist societies today.
Thoughts on Kerameikos
The Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos in Athens provides a fascinating insight into both life and death in ancient Athens. The exhibits are all well labelled and laid out, and you will come away with a better understanding of how the deceased were honoured in a previous age. It also displays just how skilled the stone-workers of a past civilisation were. If you are planning to visit the site and museum, I recommend allowing at least an hour. It is open between 8.00am and 8.00 pm during the summer Mon-Sun, with shorter hours during the off-season.
More Museums in Athens
Having visited so many museums in Athens now, its is getting harder and harder to come up with a short-list of ‘must visit'. Obviously, I would say that you have to visit them all! This isn't practical for most people, so I would say definitely include this one in your top 5 museums to visit in Athens list. Along with the National Archaeological Museum and the Acropolis Museum, this will help to give a good understanding of Ancient Athens.
Further Information About Athens
I have put together some other guides on Athens that you might find useful when planning your trip.
2 Days in Athens – A guide on what to see and do during 2 days in Athens
Hotels near the Acropolis – Stay at one of the hotels near the Acropolis and make the most of your time in Athens.
Day Trips from Athens – A selection of the best day trips from Athens
Ultimate Guide to Athens – All my travel guides to Athens in one handy place!