A wealth of finds will highlight the public, private, religious and intellectual life of the region

Since work started in April 2003, archaeologists and conservators have selected from a wealth of finds – sculptures, vases, items in gold and bronze, statues and funeral steles – the material for exhibitions that will relate the public, intellectual and religious life of Macedonia and Thessaloniki from the Iron Age (1000 BC) to the fourth and fifth centuries AD. Twenty-five percent of the some 2,000 exhibits comes from the huge number of items piled up in storehouses. Old finds have been cleaned after 40 years and new ones have undergone conservation in order to go on display for the first time. Renovations A tiled corridor leads to the entrance. The lobby has a new marble floor. New electrical installations, new air conditioners and access ramps for visitors with limited mobility have been added. The internal atrium, with its glass-and-metal roof, provides a well-lit space for meetings and exhibitions. In the inner Pi-shaped room are black display cases for «The Gold of the Macedonians» exhibition and the Derveni Papyrus as a foretaste of what the XVI Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities has in store. «This idea has been part of French museum policy since the time of Andre Malraux,» explains Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum’s director Dimitris Grammenos. «Archaeological objects are selected from all the remains, not on commercial or aesthetic grounds, but so as to make them into means of communication that can appeal to a wider range of visitors.» The first two exhibitions, which are divided into themes such as gold in antiquity and the processing, mining and use of gold in art and cemeteries, will inform visitors about what is called the «archaeology of death.» More than 550 items will guide visitors through the cemeteries of antiquity, providing information about paleo-demography, mortality rates, and population composition. «Contemporary museum concepts aim chiefly at communication and that is the outcome of a long process in 20th century thought that goes from Heidegger and Benjamin to Gadamer and Adorno,» says Grammenos. «Exhibitions retain their authenticity because of the ancient items, and they leave room for individual interpretations.» The Derveni bronze krater (ca. 330 BC) will dominate the space with its bas-relief and relief scenes of the Dionsysiac cult. It is considered to be one of the most important works of antiquity and is one of the museum’s most precious possessions. It acquired great significance with the discovery of the Vergina finds, as it shows the high quality of Macedonian metalwork and art in general. Another treasured item is the Derveni papyrus, a theogonic text of Orphic philosophy on the human and the divine. This has a central position in the gold section, flanked by large excerpts from the text and of the translation made by honorary professor Kyriakos Tsantsanoglou. The new display cases provide the ideal temperature and humidity for sensitive gold items such as wreaths, elaborate jewelry, masks, amber beads from Sindos (510 BC) and groups of ornaments from two graves in Derveni (330 BC), two from Sindos and from the Hellenistic grave of Aineia at Michanionas. Other displays include the gilded chariot seat from the grave of Stavroupolis, Thessaloniki (325-330 BC), the stele of Kallikrateia Halkidiki (mid-fifth century BC) carved from Parian marble by a Parian artist to depict a girl, presumably the deceased, holding a dove which echoes the style of figures on the Parthenon.

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