16th September 2016: Some Madrid (Spain) Museums

I woke up one morning, a silly weekday that I did not have to work for some reason and I decided to wander off and take a day trip to Madrid to see some museums, just because I could.

My first stop was the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, the museum of natural science. The museum is divided into several buildings. The first building holds the “Biodiversity” collection. This includes preserved specimens – in better or worse shape, mostly stuffed, and some skeletons.

Then I walked over to the palaeontology and mineral museum, where at the moment most of the collection is composed of replica, sometimes it feels that you see the same diplodocus or arsinoitherium (two-horned rhino) skull everywhere. Of course, however, I hunted down every megalodon tooth on site and sight.

After this, I walked around the mineral collection and walked down Castellana Avenue until Colón Square, where I had lunch somewhere before I walked around to see the Museo Arqueológico Nacional – National Archaeological Museum. There were a few things that interested me there.

My first goal was to study the Iberian stelæ . Nobody really knows what they are or what their meaning is, but it is thought that they were funerary monuments, maybe of fallen warriors.

An interesting thing to see in this museum is the sculpture of La Dama de Elche, the Lady of Elche, the limestone bust of an Iberian lady dated back to the 4th century BC. It is supposed to be a woman who belonged to the aristocracy that was later revered as a goddess, or maybe a reinterpretation of the Goddess Tanit of Cathage. The back part has an opening, which suggests that it could have been a funerary urn. It was originally polychromated, but it has lost its colours. I really like her expression, and probably due to the Hellenistic influence. I have a thing for Greek sculpture, after all.

A second “lady”, the Dama de Baza (Lady of Baza), stands next to the first. This one still keeps some of its colours. This one is full-body, also carved out of limestone, and it traces back to the fourth century too. This lady seems to have been designed in pure Iberian style, without Hellenistic influences.

The last key pieces of Iberian sculpture in this museum are the verracos – sort-of headless boars, pigs or bulls (depending on the interpretation), but it is commonly accepted that they are symbols of protection of cattle routes. Most of them are… visibly male.

Once I had seen what I really wanted to see I wandered over the rest of the museum, stumbling upon the currency exhibition, which was strangely interesting.

I walked past the Medieval rooms and then I found the Egyptian area, which is humble, but has some interesting things like the X-rays of a mummified falcon. Finally, I checked out the classical Greek area before calling it a day and making it back home.