The Provincial Museum of Archaeology of Cordoba is state-owned and operated by the Ministry of Culture of the Andalusian Council. Over its long history , the museum has occupied several buildings until being housed at its current location in Cordoba's historical quarter, declared World Heritage City by the UNESCO.
The institution's origins date back to the liberal political reforms of the Spanish Prime Minister Juan Alvarez Mendizábal (1790-1853) whose Law of Disentailment allowed for church properties to be confiscated and resold.
In 1844 the Provincial Monuments Commission was established to oversee this artistic patrimony. The commission was in charge of founding Fine Arts and Antiquities Museums as well as managing archaeological finds, acquisitions and collections that had been donated by illustrious citizens of Cordoba. It was at this time that the Bronze Stag from Medina al-Zahra was acquired.
On March 20, 1867 the Provincial Museum of Archaeology officially came into being by Royal Decree. However, it would not have its own home until 1920 when the collection was housed at 4 Plaza San Juan. The museum was moved again in 1925 to a Mudejar-style house located in Samuel de los Santos Gener. Finally in 1960 the museum was moved to its permanent location in this Renaissance palace formerly belonging to the Paéz de Castillejo family. The museum's majestic façade is attributed to Hernan Ruiz II.
The museum reforms were carried out under the supervision of the architect Félix Hernández. Its stately courtyards and ornamental plants, its Roman remains found in situ and its magnificent collection all come together to make this one of the most important and renowned institutions of its kind. Once the reforms were concluded and the collection in place, the museum was inaugurated in 1962 under the direction of Ana María Vicent.
The exhibition area comprises six halls and four courtyards on the ground floor where the Prehistory, Protohistory, Roman and Visigothic collections are located. Two more halls and a gallery constitute the upper floor where the medieval collection of mainly Arabic artifacts can be seen. In the spirit of a provincial museum, the pieces exhibited here have been recovered from archaeological sites discovered within the city of Cordoba and several towns of the province.
Hall I. A walk through this room, dedicated to the Prehistory of Cordoba, lets us observe the cultural evolution that occurred during this long stage in the history of humanity, stretching over some two million years. Through the objects exhibited we are witness to the appearance of the first biped and tool-maker up to the invention of writing- a process that began slowly but quickly progressed over time.
Hall II. This room is dedicated to Proto-history (from the end of the second millennium to 2 B.C). The exhibit begins with artifacts from the Late Bronze Age and a large variety of objects representing the Iberian-Turdetani culture.
The materials from the Roman epoch comprise the largest and most varied collection of the Museum and invaluable evidence of the importance of the capital of Baetica , Corduba . This Colonia Patricia was a thriving political and cultural center. As a result of the profound romanization that the capital underwent, it was one of the most highly developed cities in the Western Empire; both intellectually and artistically. Its status as a capital city, the variety of functions it carried out, the presence of a wealthy sector, the availability of resources and investment in the city made of Cordoba a monumental town, in both the public and private domain. The city's monumental magnificence was an expression of the power and control it exercised and the museum's collection gives splendid testimony of this. Important pieces from other archaeological sites of the province such as Cabra, Monturque, Almedinilla, Espejo, Pedro Abad, Montilla, Montemayor and Puente Guijo are also exhibited.
Courtyard I. At the museum entrance large architectural pieces are exhibited which demonstrate the various stages of monumentalization and urban growth that occurred in Roman Cordoba. Late Roman stone sarcophagi and statues of robed figures can also be seen.
Courtyard II. Bronze and marble sculpture evolved in a special manner in the Roman world. In the public domain, portrait heads and busts of local figures were placed in the squares and streets alongside images of emperors while representations of divinities were to be found in temples and private homes. The most noteworthy Roman contribution to statuary is the use of portraiture. Sculpture had an important function in Roman times; mainly used for decorative purposes in public monuments in the city squares, it was chiefly iconographic but could also represent religious and cult images.
In this porticoed courtyard several examples of Roman sculpture are exhibited. There are numerous portraits; sculptures of divinities such as the one of Aphrodite which is a Roman copy of a common Hellenistic design; the sculptural group of Mithras sacrificing a bull; or the gods Fortuna, Diana and Minerva. Statues of robed figures, as well as the representation of a ship's prow (once part of a commemorative naval monument) can also be seen. Particularly interesting is the Early Christian sarcophagus decorated with biblical scenes.
Cordoba and its province have provided us with a large number of mosaics, evidence of the sumptuousness of its mansions. The majority of the mosaics conserved in the museum date from the 2nd and 3rd century AD; the Mosaic with She-Wolf and Romulus and Remus, Bacchus' Cortege, or the mosaic depicting Pegasus. The mosaic representing the Four Seasons is later, dating from the second half of the 4th century AD.
Hall III. This room is dedicated to burial monuments. Exhibited are a large number of tombstones, among them a special group of stone tablets with inscriptions dedicated to gladiators killed in battle, and an important collection of uniquely decorated lead sarcophagi.
The reconstruction of a columbarium , a common burial structure used in Roman times to collectively bury the ashes of the dead also forms part of this display.
Courtyard III. Here you will find, conserved in situ, the archaeological remains of a Roman square which was once adjacent to the theater in Cordoba.
In the Early Imperial Period, the use of inscriptions saw a marked increase. We can find texts engraved in stone or bronze which publicly announce important events of public and private life. The inscriptions found here are varied. They are imperial, religious, burial and commercial in nature or refer to public figures and public works. All of them provide us with invaluable information on different aspects of Roman life; political, administrative, economic, social, religious or customs. Especially noteworthy are the inscriptions regarding public works and urban planning such as the fragment of a fountain which makes reference to the Aqua Augusta or the inscription which mentions the Aqua Nova Domitiana Augusta; both of which inform us about the two large aqueducts of Corduba. Also worthy of mention are the two statue pedestals in honor of L. Axius Naso, dedicated to him by the inhabitants of two vici, or districts, of the city.
Of all the mosaics exhibited in the museum, the one discovered at the Roman Villa of Fuente Alamo in Puente Genil deserves special mention for its inscriptions and representations of the River Nile.
Here we find another type of floor pavement which is typical of the domus. Known as the opus sectile, it is made out of colored pieces of marble arranged into geometric patterns. A model of the "El Ruedo" Villa in Almedinilla is also on display. The naiad or fountain nymph is shown as it appeared in its original form decorating a fountain.
Among the inscriptions found in this hall, there is an honorary inscription dedicated to the Emperor Septimius Severus by the Colonia Claritas Iulia Ucubi , now the village of Espejo. Another can be seen in honor of a magistrate from the Roman municipality of Ulía, now Montemayor. The columns, known as "miliaria" columns, were used on Roman roads to mark distances in miles.
In this room we can find capitals and cornices of columns, and other architectural elements such as decorative and plaques in relief. The fine workmanship and use of marble, give evidence of the wealth and magnificence of Colonia's public buildings. The marble corbel representing the winged figure of Victoria originally formed part of a triumphal arch. The architectural exhibit ends here with a model of a temple which once stood in Corduba, known to us today through the archaeological remains which have been conserved in Claudio Marcelo Street.
Among the collection of sculptures there are several which deserve special mention. The white marble Venus of the "Frejus" type, the adolescent Bacchus discovered in Aguilar de la Frontera sculpted in bronze, the magnificent bronze hermaphrodite figure of an adolescent found in Almedinilla, the group of Bacchus hermes, or the excellent portrait of Drusus the Younger found in Puente Genil. Also noteworthy is the well curb depicting the dispute between Neptune and Minerva.
The Aras Taurobolicas, or altars used for sacrificing bulls, are examples of cult objects used in an Oriental rite associated with the nature goddess Cybele.
The display cases also offer examples of different types of Roman pottery such as oil burning lamps, Campanian-style pottery, fine pottery known as "paredes finas", stamped earthenware or "terra sigillata" and imitation Baetica pottery as well as a varied selection of glasswork, coins and personal adornments.
The rest of the objects displayed in Room V date from the Early Imperial period. Some show the influence of the new religious doctrine: Christianity. Daniel being thrown to the lions is represented on the fragment of sarcophagus found in Belalcázar. Among the sarcophagi with pagan motifs, there is a fragment of relief depicting an olive harvesting scene; reflecting the long tradition of olive cultivation in the Baetica region.
Finally we can see Corinthian and Early Visigothic capitals, fragments of Early Christian inscriptions as well as a variety of objects from the period: fragments of light-coloured African terra sigillata, three Early Christian harness pendants and a collection of early imperial coins.
This Renaissance staircase takes us to the second floor. The magnificent 15th century coffered ceiling is carved out of wood into octagonal shapes. Three mosaics from Cordoba and two sculptures complete the exhibit of Roman artifacts.
Hall VI. We have little data on what the city of Cordoba looked like during this time. We do know, however, of the existence of certain basilicas like the one which has been located in the Palatial Compound of Cercadilla. Nevertheless, many artifacts of the culture have been conserved and are exhibited in this room.
The Archaeological Museum's medieval collection is made up for the most part of objects from the Arabic culture. The variety, quality and number of pieces make it one of the most complete collections of its kind in Andalusia.
Cordoba, capital of al-Andalus, played a pre-eminent role in the Late Middle Ages. A large city, it carried out all the functions proper to the center of a caliphate, as well as exercising an important and far-reaching influence on the arts and sciences. The many exhibits of cultural artifacts illustrate the sumptuous andalusí lifestyle.