The Prehistoric Collection grew out of the
discoveries of the great pioneering excavations of the late nineteenth century,
which gave form and title to the civilizations of Greek prehistory.
Two passionate men laid the foundations for the
development of Greek prehistoric archaeology.
Charismatic and ambitious, Heinrich Schliemann
(1822-1890) excavated legendary places like Troy,
Mycenae and Tiryns. Christos Tsountas (1857-1934)
carried on the Mycenae excavations, dug the famous
Vapheio tholos tomb and delved even deeper in time with
his explorations in the Cycladic islands and Thessaly,
which revealed the first civilizations in Greece.
Tsountas initiated the first systematic investigations
in Greece, which set the
standard for research into the Neolithic, Cycladic and Mycenaean civilizations.
As Keeper of the Mycenaean and Egyptian Collections of the Museum, from 1896 to
1904, he was responsible for the first inventory of the Prehistoric
Collection, which was moved to the newly established
National Archaeological Museum in 1892.
In that same year Sophia Schliemann, wife of Heinrich Schliemann, donated his
personal collection of Trojan antiquities to the new museum. The finds of Greek
and foreign archaeologists during the twentieth century enriched the Prehistoric
Collection with priceless works from all over Greece. Exhibits from the
Peloponnese, Attica, Thessaly and the Cyclades make up the body of the
Collection,while important works also come from Lemnos, Lefkada, Kythera and
With the growth of local museums after the Second World War, the input of new
finds to the Prehistoric Collection gradually dwindled and in the 1970s, after
the transport of the famous wall-paintings from Akrotiri in Thera, practically
stopped. New exhibits have enriched the collection inrecent years thanks to the
crack down by Greek authorities on the illicit antiquities trade and their
confiscation of unexpected finds such as the gold jewelry of the 'Neolithic
Treasure' in 1997.
The Prehistoric Collection remains the richest and
most important of its kind in the world. Thousands of visitors converge
each day to wonder the treasures from Mycenae 'rich in gold', the tablets
inscribed with the Linear B script, the enigmatic Cycladic marble idols,
and the Theran wall paintings. The wealth and variety of the exhibits offer both
a comprehensive lesson in Greek prehistory as well as a fascinating journey