This is one of Murcia’s most extensive museums and is housed in an impressive building on the Gran Vía Alfonso X el Sabio, just by its intersection with the Avenida de Jaimé I el Conquistador.

clive Archaeological MuseumThe museum has quite recently been modernized and updated after a lengthy period of closure. Its advertised opening hours seem to vary according to where you look! However, our most up-to-date information was that it opened from 10am-2pm and 5pm-8pm Tuesday to Saturday and 11am-2pm on Sunday, except in July and August when it was just 10am-2pm (Saturday and Sunday 11am-2pm). Fiesta days also saw opening restricted to 11am-2pm4. Entry is – or at least was when we last visited in September 2014 – free. As an explanatory signboard (in Spanish and English) outside the museum tells you, the displays inside are arranged chronologically, covering the Bronze Age, Iberian, Roman and Muslim cultures, although, in fact, there are many earlier exhibits from prehistoric times as well.
The museum has a large number of exhibition halls most of which house permanent exhibitions. However, there is also space reserved for temporary displays and these can be very interesting in themselves.

On entering the building, you come into the main reception area with a large fossil (dated to the Miocene/Pliocene geological era) on display. There is also a map of the towns and archaeological remains found in Murcia. A representation of the geological time period attempts to put the arrival of man and human evolution into something of a historical perspective!

clive Argaric Funeral UrnAs you enter the first room, you find yourself looking at the history of human evolution in Murcia during the Palaeolithic (Stone Age) era. The major developments highlighted are the use of fire and the first tools of stone. The various display cases are well served by explanatory wall panels, although these are only in Spanish. After this, you move on to the Neolithic period of some 8000 to 4000 BC when there were beginnings of sedentary populations and agriculture. The beginning of the production of ceramic items was also one of the distinctive features of this era. There are some fragments of early ceramics to be seen as well as stone axes from the time.
The next room deals with the remarkable cave paintings which are to be found in Murcia which are of a distinctive style known as Levantine. In 1998, the value of Murcia’s cave art was formally recognised by UNESCO. As well as relevant displays, there are videos to watch.

clive Iberian votive figuresA further room has more displays relating to progress during the Neolithic period. Display cases show personal adornments which relate to this period of prehistory, including necklaces. After this, we move on to what is called the “Calcolítico” (or Copper Age) when quite significant settlements began to appear in places of easy defence and there was a beginning of metallurgy. Various display cases contain items such as axes, personal adornments and ceramics such as bowls (more sophisticated than earlier examples). In addition, there are some metal (copper) implements such as a knife from Lorca. Funeral rites were now becoming important and you can see remains from the multiple burial site of the Cueva de Barranco de la Higuera at Fortuna.

Next comes the Argaric Period (Bronze Age) in the Second Millennium BC when there was a flowering of metallurgy in the Iberian Peninsula and substantial settlements like that of La Bastida near Totana appeared. Copper, bronze and silver were now being used for ornaments and arms and, among other items to be seen, are some quite distinctive vases, bowls and other ceramics, as well as weapons, often of bronze. Many of these are from the Rincon de Almendricos at Lorca, dating from the 18th and 17th Centuries BC.
The next room continues with many pots and other remains including weaving weights, fragments of a roof, carbonized cereal seeds and many impressive pots and implements. There are some large funeral urns displayed including a striking brownish one from Moratalla.

clive Iberian votive figuresA subsequent room takes you into the late Bronze Age of around 1100 to 1000 BC at a time when the North African Phoenicians began to sail to trade with the native Iberian populations. Again, there are various pots, metal implements and personal ornaments from this era. Gold and silver objects had now made an appearance and examples are shown.

On the first floor, the historical trip through Murcia’s archaeology continues, now focussing on Iberian and Roman times. The Iberian culture developed in the east coast region of Spain between the 7th and 1st Centuries BC. Writing was developed (though its interpretation is proving more than difficult!), iron was progressively used and sculpting of statues and the making of personal ornaments were other characteristics. Pottery items, many decorated, are numerous – various types of vases, jars, and containers as well as weaving weights and implements such as knives. Then there are stone carvings from the period before you come to a whole host of weapons, plus a bronze helmet dated to the 3rd or 2nd Century BC.

As you would expect, there is much to be seen from Roman times. Romanization of the area progressively occurred from the 4th to the 1st Centuries BC. We found a Roman mosaic (opus signinum) which came from the Loma de Herrerias, Mazarrón, dated to the last quarter of the 2nd Century BC. There were lead ingots also from the Mazarrón area as well as from Escombreras and wooden tools. Considerable explanatory detail is given about mining in Murcia in Roman times. Other displays include pictorial representations to show how Roman roads were made in Murcia and an example of a luxurious Roman house. Items from Roman households of the period are displayed – personal items, a key, nails, needles, bronze surgical instruments, a bronze button, bone items, rings, ointment containers, lamps, cooking utensils, storage jars and urns. There is also an impressive model of the Roman Cartagena at its height with a video representation of various parts of the town such as the baths or theatre as they would have been at the peak of their use.
Another room contains items from later Roman times as well as from the succeeding Visigoth and Byzantine periods, prior to the Moors’ invasion of the peninsula in the early 8th Century AD.

The Archaeological Museum is, therefore, an excellent place to visit to find out about prehistory and early history in Murcia and you can easily spend a couple of hours looking around this imposing building.

Part taken from”Exploring Murcia – Murcia City”, by Clive and Rosie Palmer. Clive and Rosie have written several guide books on towns and regions in Murcia which are available, from, or contact book, “Exploring Murcia, Days Out” is available to buy from the Costa Cálida Chronicle office inside Holmes & Pegg on Camposol B, Best Wishes (who also stock other of their books), or phone Patti on 968 433 978.