The renowned Government House at Tzanakakis Square, inside the castle of Kastelli, is one of the prominent and most characteristic Venetian Era constructions in the town of Kissamos. Located in the old town part, once the Venetian centre, later taken over by Turkish occupants, who expanded the castle walls to include the Government House. Over the years and up until 2006, there have been numerous changes to the inside and outside; it houses the Kissamos Archaeological Museum ever since.
The Literary Club of Kastelli began collecting archaeological finds from the wider area in 1936 and, in the following year, displayed those available across two halls on the ground floor, while the rest of the building housed public services such as the District Court and the Land Registry. From 2000 to 2006, necessary redevelopment work took place so that the building can operate solely as a museum.
At the entrance of the Museum, a digital presentation informs visitors on the catastrophic earthquake of 365 B.C. that levelled western Crete. Exhibits are organised thematically, by excavation and chronologically, spanning a period from prehistoric era to late antiquity.
Here is a concise layout of the Museum sections:
Hall 1: introductory presentation via a chronological table, a map of the area’s archaeological sites and findings from excavations at Minoan Era Nopigia.
Hall 2: anything regarding the Geometric era and mainly objects collected from the ancient city-states of Polyrrhenia and Falasarna during Hellenistic times.
Hall 3: a follow-up to the Hellenistic times exhibition featuring ceramic artefacts representative of the era, the most prominent being the large black gloss amphorae with embedded embossed insignia cast in moulds. There is also a display of signs and sculptures mainly from Roman occupancy times.
Approaching the stairs or the lift to the first floor, one can observe the surviving part of an excavated Roman bath, over which the Museum’s structure was built during Venetian occupancy.
Hall 4: the Museum’s largest hall is dedicated to the urban villas of Graeco-Roman Kissamos and contains a multitude of mosaic floors, sculptures, table bearers, a sundial and an ‘opus sectile’ sample (the technique of setting coloured marble in a mosaic floor).
Hall 5: themed after the city’s economic and trading activity, it contains coins and amphorae along with relevant informative material.
Hall 6: dedicated to the everyday life of the population, displaying household items made of metal, clay or bone and, additionally, the craftsmanship of clay and ore workshops.
Hall 7: this last hall displays tomb findings. Grave goods from the 4th century B.C. as well as from the Roman and Palaeo-Christian times.
It is housed in the old building of the Venetian-Turkish Headquarters which was inside the perimeter of the Venetian castle, fortified during the Turkish occupation.
The exhibits of the Museum give an idea of the history in the wider region of Kissamos through the times, from the prehistoric era up to and including late antiquity, i.e. the early Christian period. The exhibition is split into sections based on chronological and local criteria and it takes up the ground and the first floor of the building. This way the visitor comes across the antiquities of the region in chronological order. Moreover, the findings are presented as excavation sets and thematical units.
The exhibition of the Museum provides a lot of informational and educational material. To attract the visitors’ interest and give them a more in-depth look, there is an electronic presentation with research and evidence concerning the most devastating earthquake of antiquity in 365 AD that hit Crete and demolished Kissamos.
Part of the ground floor with the domed-ceilinged rooms, already from 1937 had been given to the housing – exhibition of the Public Archaeological Collection founded in Kastelli in 1936, while the rest of the building housed at times mostly public services like the district court, the agricultural authority, the land registry, a library etc.
Later, after housing different services successively, more rooms were added to the original ones, so the largest part of the ground floor contained the ancient objects. This is when the 25th (KE) Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities started works for the extension – re-establishment of the Collection’s exhibition.
The newer floor was gradually abandoned by the offices it hosted, deemed unsuitable.
In 1989 the building got included in the programme agreement between the Ministry of Culture – Fund of Archaeological Proceeds – Municipality of Kissamos, aiming to carry out studies, restoration and equipment works, in order to host several Collections (folklore, Byzantine icons and antiquities).
Works to restore the Kissamos Headquarters building and convert it to an Archaeological Museum started in 2000, within the framework of the 2nd Cofinanced Development Programme. The project for exhibiting the antiquities in this new Museum was placed under the care of the Regional Operational Programme of Crete within the framework of the 3rd Cofinanced Development Programme. The works were finished, and the Museum opened its doors in September 2006.
The exhibition of the Museum provides an idea of the history in the wider region of Kissamos through the times, from the prehistoric era up to and including late antiquity, i.e. the early Christian period. However, it gives special emphasis to the Roman city of Kissamos which takes up the entire floor.
The exhibition is split into sections based on chronological and local criteria and it takes up the ground and the first floor of the building. This way the visitor comes across the antiquities fo the region in chronological order. Moreover, the findings are resented as excavation sets and thematical units. The exhibition of the Museum provides a lot of informational and educational material.
Sections of the Exhibition
Room 1: The exhibition starts with a general chronological table and a map with the archaeological sites of the region represented in the exhibition. Following that is the presentation of the Minoan era with findings from the digs in Nopigia.
Room 2: The exhibition starts with the Geometric era and focuses on the development of the most important city-states of western Crete, Polyrrhenia and Falassarna, cities that peaked during the Hellenistic period.
Room 3: The presentation of the Hellenistic era continues with ceramic findings from non-autonomous cities and settlements in the wider region. Typical samples of the ceramic production of western Crete are the large amphorae with black glazing and matrix-cast emblems affixed on them. Hellenistic inscriptions are exhibited in the same room followed by the largest part of the sculpture selection of the Kissamos region, mostly works from the period of the Roman occupation.
Preserved in its original place near the lift, below the stairwell, is part of the dig of a Roman bath, on top of which the Museum was built during the Venetian occupation.
The entire first floor is dedicated to the town of Kissamos and the findings from the numerous digs. The exhibition starts around the stairwell where there is informational material, continuing with representative samples of murals and one table support.
Room 4: The largest room of the Museum is dedicated to the presentation of urban villas in the Hellenistic-Roman Kissamos. Here, one can admire the mosaic floors, a sample of opus sectile, a solar clock, sculptures and table supports.
Room 5: The exhibition of the room focuses on the city’s economy by looking at coin usage and the hidden treasures but also its commercial relationships based on the local or imported amphorae, with relevant informational material.
Rooms 6: Here the craft production is presented through the ceramic and metallurgy workshops discovered at the digs, and the items for everyday use made mostly from cheap materials like clay, metal and bone. An attempt is made to give an idea of the biblical disaster of the city at the 365 AD earthquake.
Room 7: Here are the cemeteries of the city from the digs so far. There are grave goods from graves of the early period of Kissamos (grave of a woman 4th century BC) during Roman occupation where the largest part of the grave goods come from, as well as from the early Christian period. Also exhibited are jewels from precious metals that are mostly grave goods.
Chania Ephorate of Antiquities
Stratigou Tzanakaki Square, P.C. 73400, Kissamos (Prefecture of Chania)
Tel: +30 28220 83308
8:00-15:00 Monday closed
Vana Niniou – Kindeli, archaeologist
Aggeliki Tsingou, archaeologist
More information on http://odysseus.culture.gr
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