Museum history

Todays’ Archaeological Museum of Thebes is the third building on this particular site to host antiquities. Its history began in 1894, when the old barracks beside the medieval tower were made available to house antiquities, mainly the sculptures and inscriptions that had been collected from all over Boeotia.

In 1905, funded by the Archaeological Society at Athens, the barracks were converted into the town’s first archaeological museum, a plain, two-storey stone building of limited size. The exhibition of antiquities was organized by the archaeologist Antonios D. Keramopoullos. He, in cooperation with the British couple, archaeologists P. and A. Ure – who had recently excavated a section of the cemetery of ancient Mycalissos (today’s Ritsona) – created a museum that was pioneering for its time, presenting finds from graves in groups and not according to their artistic value, as had been the practice until then. Many emblematic figures of Greek archaeology served in that first museum, such as Nikolaos Papadakis, Christos Karouzos, Ioannis Threpsiadis and Nikolaos Platon. In 1934, Christos Karouzos wrote the first archaeological guidebook to the museum, and contributed to concealing and safeguarding its antiquities in World War II (1940-1944).

After the war ended, it was realized that the old building was no longer adequate; it was demolished much later and in its place, a single-storey building was constructed with an entrance porch. Ioannis Threpsiadis undertook the task of exhibiting the antiquities in this new museum, which was inaugurated on 9 December 1962, a few months after his death. Full renovation followed, as the new museum had just a few, but very large lighted spaces. Its limited area was offset by some unique findings in its collections, such as the cylinder seals of eastern origin and the amphorae with inscriptions in Linear B script from the Mycenaean palace of Thebes, larnakes (sarcophagoi) from the Mycenaean cemetery at Tanagra and the “black” incised stelae of warriors from the classical period.

This second building, with minor periodical rearrangements of its exhibition, continued in operation for some 45 years, until 2007, when it was incorporated into the present – third in the sequence – Archaeological Museum of Thebes.