Venues of collective memory, museums are connected etymologically to the word "Muses", the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne and patrons of the arts. The term "museum" was adopted internationally to signify the venues that safeguard the history, culture, and customs of the nations and the peoples. A visit to the Museum of Mycenae completes the journey of initiation that begun at the archaeological site. There, the legend of the "abounding in gold" Mycenae is revealed in all its glory. The exhibits come from the excavations of the citadel, its surroundings and the overall region.
The modern museum was constructed at the foot of the hill of Mycenae and next to the citadel. The visitors are offered the opportunity to marvel the findings from very close. They are initiated to the life of the Mycenaeans, their burial rituals and the first use of the site until the end of prehistoric times and the beginning of historic times, depending on the building complexes. All the archaeological treasures of Grave Circles A and B are concentrated in the museum, also of the tholos tombs in the wider region of Mycenae.
The visitors are dazzled by gold grave goods, burial masks, jewellery, as well as weapons, worship idols, frescoes and by the historical information related to the archaeological sites. In this way, the glory and the power of the Mycenaean civilization that dominated and expanded in the world of that time are revealed.
The museum, having as its goal the initiation of students to this complicated ancient civilization, has developed special educational programs, as for example the one titled "The secret of a vessel". It aims at cultivating the collective memory by transforming history into an interactive study. Through this, the importance of archaeology in a modern world that is seeking its identity and its historical orientation is clearly understood.
Who is the mysterious Mycenaean lady?
The Mycenaeans, as the Minoans who had influenced them, loved to decorate walls with colourful frescoes. Their love for the arts preserved to our days figures, customs and aesthetics, but also the secrets of their art. The world seemed inconceivable to them until frescoes made by the palace's painters gave it a pictorial dimension: male and female figures with elaborate hairstyles and attire, images of deities and scenes from ceremonial rituals, daily life, battles, hunts, performing spectacles, and decorative motives.
Many fragments of frescoes were discovered in the Palace of Mycenae as the "donkey headed demons" and the so-called "Lady of Mycenae", found in the High Priest's House in 1968.
Who is the Lady of Mycenae whose form travelled so far to reach us, many centuries from the time the artist that drew her lived? They presume she is a goddess, perhaps seated and a procession of women is walking towards her. The Goddess has just accepted the jewellery she is holding. It was offered, perhaps, in a pyxis or another vessel, or even hand to hand. Her form, inspired by the Mycenaean ladies of her time, was painted as a buon fresco.
The colours (black, red, blue, yellow and white) in pigments were diluted in water or calcimine and placed on the wet surface of the wall without a binding medium. But the problem of restoring a fragmented fresco is like solving a puzzle game with many of its pieces lost. Imagination and scientific knowledge are necessary elements to "guess" the artistic intentionality and also the purpose behind the work.
In the Lady of Mycenae, the first thing that was painted was the light-blue backdrop. Then, the red and yellow colours were added and lastly, the black of the hair and the outlines. The yellow colour of her blouse, in larger grains, was painted with wide brushes. A sketch, helped to a swift, but accurate execution with the use of stencils (prefabricated design outlines). In this manner, the motifs were consistent, a rarity and an impressive fact considering the early era in which they were used.