The Archaeological Museum of Paros

To the north and east of the Katapoliani­ stretches a grove of dense pine-trees, contrasting refreshingly with the white buildings all around and recalling how the island— certainly up until Roman times, if not beyond—was once densely wooded. To the south side of the church is the High School, above which can be seen an interesting row of late Hellenistic and Roman sarcophagi with successive funerary panels of different dimensions carved into their front and sides. These were receptacles of composite family burials, which were carved with new, individual panels honouring the dead, as successive burials were added. They mark the entrance to the Archaeological Museum* of Paros (open daily 8.30–3.30, except Mon), a small collection with some exceptionally fine sculptural pieces. Given the preeminence of both the island’s marble and the renown of its schools of sculpture, this collection is of particular importance: even the smallest and most fragmentary pieces are of sophisticated workmanship, and nothing should be skipped for what it potentially reveals about the methods of master stone-cutters. The museum spreads across a main building with two wings, a portico in front, and an outside courtyard.

In the centre of the court yard is the early 4th century bc floor mosaic found beneath the church of the Katapoliani­, which depicts the Labours of Hercules, a typical subject for a gymnasium. It is colourful and clear in design: the head of the lion which comoses part of the frame is particularly well executed. In the open air area, is a wide variety of funerary furniture—cinerary urns, carved stelai, and cippi— altars, and architectural elements in local marble. A row of sarcophagi shaped in human form from the Archaic period on the south side of the court are unusual finds, presumably of Near Eastern influence. The best-conserved, carved stelai are displayed under cover along the north side of the court, together with an Early Archaic, giant Cycladic pithos with impressed design, at the far right-hand end.
   Ahead, under the portico, stands the twice-life size, cult statue of Artemis from the temple at the Delion (see pp. 49–50) north of Parikia, recomposed from over 40 fragments. At the end of the portico to left, is the elegant, late 6th century BC, Ionic capital* which bears a 4th century bc dedicatory inscription to the Parian poet Archilochus (see pp. 46–49), and which may have formed the central memorial inside a heroon dedicated to his memory: it would probably have stood on top of a column and been surmounted by a sphynx, in the centre of a temple-like mausoleum, which was preceded by two altars. The inscription attests that it was a certain ‘Dokimos, son of Neokreon, [who] dedicated the piece as a votive offering at the tomb of Archilochus of Paros, son of Telesikles’. Beside it, against the walls, are exhibited the densely-inscribed plaques in Parian marble which relate to incidents in the life of the poet, and other subjects. The other superbly carved, 5th century bc architectural elements on display—especially the lion’s-head spouts and the foliate frieze of the sima* (front wall) from the up per portion of a Classical building–come originally from Delos , but were found immured in the walls at the Katapoliani­.
   Room 1 (ahead and left) contains prehistoric and early material from Paros. The earliest piece is the Neolithic figurine of the 4th millennium BC from Saliagos (see pp. 74–75) of a steatopygous female commonly referred to as the ‘Fat Lady of Saliago’ (first case to left), who is a close cousin in form and conception of the figurines of fertility goddesses and ‘Fat Ladies’ found in Malta, which date from the same era. In the same case are a couple of examples of large picks made from blocks of obsidian from Milos, used for rough-shaping larger marble objects such as bowls and cups, before the finer work and sanding down began. Opposite is a very fine 8th century bc amphora, decorated with a battle* scene: of particular note is the central figure who carries a figure-of eight shield, of the kind used by Homeric heroes. Mounted warriors, dead hoplites and grazing horned animals compose a curious battle-landscape of the mind. Also of particular interest (left wall) is a remarkably early grave stele of the 7th century bc, delicately engraved with a very faint image of a seated woman on a decorated throne. Amongst the exhibits from later epochs are two miniature three legged tables in marble (case at back left of room) which were 4th century bc offerings at the sanctuary of Delian Apollo: they give us a rare glimpse of Hellenistic furniture. On exhibition in the room (rear partition) is the inscribed marble panel known as the Parian Chronicle*, the greater part of which is in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (a cast of which is also displayed): the Chronicle was drawn up in c. 264/3 bc in the archon ship of Diognetos, and is a dated record of historical events in the Greek world and of important Greek writers, since the time of King Kekrops of Athens in the mid 2nd millennium bc. Its importance in helpverify Greek chronology has been considerable. Two beautiful fragments from Parian marble Archaic korai, one wearing an exquisitely defined and decorated chiton, stand at the centre of the room.
   Room 2 (small room in the middle) exhibits objects from the excavations on the island of Despotiko, to the south of Antiparos. These include the painted, cult figurine of a female deity in terracotta (central case), dating from the early 7th century bc, wearing a crown over highly stylised hair and a clearly defined, almost naturalistic, face. Opposite (to the left on entering) are three beautifully carved, heads of Archaic kouroi of quite distinct and different styles. In the cases around the walls are votive objects which attest to the wide ranging contacts which the Sanctuary of Apollo had: these include a consider able number of bronze items.
Room 3 (to the right) is dedicated to Archaic and Classical marble sculpture. Of particular importance are: the winged marble figure of Gorgon* (first bay), who, in her capacity as a powerful apotropaic image who turned away evil, was placed on the tip of a temple pediment as if just alighting. In one hand she clutches the head of a snake which encircles her waist: half woman, half flying monster, her innate ugliness has been transformed by the artist’s skill into a beautiful and dynamic sculpture—a flowing unity of soft and well-proportioned volumes. The work dates from the mid 6th century bc. From 50–60 years later are two exceptionally fine late Archaic pieces: the lower portion of a relief of a standing female figure wearing a pleated chiton (on right in doorway to second bay); and the statue of an enthroned goddess-—probably Artemis—remarkable for the very fine rhythmic flows and counterpoints of the pleated drapery. On the reverse side of the partition behind the latter is a marble relief of the poet Archilochus reclining on a dining-couch, faced by his wife, and surrounded by his emblems as both a warrior and a poet: this and the adjacent panel of a hunting scene (both of which had been latterly immured into the court yard walls of the Katapoliani­) constituted part of the frieze of the monument dedicated to the poet, and date from c. 500 BC. Virtually no painting, other than vase-design, exists form the Classical period: it is a fortune therefore that the mid 5th century, marble disc, painted with the figure of a discus thrower* in cinnabar (right wall) has survived. It is a unique piece, found in the burial of an athlete. Beside it are two 6th century, Kouros fragments which show how the sensitive medium of Parian marble is particularly adapted to the delicate description of the subtly varying volumes of the human body. Similarly, in the Nike (c. 470 bc) which stands in the centre at the end of the gallery (third bay), the stone effortlessly takes on the lightness of the fall of drapery in its beautifully counterpointed movement. Of particular note are the two fragments of the upper parts of grave stelai, one depicting a young woman’s head, the other a young man’s, both of the 5th century bc: the workmanship is unostentatious, sensitive and perfect in both. It is this combination of lightness and sensual detail which is the particular quality of the ancient Parian school of sculptors.

Travel Guide to Paros & Greece

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