As we perused the holdings at the Split Archaeological Museum along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, I found myself most drawn to the stone headstones bearing family portraits of citizens from the Roman Empire – some more than 2,000 years-old. Though the subjects’ faces were often weathered and lacking facial extremities, I enjoyed pondering how the family’s likenesses came to be carved out of stone. Had they sat for the sculptor for hours? Had they worn their best apparel, or had the sculptor depicted them in an idealized fashion? Could they ever guess that visitors would size them up thousands of years later?
Built in 1914, the Museum of Archaeology is the oldest museum in Croatia. It’s a delight to explore, especially combined with a visit to the ancient city of Salona, because that is where many of the museum’s headstones, sarcophagi, mosaics, coins and other everyday objects were discovered. Salona is about 5 km (3 miles) from Split, and at the time of Roman Emperor Diocletian, the city had a population of 60,000.
Some of the museum’s items, including a headless Egyptian sphinx statue, also came from nearby Diocletian’s Palace, where the emperor retired at the beginning of the 4th Century AD. Roman artifacts are displayed along with Greek ones, attesting to the area’s rich history.
Note: Photography isn’t generally allowed inside the building, so this set of images solely focuses upon the museum’s fascinating holdings in the atrium outside.
Are you an archaeology enthusiast? If so, what archaeology museums do you recommend? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.
Where in the World?
- Split’s Archaeological Museum is located at Zrinjsko-Frankopanska 25. It’s about a ten-minute walk from Diocletian’s Palace. Visit the Split Archaeology Museum Website for opening hours and more details. This website includes more details about the museum’s collections.
- Both times we visited the museum in early 2014, there was no entrance fee. The first time we were guided by our art historian friend, Maria, during Croatia’s annual Night of the Museum event and the second time, we went to the museum on a Thursday afternoon, perhaps another promotional day.
- We’ve spent two winters in Split, finding accommodation in apartments that would be packed during the summer months, but are practically empty during winter. During our first 2.5 months there, we stayed at the lovely Kaleta Apartments (affiliate link) which are located within Diocletian’s Palace. Our studio apartment (called the ‘Diocletian’s Suite’) featured much character, including Roman brickwork, and views of Old Town Split below. Owners Novica and Negri were thoughtful citizen ambassadors too. Two years later, we returned to Split, staying in the charming Varoš neighborhood, characterized by stone homes with hunter-green shutters. For those 2 months, we stayed in quaint studio apartments at the Guesthouse F (affiliate link). We especially enjoyed our tiny terrace and the kindness of our hosts, Anja and Miro. One of Guesthouse F’s apartments was originally a horseshoe maker’s workshop, which previously belonged to Anja’s grandfather. Shawn and I dubbed it the ‘horseshoe cottage’.
- If you’ll be staying in Split for a few days, you might be interested in the Split Card, which gives you free entry to certain museums and galleries, and reduced rates to others. Back in 2014, people staying in Split for 3 days or more could pick up the Split Card for free, but as of 2016, there is a fee to purchase the card. The link above details the current cost, as well as the participating museums and businesses.
- If you’re interested in old Roman routes and history, be sure to explore the following websites, which allow you to plot out a route and glimpse what Roman sites are along the way: OmnesViae: Roman Routeplanner and Vici
- Need more inspiration? This link contains an index of all my posts from Croatia.
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.