National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona, Spain

The National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona (Catalan: Museu Nacional Arqueològic de Tarragona) is a public museum located in the city of Tarragona (Catalonia, Spain) focusing on its rich historical heritage and ancient remains. It includes archaeological findings of Tarraco’s Roman and Early Christian past, as well as a library. The museum’s origins lay in the 19th century, making it the oldest of its kind in Catalonia, with some collections assembling objects found from the 16th century onwards, but with most discoveries having taken place in the last 150 years. It is part of the Roman Europe network of museums.

The National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona (MNAT), created in the mid-nineteenth century as a Provincial Museum, promotes the recovery, conservation, investigation and dissemination of heritage from the Roman city of Tarraco and its area of ​​influence. In addition to the Archaeological Museum, the MNAT manages the Museum and the Palaeochristian necropolis, the Roman villa of the Munts (Altafulla) and the Roman villa of Centcelles (Constantí), as well as the monuments of the Arc de Berà, Torre de los Escipiones and the Roman theater of Tarragona. To carry out its objectives, it organizes activities and offers various services such as temporary exhibitions, conference cycles, seminars, workshops and historical reconstruction activities, publishing of publications and carrying out audiovisual programs.

The National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona was established in the mid-nineteenth century as a Provincial Museum, making it the oldest in its speciality in Catalonia. Over time, it has become the most important centre for the recovery, preservation, investigation and dissemination of the heritage of the Roman city of Tarraco and its area of influence.

The central building, where there is a permanent exhibition, is a cultural asset of national interest. It is an emblematic building both for the building and for the contents of the collection. The exterior design with staggered stone that integrates perfectly with the rest of the area’s homes as well as the remains of the Roman wall, since it was designed for the pieces inside it, there is a harmony between the rooms And the Roman ruins collection. It is worth noting the zenith lighting of some rooms as well as the large number of floor-to-ceiling windows. Located above a hill that dominates the sea, the value of this work consists in its perfect integration with the surroundings, since for its construction stone of the Quarry of the Mèdol was used of equal characteristics that the Roman wall, Which serves as a base. It has a ground floor and two floors, as well as a basement that corresponds to the ground floor of the Paseo San Antonio, due to the unevenness of the terrain. It has a double cornice that considerably reduces the actual height and the front. Neoclassical elements and functional openings to achieve the maximum natural lighting in the museum.

Permanent exhibition:
The National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona is the oldest in Catalonia in its specialty. In 1960, he moved to the current building, built as a new Museum, with the peculiarity that a fragment of the canvas of the wall was preserved in the subsoil, which was preserved on site.

Throughout the years since its inauguration, the museum has incorporated specific changes in order to adapt to new needs, but it was in 1993 to celebrate the XIV International Congress of Classical Archeology in Tarragona (6-11 September 1993), when the Museum was subject to a series of reform works, both from the structural and museographic point of view. The National Archaeological Museum shows in its collections a clear Romanist vocation. The historic and monumental importance of the city of Tarraco and the urban archaeological problems that lead to the site have focused the Museum’s research efforts towards this historical stage.

The materials come basically from urbanization, private and public works, casual discoveries and private contributions, at least until the third decade of the 20th century. This tendency will change substantially from the methodological excavations that Joan Serra and Vilaró will carry out at the Forum of the Colony and the Paleo-Christian Necropolis (1926-1933). After a small lapse caused by the Civil War and the immediate post-war period, the city grew rapidly – and in a poorly controlled way – during the fifties and, above all, during the sixties and most of the seventies: this caused the Casual finds were once again majority, except for some interventions in very specific areas (Amphitheater, Roman villa of Centcelles, “Pilates Tower”, Roman town of Els Munts, Plaça d’en Rovellat, etc.).

Since 1978, and especially since the creation of the Archeology Service of the Generalitat (1981), archaeological interventions – programmed or urgently – are almost the only source of admission to the museum, with a very considerable increase Of deposits from excavations in the city itself, of the main monuments and other areas of interest of the city and the surrounding area (Theater, Casa del Mar, Circ, City Park, Amphitheater, Carrer d’en Vila -roma, carrer de Pere Martell, etc.). The museum has thus become the center for the conservation and dissemination of material testimonies that illustrate the process of Romanization of the Iberian Peninsula and, in short, they must make understanders the lifestyles of this period.

Paleochristian Necropolis:
The Palaeochristian necropolis of Tarragona is a funeral set from the late fallen days of the 3rd century AD outside the town center, near the Francolí river, which lasted until the 5th century. It was discovered in 1923 during foundation works to build A factory It is part of the archaeological site of Tarraco, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The cemetery area has some 2,051 graves that span from the 3rd century until the Visigothic period and forms the most important open-air funerary area in the open West of the Roman West. The Necropolis enclosure consists of an area excavated outdoors (protected by a metallic structure), the museum’s building, funerary crypts and a garden area with sarcophagi exposed to the public. At present, the Paleochristian Necropolis of Tarragona is located in the space that delimits Ramón y Cajal Avenue, Avenida de la Independencia, the Tobacco Factory and Avenida del Cardenal Vidal i Barraquer.

Vil·la romana dels Munts:
The Roman town of Els Munts is located in the municipality of Altafulla, 12 kilometers from Tarragona, on a small hill at the edge of the beach. The village of Els Munts shows a luxurious Roman residential area from the 2nd century AD in Tarraco. It was an important residential nucleus, with rich decorative elements, which has served historians to document how the residence of a high position of the administration of Tarraco was. The elements that have been recovered through the excavations demonstrate the magnitude of the complex farmer. The wealth of statues, paintings, pavements, mosaics and marble columns have left no doubt about the luxury of this Roman residential area. This opulence must be related to Caius Valerius Avitus, one of the two duumviri (a kind of mayors) of Tarraco during the second century AD. In Caius before Augustòbriga was sent (in Soria) and in Tarraco a huge two-story villa was built, with gardens, spas and rich mosaics on the first floor. On the top floor, almost disappeared, there was a portico overlooking the sea.

The Roman villa of Centcelles:
The Roman villa of Centcelles is located in the current municipality of Constantí, 6 kilometers from Tarragona, very close to the Francolí river. It is one of the most important preserved Roman monuments of the Catalan Countries and the Iberian Peninsula, mainly for its mosaics. The site was occupied by a great villa of the high empire, completely refilled during the fourth century AD; In this second phase, some Roman words belong. The building was used during the medieval period as a chapel dedicated to St. Bartholomew and later as a farmer’s house until 1958. The importance of the building lies in one of the main rooms of the villa, a space that during For many years it has been thought that it was enabled, in the middle of the 4th century, as a mausoleum. Its dome has a mosaic cladding with hunting scenes, representations of the Ancient and the New Testament, of the four seasons and of enthroned characters. A new chronological and functional interpretation for the Centcelles tardoromà building proposes to locate its construction around the year 420 AD and relate it to the praetorium of the commemorates Hispaniarum Asterius and its army in Tarraco during the preparation of a Important military campaign against the barbarians that occupied great part of the Iberian Peninsula. It is, altogether, a key monument of the Paleo-Christian architecture. During the first months of 2012 it was closed due to a lack of personnel.

Arc de Berà:
The Arc de Berà (often written incorrectly Arc de Barà) is an arc of triumph located about 20 km north of the city of Tarragona, near Roda de Berà. The arch is located on the route of what was the Augusta road, currently on the N-340 road. He was erected by Testamentary disposition of Luci Licini Sura between 15 and 5 BC and dedicated to Emperor Augustus. It has a single opening, it is built with local stone ashlars, with eight striated pilasters, finished off by Corinthian capitals, which maintain an entablature with an allusive inscription on its construction. It is supposed to be dedicated to Augustus or his genius and served to mark the territorial limits that depended on Tarraco.

Tower of Scipio:
The Torre dels Escipions is a funerary monument in the form of a tower built in the first half of the 1st century AD next to the Via Augusta, about 6 km northeast of Tarraco, on the edge of the N-340 road, at North of Tarragona. It is made up of three superposed bodies and on the façade of the middle there are two figures of Atis – eastern funerary deity – which hold an inscription. An erroneous identification of the figures with the Escipion brothers is the origin of the traditional name.

Roman theater:
The Roman Theater of Tarragona is a Roman theater built at the time of August, near the Forum of the Colony and the port area of ​​Tarraco, current Tarragona. For its construction, the strong unevenness of the terrain was used where the terracing was partially supported. In spite of having been the object of important destructions during the course of the 20th century, the remains of the canopy (cavea), the chamber located at the foot of the canopy (orchestra) and the space for theatrical performances (scaena) are preserved.

Central services:
It is a building constructed in the north-eastern part of the whole of the Paleochristian Necropolis, which is the core of the services of the National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona, where the library, the documentary and photographic archive and the services are located Technical and administrative staff of the museum, as well as spaces for the research work.

It occupies an area of ​​310 m2 and consists of five floors, with a total area of ​​1,600 m2. The two lower floors are occupied by warehouses. The third floor, on the Avenida de Ramón y Cajal, is where the entrance and the library are located. The fourth floor houses the technical and administrative services of the museum. Finally, the upper floor has some workshops for restoration and for the research work.

The library, which originated at the end of the 19th century for internal use of the museum, from the 30s of the last century begins to be defined as a public service, being developed from the 40’s to the present, moment in Which serves both the museum staff as well as the research community and the general public, managing an important collection of thematic areas close to the museum, such as classical archeology, ancient history, art history and Museology

One of the main lines of action of the museum is the research centered on the related areas – directly or indirectly – with its thematic and territorial space: Tarraco and the agrarian Tarraconensis – from the background of Iberian culture (VI-V centuries) BC) until the end of the Visigothic period (7th-8th centuries AD) – they constitute their integrated preferential axis, but in the general framework of the history of Hispania and the Mediterranean at Roman times.

The historical and monumental importance of Tarraco and the challenges caused by its location within modern Tarragona have led the National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona to focus its research programmes on the investigation, preservation and dissemination of the Roman world, the Romanisation of the Iberian Peninsula and Tarraco’s role as the capital of one of the largest provinces in the Roman Empire.

The National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona has always explored programmatic formulas. They are aimed at strengthening the complementarity of the objects held by the institution and the architectural remains of ancient Tarraco that have been preserved in the city and its surrounding area.

The current structure of the MNAT is in keeping with this vocation. In addition to the Archaeological Museum, the MNAT is responsible for the Early Christian Museum and Necropolis and the Roman villas of Els Munts (Altafulla) and Centcelles (Constantí). Its organisational structure also includes the well-known Arch of Berà and Scipios’ Tower monuments, which are located on the route of the Via Augusta, and the Roman Theatre, which is currently being restored.

Based on these sites, the MNAT aims to develop a discourse that will deal with a series of complementary themes:
– The organisation and social life of a Roman city such as Tarraco (the content of the Archaeological Museum’s permanent exhibition).
– The world of death in classical antiquity (exemplified by the Early Christian Museum and Necropolis).
– The structure, functioning and life in an Early Roman villa related to the governing elites of Tarraco (focusing on the Roman villa of Els Munts).
– The construction of a large Late Roman villa (focusing on the Roman villa of Centcelles).
– The roads and their monuments (using an honorary arch –the Arc de Berà– and a funerary monument – Torre dels Escipions– as examples).
– The city and public spectacles (exemplified by the Roman Theatre complex).