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Greece's largest archaeological museum has a staggeringly large collection of Greek artifacts, ranging from the Prehistoric Neolithic era (some 15 centuries B.C.E.) to the late Roman period (5th century C.E.). More than 11,000 objects are on permanent display, so visitors mustn't sulk if one or more galleries are closed when they visit. The museum not only has one of the world's finest collections of more than 2,500 Greek vases, but it also has one of the best caches of Egyptian art, too. Don't neglect to pick up a free pamphlet containing a floor plan so you can figure out what's where. The galleries are often seriously clogged with tour groups. Most people head straight into the Mycenaean gallery, with its stunning gold masks, cups, dishes, and jewelry unearthed from the site of Mycenae by Heinrich Schliemann in 1876. Don't miss the haunting marble Cycladic figurines in the adjacent gallery. Most of them were made in the 3rd and 2nd millennia B.C.; scholars cannot agree on what their purpose was. Do they represent gods and goddesses? Or worshippers? The dead? Mourners? With no known written texts from this period to inform us, we can only speculate. The sculpture galleries have almost every famous Greek bronze statue yet found. including a delectable group of handsome young athletes and the monumental 5th century B.C. bronze Poseidon (or Zeus). Some scholars think that this formidable figure once held a long trident, which would make him Poseidon, others think that this represents Zeus, who would have held a thunderbolt. Don't miss the Hellenistic marble group in which chubby little Eros and leering Pan are regarded with some amusement by Aphrodite, who swats at Pan with one of her sandals. The extensive collection of marble funerary reliefs shows heart-wrenching domestic scenes of parents clutching the toys of their dead children, brides mourned by young husbands, and loyal dogs sitting watch by a master's grave. The enormous collection of Greek vases on the second floor is dazzling—and, quite frankly, overwhelming. The engaging, restored 3500-b.c. wall frescoes from the site of Akrotiri on the island of Santorini (Thira) are also on view on the second floor. The frescoes, distinguished by swooping swallows and smiling maidens, are a considerable relief after the fiercely concentrated beauty of the small vases. The museum has a not-great shop and a just-okay café. You'll probably spend a minimum of 3 hours here—and hope to return to see more another time.