The extension has opened with an exhibition entitled Córdoba, a Meeting of Cultures, which features outstanding archaeological pieces.
The new exhibition offers a chronological and thematic tour of the history of Córdoba from Prehistory to the Middle Ages, placing particular emphasis on the city¿s status as an ancient cultural melting pot. A central theme is therefore the notion of cultural exchange, which conveys the idea of Córdoba as a hybrid mix of interculturality and tolerance. The exhibition also features the history of the museum, now over a hundred years old, and the importance of Córdoba province as the geographic source of the items in the museum¿s collections.
The exhibition is structured into three thematic sections:
¿ Córdoba and Its Territory
¿ Córdoba, Power and Centrality
¿ Living in Córdoba
Each of the sections features representative pieces from the province and special areas devoted to the Roman era and the province¿s Islamic past. The highlights include the collection of prehistoric pottery, Iberian and Roman sculptures, the Andalusí collections, coins, and objects in daily use and life in the city.
Visitors enter the museum through the extension¿s main door in Plaza de Jerónimo Páez and proceed to the main entrance hall. The information point and ticket office are located here. The area has a cloakroom and lockers for groups and offers information on the museum¿s activities. Meanwhile, a separate reception area offers an audiovisual screening on the history of the institution.
The remains of the Roman Theatre of Córdoba are visible from the entrance and through the windows on the façade. A video explains the different stages that the museum grounds have passed through with pictures of the building and excavation works.
The suggested itinerary leads visitors up the stairs to the first floor of the building where the exhibition begins. The tour continues on the ground floor and ends at the archaeological site.
A timeline acts as a point of reference as visitors enter the room. Stretching from Prehistory to the Late Middle Ages, it includes chronological data along with landmark events in the province of Córdoba for each period.
The exhibition commences with a display entitled CÓRDOBA AND ITS TERRITORY, which offers an overview of how the area evolved from early Prehistory until the Renaissance. On show here are pieces from different places and with different uses but all related to the province¿s archaeological sites.
The next thematic section, CÓRDOBA, POWER AND CENTRALITY, is divided into five subject areas:
1. Before Córdoba explores the Prehistory and Protohistory of the province prior to the Romans¿ arrival and their foundation of the city. Included here are outstanding pieces that span the period of time between the Lower Palaeolithic and the end of the Iberian world. The highlights of this section are the Neolithic pottery from the Cueva de los Murciélagos cave at Zuheros, the Beaker-culture vessels from La Rambla and the Stele of Ategua, attesting to the ties with ancient cultures in the eastern Mediterranean.
2. Colonia Patricia Corduba is dedicated to Roman Córdoba and commences with a never-before displayed Athlete¿s Torso representing the world of Roman statues. The evolution of urban planning in Córdoba is shown through inscriptions on civic works and a fine selection of capitals. Meanwhile, the architectural elements, statues and portraits are indicative of the increasing number of monuments built in the city from the Augustan era. Two key pieces stand out: the sculpture of Aphrodite Crouching and the Portrait of Drusus, Tiberius¿s son. Both of these are expressions of the ideologically charged message behind the images in the city.
3. Córdoba: Between Rome and Islam is devoted to the Visigothic period and examines the city¿s transformation during the early centuries of the Middle Ages through selected architectural elements. The key objects here are the magnificent decorated shaft and the distinctive capital of the Evangelists with its exquisite polychrome decoration.
4. Qurtuba reflects the Islamic city, Islamisation and the symbols of the Islamic state. These themes are addressed through major pieces showing the importance of water (the Pila de al-Rummaniyya fountain), the creation of a uniform artistic language (atauriques or stylised plant motifs), the promotion of civic and religious works (commemorative stone plaques), and the official production of green and manganese pottery and bronzes, including superb Almohad examples from Plaza de Chirinos.
5. Córdoba in the Late Middle Ages is dedicated to the Reconquest of 1236, a period when the province and city underwent gradual change. The pieces on display in this section highlight the changes in the city¿s appearance during the intense process of Christianisation. The blue and gilt wall tiles from the Chapel of San Bartolomé are particularly impressive.
Finally, a cabinet displays a selection of pieces from the museum¿s extraordinary coin collection. This exhibit commences with the Republican denarii from the Treasure of Los Almadenes and includes coins from every era from the Roman Empire and the Andalusí era, ending with Castilian coins from the Late Middle Ages. The particular highlights of this section are the dirhams from 763 and 928 and a selection of the most important treasures, exhibited here in small groups.
LIVING IN CÓRDOBA is the second major thematic section of the exhibition. Situated on the ground floor, it shows three distinct aspects of private life, religious beliefs and leisure. Aspects of daily life in Córdoba during the historical periods reflected in the previous sections of the exhibition are presented in this room. This third section is divided into three main areas: The Home, Leisure and Entertainment, and Religious Beliefs.
1. The Home. Three cabinets display daily household objects from Iberian, Roman and Andalusí homes. The groups of Iberian pottery are from El Cerro de la Cruz, an archaeological site in Almedinilla, while the Roman and Islamic items are of varying provenance and include different types of objects: Roman lamps, glass objects, keys, caliphal scissors and a shaving knife, and, of special interest, a selection of women¿s jewellery.
The Roman home is represented by another collection of fascinating pieces, such as the bronze Dancing Youth from the Roman villa of El Ruedo, again in Almedinilla, and a lion-shaped table leg.
In the case of the Islamic home, a large cabinet displays a sample of dinnerware from the caliphate and the Almohad period. These two eras are also represented by cookware and objects used for other daily activities.
2. Religious Beliefs. This area is given over to a complex and thrilling world that is amply represented in the archaeological record. It takes up most of the gallery and commences with the gods and cults of the three main religions: Paganism, Christianity and Islam.
The highlights of this section are the statue of Mithra, which captures the importance of the mysterious oriental cults in Roman religion, the Mozarabic bell of Abbott Sansom, and a mosque spire transformed into a Christian cross and weathercock, symbolising the city¿s status as a cultural crossroads and the common theme of the whole exhibition.
Popular religion is handsomely represented by the famous Iberian votive offerings from Torreparedones. Meanwhile, funerary rites are exquisitely conveyed by a selection of urns, headstones and sarcophagi. The highlights here are the Palaeochristian columned sarcophagus with biblical scenes and a recreation of an Iberian funerary complex from one of the tombs at Los Torviscales and the Lion from Nueva Carteya.
3. Leisure and Entertainment is the final theme in the exhibition. This area depicts the public nature of recreation in Rome and the family-oriented nature of entertainment and leisure in Islamic culture.
The exhibits include splendid pieces such as the Oscillum (a hanging mask or face used in festivals and ceremonies) and gravestones of gladiators from the Roman period, and the capital and the Musicians¿ Bottle from the city¿s Andalusí era. A final piece, the funerary inscription of a designator (usher) from the Roman Theatre, acts as an invitation for visitors to proceed to the display in the basement.
On proceeding down the steps to the basement, visitors momentarily become spectators at the Roman Theatre of Córdoba. The archaeological basement is given over to the preserved remains of the theatre¿s interior structures, providing visitors with an insight into the different stages of the site.
Built in the 1st century, the Roman Theatre was abandoned in the 4th century and suffered systematic plundering, which means that only the basic infrastructure of the building has been preserved.
When the site was converted into a museum area, the aim was to make the public part of the exhibition, and the Roman Theatre is therefore a natural progression from the Leisure and Entertainment area.
The exhibition design has been highly respectful of the archaeological remains. A walkway has been erected over the archaeological remains and rests on an absorption system that prevents friction with the original structures. The angle of the slope is adapted to the nature of the site. Meanwhile, its design and execution have taken into account issues relating to conservation, sustainability, maintenance, aesthetics and accessibility.
The section open to visitors comprises four sculptures de provinciae (ie from the Roman province of Hispania) that formed part of the decorative programme.
Throughout the tour there are various information devices that explain the site, the preserved remains and the structure of a Roman theatre. There is a special emphasis on aspects such as the construction techniques of the ideal theatre, and on the preserved features: the original remains of the seating area, the ring-shaped crypt, the lime kiln built on the ruins of the theatre in the early Middle Ages, the Islamic alberca or water tank, etc.