Madrid’s Museum of Anthropology

I’m still working my way through the mountain of museums that Madrid has to offer, as well as the wonderful alliterative sentences they allow me to create. I popped over to the Museum of Anthropology, which has these lovely columns out front wrapped with textiles. The museum is free on Sundays and every day for students 18-25, so that was another perk. When I’ve been to other museums here on their free days, they’ve been packed but thankfully this visit wasn’t.

Museum of Anthropology

Inside, each floor is sorted by continent. The ground floor is Asia, the next is Africa and the top-most floor holds items from the Americas.

The Americas display had the most variety, and included artifacts from a variety of cultures in North and South America. They also had items labelled in quite a detailed manner, and all the Native American objects from North America had the tribe identified as well, such as the Navajo belt below.

Adornments from the Americas (including Navajo belt)
South American feather mask

I at first thought that the below exhibit of masks had been put in the wrong place or was somehow an Asian feature on the Americas level, but was surprised to read that they are from the Andes and featured in festivals in which people fight against the Devil, demons and the power of sin.

Andean festival masks

There was also quite a variety of textiles on each level, including a loom and a section on the construction of these garments. The ones on the African floor were the most interesting to me, though were not the most detailed.

Woven garments from Niger
Clothing from The Philippines

There is currently a photography display from the time of the Spanish Civil War by Valentín Vega titled ‘La Vida por Delante’ that shows the lives of people in the region where he lived (Asturias). It was really interesting to view these snapshots of people from such a difficult time. There was even a room where the museum had two of the photos blown up and you could take your photo from ‘within’ the image.

Photo from La Vida por Delante

The African section was full of a great variety of masks as well as some remarkable carvings.

Mask from Guinea Bisseau

One of the exhibits I liked the most was on Asian religions. They all shared a room, but each had a corner for their own items. I sent Meera, who is currently in India, a photo of this Ganesh statue and she told me it’s uncommon for them to be made of wood! The museum had a pair of these statues, so now I’m curious as to why this is unusual and where they would have gotten two of these rare items.

Wooden Ganesh statue
Buddhist Shrine

The museum also had some very unique exhibits of different types of items, from musical instruments to betel-leaf chewing to tobacco smoking.

Instruments from The Philippines

Overall, the museum was a great place to spend about an hour and a half. It’s not very large, but there’s a lot of very interesting small things inside. I didn’t have to pay to get in, but it would have been worth the 3 euro regular entrance fee. I definitely recommend visiting if you’re interested in religious artifacts that aren’t Christian, as there are a lot more here than at any other museum I’ve seen in Spain.

I look forward to visiting more museums around the city, but had been looking forward to this one for a while. I definitely wasn’t disappointed!


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