The Conimbriga Monographic Museum consists of ruins of a city from the Roman period of Portugal. It has a beautiful entrance that immediately refers to Roman buildings, totally inspired by the architecture of that time. In this article, we’ll describe some items from the museum’s exhibits.
There’s a panel with copper pieces showing how the Romans worked very well with metallurgy, especially with this material. Such pieces were produced in the city of Conimbriga. Ahead, there’s a showcase with objects made entirely of metal. Some were used in agriculture, others in the kitchen… The Romans developed techniques in this activity, which remain a legacy to humanity to this day.
Another shelf shows the production of pottery, both construction artifacts and everyday pottery. It’s interesting to mention something: we archaeologists found the material at the archeological site in small pieces; however, we’re often able to form the entire shape of the object through these pieces (mainly the edges and backgrounds). This is very magical, isn’t it? However, not everything found in an archaeological excavation is broken, and the proof of that is another display in the museum with the entire objects. They allow the visitor to better understand how the collections of bowls and objects used to be, used for cooking, for transporting cargo, transporting oil, liquids and wines…Finally, observing these items, the museum visitor can get an idea of those people’s day-to-day lives.
Do you know what an amphora is? It was an object used on ships to transport wine and oil. At the Conimbriga Monographic Museum you can find some. They had a cone-shaped bottom because they were transported on wooden shelves with multiple ledges for fitting. This is because the ship obviously rocks, and this was a clever way to load liquids on it. They had lids, many times ceramic.
Another super interesting Roman object found in the Conimbriga Monographic Museum is the Lucerna (in Brazilian Portuguese – lamp), a kind of artifact similar to the genie’s lamp in the story of Aladdin. They were the lanterns that illuminated houses in the Roman era.
In the city, some parts made of rocks of buildings were constructed using a technique called masonry. The museum shows how this technique was used to build columns, floor, ceiling, mosaics and many other architectural elements.
When we study Roman culture in history books, we get the impression that all the buildings and decorations were white. They weren’t! The Romans loved colors. At the Conimbriga Monographic Museum, there are fragments of buildings in the city that show this: some architectural details were painted in red, green and yellow tones, which were the colors of the pigments easier to obtain with minerals.
One of the details in Conimbriga that draws the most attention are the mosaics. Several are preserved, and in the room dedicated to architecture there are two of them that have been restored, allowing the visitor to admire them completely.
The Romans were very fond of taking care of the body. The famous Portuguese expression “mente sã, corpo são” is the translation for the expression in Latin (Roman language) “Mens sana in corpore sana”. In the museum there’s a section dedicated to personal care and beauty objects: hairpins, pots, small vases where perfumes were placed, tweezers for removing eyebrows, and much more.
The Roman people were extremely superstitious. They had many beliefs and even wore amulets – some with very unusual shapes (even genitals). You can find some of them on display.
And so our visit to the Conimbriga Monographic Museum ends. By the way, why this “monographic” name? Because it only talks about one subject: the Ruins of the Roman city of Conimbriga, near Coimbra, in northern Portugal. If you have the opportunity, visit this amazing place!
Text by: Cris Amarante & Débora Blair
Translation: Débora Blair
Photo above: Conimbriga Monographic Museum, Conimbriga, Portugal