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Paestum Archaeological Museum

Fresco from the Tomb of the Diver, named for this scene, dating from 470 BC. It was found in the
Fresco from the Tomb of the Diver, dating from 470 BC. It was found in the
Fresco from the Tomb of the Diver, dating from 470 BC. It was found in the
Walls of a tomb chamber from the Lucanian period (specifically about 330-320 BC). Part of over 200 tombs with rare frescoes that were found in the late 1960s in Paestum. This panel is from Tomb 86 in…
Walls of a tomb chamber from the Lucanian period (specifically about 330-320 BC). Part of over 200 tombs with rare frescoes that were found in the late 1960s in Paestum. This panel is from Tomb 86 in…
Ionic capital from the Temple of Athena at Paestum (510 BC).
Votive statue of the goddess Hera found at the Heraion of the Sele near Paestum (end of 5th century BC). Sitting on a throne holding a bowl for the sacrifice and a pomegranate, this depiction of Hera…
Metope depicting the suicide of Ajax (570-560 BC), found at the sanctuary of Hera Argiva at the mouth of the Sele. Photo © National Archaeological Museum of Paestum.

The excellent National Archaeological Museum of Paestum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Paestum), located across the road to the east of the Greek temples, displays Greek and Roman artifacts from Paestum and the local area. Its most famous exhibits are rare Greek tomb frescoes from the 5th and 4th centuries BC.


The National Archaeological Museum of Paestum was founded in 1952 to display the artifacts found during excavations at Paestum and the Heraion (Temple of Hera Argiva) built by Greek colonists at the mouth of the Sele.

In 1970, the museum was enlarged in order to house the ancient painted tombs that had been discovered at Paestum in 1968. More expansions came in 1999, which incorporate a section on Roman life at Paestum, a teaching room, archives, a photographic laboratory and more.

What to See

Especially interesting are the ancient tomb paintings, which were accidentally uncovered by an artichoke farmer in 1969. A very rare survival from the ancient world, the frescoes remained well preserved in Paestum because the river silted up and turned the area into a swamp. The constant moisture seeping into the tombs over the centuries kept the paint from drying up and flaking off the stone walls. The swamps were filled in 1944, but the roots of artichokes continued to keep the tombs moist until they were discovered. Over 200 tombs have been excavated from the site.

Interestingly, the tomb frescoes do not depict scenes from classical mythology (as in most other Greek art), but realistic depictions of funeral rituals and funeral games. Ceramics found in the tombs provided approximate dates of 350-320 BC, when the Greek city of Poseidonia had been taken over by Lucanians (an indigenous Sabellian, Oscan-speaking people). The dress and armor of the figures in the tomb paintings further established that the sepulchers had been prepared for Lucanians, but in a style indebted to the Greeks and Etruscans.

But perhaps even more interesting are the fresoces from the so-called Tomb of the Diver, which is even older (470 BC). The namesake mural from this tomb shows a diver in mid-plunge, which is thought to represent the passage from life to death. The same tomb has murals of a funeral cortege and male lovers banqueting.

Other Greek artifacts on the main floor include a collection of 6th-century BC bronze vases decorated with rams, lions and sphinxes, as well as gleaming bronze helmets and breastplates. The upper floor is devoted to Roman artifacts, which include an abstract statue of Pan with his pipes, a 3rd-century rlief of a baby in pointed hat an amulets, and a sarcophagus cover depicting an embracing couple.

Quick Facts on the Paestum Archaeological Museum

Site Information
Names:Archaeological Museum; Archaeological Museum, Paestum; Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Paestum; National Archaeological Museum of Paestum; Paestum Archaeological Museum
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Paestum, Italy
Coordinates:40.423453° N, 15.007228° E  (view on Google Maps)
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of the Paestum Archaeological Museum

Below is a location map and aerial view of the Paestum Archaeological Museum. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.


  1. Personal visit (April 9, 2008).
  2. National Archaeological Museum of Paestum - official website
  3. R. Ross Holloway. The Tomb of the Diver, in American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 110, n. 3, July 2006 (pp. 365-388).
  4. Tomb of the Diver - Wikipedia
  5. "Treasure at Paestum" - TIME Magazine, January 26, 1970.
  6. Eileen H. Corrigan, Lucanian tomb paintings excavated at Paestum, 1969-1972: an iconographic study. Columbia University doctoral dissertation, 1979.
  7. "Painting for Eternity. The Tombs of Paestum." Europaconcorsi 2008 exhibition in Berlin, Germany.
  8. Barbara Ann Kipfer, "Paestum." Encyclopedic Dictionary of Archaeology (2000).

More Information

Article Info

Title:Paestum Archaeological Museum
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:01/28/2011
Link code:<a href="http://www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/paestum-museum">Paestum Archaeological Museum</a>