Istanbul’s Archaeological Museums

(Last Updated On: December 8, 2020)

Istanbul’s Archaeological Museum is actually three museums, the Ancient Orient Museum, the Archaeology Museum, and the Tiled Kiosk Museum (the Çinili Pavilion). There is also a lovely garden filled with artifacts (and cats), but it is beginning to rain again, so is not very inviting weather for exploring an outdoor gallery.

So we escape the rain inside the Ancient Orient Museum, with its pre-Islamic Arabian art; collections from Egypt, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Urartu; and cuneiform documents.

Among them is the Treaty of Kadesh, the world’s oldest known written peace treaty, established between Egypt and the Hittites in the 13th century BC.

It’s hard to believe that is text of sorts!

One of the biggest treats is something I first saw in Berlin – a few of the lions, aurochs, and dragons from the Ishtar Gate of ancient Babylon.

We next visit the main building, which houses Roman artifacts, along with those from Anatolian and surrounding cultures.

The Roman section has some amazing sarcophagi (including the Alexander Sarcophagus – which was not carved for Alexander, but does commemorate Alexander’s battles) and other monuments to the dead.

We visit the “Anatolia and Troy Through the Ages” exhibit (lots of spindle whorls and pottery fragments from the many periods of life in the ancient city of Troy).

We also take time for a quick visit to the exhibit on the “Surrounding Cultures of Anatolia: Artifacts from Syria, Palestine and Cyprus.”

While there is a lot more to see here, we also want some time to see the tile collection. Housed in a pavilion that dates back to 1473, a lovely, graceful structure, the collection includes beautiful Seljuk and Ottoman tiles and ceramics.

Most of the work on display is Ottoman, but there are a few Seljuk pieces too – something I’m pleased to see. The style predates Islamic prohibitions against the portrayal of humans and animals and is often described as both beautiful and playful.

Indeed. (I believe these examples were orginally part of the Kubadabad Palace, which was constructed by the Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad I in Konya in 1236.)

So much beauty, but so much lost to time.

Next post: Kapalı Çarşı (The Grand Bazaar)

Travels in Turkey 2012

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