For History Buffs – The Anatolian Civilizations Museum

by Rosemarie John on December 29, 2012

Uratian Period Artefact - Baked Clay Vessel

After a visit to the Mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, what better way to understand the ancient history of Turkey by stopping by the Anatolian Civilizations Museum. Housing the finest collection in all of Turkey and the main reason to stopover in Ankara, the museum contains an amazing record of each and every civilization that passed through Anatolia.

Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey. The bigest part of Turkey sits on the Asian side which has been home to some of the major civilizations of the world that left behind unique artefacts, still being uncovered by archeologists till today.

History of the Museum Buildings

Anatolian Civilizations Museum

Even the buildings that house the artefacts go back in time. The museum consists of two buildings called the Bedesten and the Kurşunlu Han, that translate to a covered bazaar and a caravansary.

The Bedesten, now arranged as an exhibition hall was built by Mahmut Pasha (1455-1466), Grand Vizier under Mehmet II, the Conqueror. The building is formed by a central space covered by ten domes and supported on four pillars. The market was surrounded by 102 shops.  Alpaca clothes, unique to Ankara were sold there.

The Kurşunlu Han lies to the east of the Bedesten that houses the museum offices on the second and third stories. The Han was built by Mehmet Pasha (1466-1469), Grand Vizier under Mehmet II, the Conqueror. It is a typical example of a Han (inn) architecture of the Ottoman period, with a series of porticoes which open onto a central courtyard.

The buildings were abandoned after a fire in 1881. Atatürk, founder of the Turkish Republic suggested that they can be arranged as a museum. Restoration work began in 1938 and continued until 1968. The first part of the museum was opened in 1943. The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations won the European Museum of the Year Award in 1997.

Inside the Museum

The exibitions start with the Paleolithic era and continue chronologically through the Neolithic, Early Bronze, Assyrian trading colonies, Hittite, Phrygian, Urartian, Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman periods. The most impressive Neolithic Age findings are an 8000-year-old wall, clay and ceramic representations of bulls’ heads, images of a fat and misshapen Mother Goddess called Kybele (later Cybele, forerunner of Artemis), and wall paintings from Çatalhöyük, man’s oldest known stationary civilization.

Goddess Figurine – With her large breasts and wide hips, this female figurine has been linked to both agriculture and fertility. Her seated position between two leopards, however, suggests she is a person of power. Look at the round shape resting between her legs. Is it a head of a child being born or a skull of a revered ancestor?

Goddess Figurine – With her large breasts and wide hips, this female figurine has been linked to both agriculture and fertility. Her seated position between two leopards, however, suggests she is a person of power. Look at the round shape resting between her legs. Is it a head of a child being born or a skull of a revered ancestor?

Included in the vast exhibit is an extensive collection of artefacts from the excavations at Karain, Çatalhöyük, Hacılar, Canhasan, Beyce Sultan, Alacahöyük, Kültepe, Acemhöyük, Boğazköy (Gordion), Pazarlı, Altıntepe, Adilcevaz and Patnos as well as examples of several periods.

One of the most important artefacts is the tablet in Akkadian scripts (1275-1220 BC) – a correspondence from Egyptian Queen Nefertari (wife of Ramses II) to Hittite Queen Puduhepa (wife of Hattusili III) written after the Kadesh Peace Treaty – the first peace treaty in the world history, dated 1275-1220 BC found at Boğazköy.

Imperial Hittite Period - Corner stone decorated with a lion, bull and winged sun disc. Found to the right of the Sphinx Gate at Alacahöyük. The lion places his forelegs on top of a small bull. The lion has a winged sun disc at its belly visible from below. The placement of the sun-disc indicates that the stone was originally set on a high place.

Imperial Hittite Period – Corner stone decorated with a lion, bull and winged sun disc. Found to the right of the Sphinx Gate at Alacahöyük. The lion places his forelegs on top of a small bull. The lion has a winged sun disc at its belly visible from below. The placement of the sun-disc indicates that the stone was originally set on a high place.

The exhibits of gold, silver, glass, marble and bronze works date back as far as the second half of the first millennium BC. The coin collections, with examples ranging from the first minted money to modern times, represent the museum’s rare cultural treasures. Spend time going through all sections as to not overlook some significant moments in the history of man.

Inside the Museum

Our Turkish experience began when our tour guide picked us up from out hotel in Istanbul. We spent several days in this amazing country mesmerized by its history, culture, food, art and its people. We were greatly saddened when we had to leave its shores and promised to come back again for more. The articles that would follow are memories that would last us for a lifetime.

The Anatolian Civilizations Museum should not be missed if you’re a history buff. It gives visitors a better understanding of the country’s vast influences and historic account. Turkey is the only country that lies on two continents. It is seeped with rich history, tales of conquerors, inspired poets and writers over many generations, vibrant culture and a centre for two of the world major religions. It will continue to inspire current and future generations for many more aeons to come.

You might also enjoy reading...

Previous post:

Next post: