Istanbul’s Archeology Museum ranks as one of the best in the world. On our last day in Istanbul, Judy and I intended to spend a few hours there but ended up browsing there most of the day.
The museum rests down the hill from the Topkapi Palace. The complex has three main parts: the Archaeology Museum, the Museum of the Ancient Orient and the Tiled Pavilion. Plus, we found lovely statue gardens where you could sip a cup of coffee and have some lunch with a multitudes of cats. There is a glassed-in pavilion in case the cats or cold weather intervene.
Museum of the Ancient Orient
The Ancient Orient Museum lies on the left after purchasing your ticket and entering the compound. The 1883 building holds a collection of pre-Islamic items from the Ottoman Empire. My personal highlight and certainly one of the museum’s priceless treasures are the pristine condition series of large blue-and-yellow glazed-brick panels from ancient Babylon. They formerly lined the processional streets of Babylon. How extraordinary – Babylon! I never thought I’d see anything from ancient Babylon.
The museum also houses a mummy collection including a few sarcophagi and these neat little mini-mummies (like dolls) that are regarded as servant figures. According to a sign, “They were intended to do heavy work in the deceased place, should he/she be called upon to do manual labor in the afterlife.” How cool is that!
We also admired the statues of lions and bulls and some mythical creatures before leaving the building.
Next, we visited the Tiled Pavilion, constructed in 1472 by order of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror. The exterior features 14 marble columns, and the interior includes a main hall or lobby with small rooms on either side. Each room holds selected Seljuk, Anatolian or Ottoman tiles and ceramics, some dating back to the 12th-century.We had to read labels to know what we were looking at since our knowledge of ceramics is limited. The tour turned into us more or less just glancing at and enjoying the designs and colors.
We saved the main museum building for last. It houses an extensive collection of classical statuary and sarcophagi plus displays on İstanbul’s history.
We entered a dimly lit room holding the museum’s major treasures: sarcophagi from the Royal Necropolis of Sidon (Lebanon). According to my guidebook, “These sarcophagi were unearthed in 1887 by Osman Hamdi Bey in Sidon.” The detail and beauty in the Alexander Sarcophagus and Mourning Women Sarcophagus are exquisite and are as poignant today as ever.
Amongst the historical collections from Istanbul, we saw the missing snake’s head from the Serpentine Column we’d seen earlier in the Hippodrome. We also browsed lots of cooking and eating utensils, coins, medals, pottery and tools. One hall displayed statues and busts, some from Ephesus and Afrodisias that we would be visiting in a week.
We eventually left the museum and were delighted to encounter Gülhane Park bursting with magnificent blooms. The park features a statue of Ataturk and an evil eye garden amongst its swirling designs.
Our days in Istanbul were ending, but couldn’t have been more rewarding. We were now looking forward to visiting Cappadocia.
All photo copyright Debi Lander@bylandersea.com
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