Step back in time…Three thousand, three hundred years to be exact. When you visit Istanbul’s Archaeology Museum, you can see over one million objects— some dating back to the 14th century B.C.! This is a truly fascinating museum as it is really is a chance to see 3 museums for the price of one. The Museum of Islamic Art and the Museum of the Ancient Orient are also available all in the same walking area. The museum shows the local artifacts in chronological order so that you obtain a better understanding and appreciation of the ancient times.
Make sure you see the statue of a lion near the entrance. Why? This is the "only piece" saved in Turkey from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
A “must see” in the main floor hallway to the left is a collection of sarcophagi (tombs) found at Sidon (ancient Syria) representing various architectural styles from Egypt, Phoenicia, and Lycia. The most famous is the amazingly detailed Alexander Sarcophagus, showing the battles and life of Alexander the Great, discovered in 1887. It’s fascinating to still be able to see the remnants of the colors that were used on the original carvings.
On the mezzanine level is the exhibit “Istanbul Through the Ages,” which is laid out so well that it won the “Council of Europe Museum Award” in 1993. For your ease of understanding, the curators provide maps, plans, and drawings to illustrate the archaeological findings. Everything is displayed in theme ranging from prehistoric artifacts to 15th century Byzantine works of art.
Take your energy bars with you as you’ll be doing lots of walking if you want to see the upper floor of the building where there are items of stone works, pots, pans, small terracotta statues, 800,000 Ottoman coins, seals, decorations, and medals, and a library with 70,000 books. Closed on Mondays.
Museum of the Ancient Orient:
This is an exciting place for true history buffs. Pretty much everything here has enormous significance as the youngest artifact is 2000 years old. These artifacts are from the earliest civilization of Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Arab continent. The tour begins with pre-Islamic divinities and idols and Egyptian antiquities.
You will see an obelisk and panels with the colored mosaic art that was from the gold inlaid Gate of Ishtar, built by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylonia, who also built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World.
Two other highlights are the fragments of the 13th century B.C. sphinx from the Yarkapi Gate at Hattusas and one of the three known tablets of the Treaty of Kadesh, the oldest recorded peace treaty which was signed by Ramses II and the Hittites in the 13th-century BC. It is inscribed in Akkadian, the international language of the era.
Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts:
For the true aficionados of ancient times, this is a treasure chest housed in a separate section of the Archeological museum filled with its collections of glass, metalworks, carpets and ancient manuscripts. It was originally built as the first fine arts academy in Turkey by Osman Hamdi Bey, the famous Ottoman painter and director of the Archeological Museum. This museum contains a rich collection of ancient Anatolian archeological finds, including Babylonian, Sumerian, Assyrian, Urarthian, Hittite, Akkadian, and Aramaic objects, as well as seals from Nippur and a copy of the code of Hammurabi. There is also a considerable collection of pre-Islamic artifacts from the Arabian Peninsula and ancient Egypt.