Originally the museum collection was exhibited in the Cinili Pavilion, an annex of the Topkapi Museum now in use as the museum of faience and ceramics and dating to the period of Mehmed II. But as the collection grew, the present building was erected between 1892-1908, to which a later annex has been added in recent years.
The late 19th century museum building was inspired in style by the tomb of the Weeping Maidens. The museum collection include up to 60 thousand archaeological findings of various kinds, nearly 500 thousand coins and medallions and nearly 75 thousand cunciform inscription tablets. It is among the greatest collections in the world. The collection can be seen in three separate sections. In the Museum of the Ancient Near East, which stands opposite the main building, in the classical section housed in the main building and in the Cinili Pavilion. On entering the Museum of the Ancient Near East, the first hall houses Egyptian artifacts, tombs and mummies among them. In halls III and IV, one may see work from Mesopotamia, including findings from Halef, Nineva the periods of Old Sumerian, classical and New Sumerian and the Gudea statues. In the section containing works of the Assyrian period, one can see the statues of Puzur Ishtar, governor of Mari.
His son and Salmanasar III, and reliefs of winged spirits from the walls of the palace of king Tiglat Pileser at Nemrut. In other parts of the museum are displayed seals and hieroglyphic tablets from Mesopotamia and works of the Urartu and Phrygian Periods.
The Hittite Period, (dating from 2000-1200 B.C.) in Anatolia, is well represented, and the works on display includes those of the Hittite imperial period, and of the later Hittite city states, (dating after 1200 B.C.) Among the most notable works of the period to be seen are vessels of various kinds, bronze axes and the hieroglyphic tablet inscribed with the text of the famous “Kadesh Treaty”. Late Hittite works of note include the Zincirli reliefs, the Maras findings and the famous Babylonian reliefs, decorated with bull, dragon and lion figures in brickwork, which was removed from the walls of the ceremonial way and the Ishtar gate at Babylon. Classical section of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum is taking place among noted museums of the world, upon completion of the new additional building in 1992 has rearranged and opened to visitors.
Entrance with triangular frontal supported by four pillars is reached by white marble stairs. These stairs lead to hall way where the statue of God Bes of Roman Period takes place. In the galleries on both sides of this hallway connected to each other with halls the master pieces of the world are being exhibited. First of all, let us visit the halls on the right hand side where statues of ancient times take place. Works of the first gallery are of Archaic Period. In the second gallery the works of Anatolia under sovereignty of Persians between 546-333 B.C. and in the third gallery, the Attic grave stelae and reliefs of 6-5 century B.C. take place.
In the following gallery, works of Hellenistic Period (330-30 B.C.) adorn the hall. In this hall, beautiful heads and a statue of Alexander who initiated the period take place. One of the heads was found in Pergamon and draws attention with its hairs in form of a lion’s mane. Based on the portrait of Alexander the Great made by Lysippos in IVth century B.C., this type of hair is peculiar to Alexander.
This particular portrait a work which was made in Pergamon sculpture shop in 2nd century B.C. Again, in this hall Marsyas’ statue, the Roman Period copy of the work of 3rd century B.C. can be seen. As it is known God Apollo punished Marsyas by flaying his skin, for entering in a musical contest with him. This is the statue which illustrates Marsyas hung on a tree for punishment. Also the statue of Zeus and a huge divine statue which most possibly belongs to Attalos II, the King of Pergamon of 2nd century B.C. found at the Temple of Hera of Pergamon are most remarkable ones.
In the fifth gallery the statues found in Magnesia of Meander (Menderes River) and Tralles (Aydin) are being exhibited. Right across the hall from the door the Statue of famous Ephebos (young athlete) takes place. This statue which was found in Tralles and belongs to the Early Roman Empire Period depicts a child athlete of about twelve years old while resting, tired of sportive activities he had gone through. The statue is illustrated with a pelerine thrown over the short clothing. At the right hand side of the door the statue of Apollo, Goddess heads, statue of a half naked Nymphe can be witnessed. On the left hand side, the statue which belongs to a woman named Balbia, of 1st century B.C., statue of Athena, woman’s statue and various statues of women and men take place. On the left side of the passage way (Carian) leading to the other hall, a statue of a woman found at Tralles and used as a pillar attracts the attentions. As the examples encountered at the monument of Nereids in Xanthos near Fethiye and at the monument of Limyra near Finike, these statues have been used in place of pillars in various locations. From here, it is proceeded to a hall where examples of Roman sculpture art are displayed. Right in the center poetess Sapho’s head made in Roman Period is located, on the right, statues of Aphrodite and Cybele, on the wall the relief made in the name of Euripides author of Tragedia, reliefs of Mousa playing guitar take place. To the left of the hall are the examples depicting the Roman art of portrait.
Here, the busts of Augustus, Tiberius and Claudius of Roman emperors and the statues of Neron and Hadrianus take place. In addition, the statue and the bust of Marcus Aurelianus, the bust of Empress Faustina and other men and women busts adorn the hall. On the right hand side of Aphrodisias’ Hall named after Prof. Kenan Erim who made excavations for a long time at Aphrodisias and died in 1990, Statues of Roman judges and the statue of a woman are being exhibited.
Aphrodisias is near Karacasu county in the province of Aydin in Western Anatolia. The Sculptors here when Attolos III, King of Pergamon left his territory to Rome in 133 B.C. migrated to Aphrodisias the capital of Caria region and here created marvelous works out of the marbles obtained from the rich marble quarries. These statues of Aphrodisias sculptor school were exported to Greece and Rome. On the walls of this hall, take place the reliefs illustrating the war between the Gods and Giants. Today, the works obtained in excavations in Aphrodisias are being displayed in the local museum.
Works found in Ephesos can be seen in the center of this hall. On the floor, statue of Oceanus, the God of Rivers, next to it the statue of Polemaeanus, the proconsul (Governor) of Asia found in Celsus Library of Ephesos take place. On the left hand side of the hall, the works found in Miletos and on the opposite wall the statues found in the Faustina Bath are exhibited. These are the musical muse playing flute, statue of Melpomene and the God Apollo playing guitar. In the next hall, works of Roman Empire Period are seen.
Next to the works found in Anatolia, also, the works found within the boundaries of Ottoman territory of those days are exhibited. Heads of Poseidon, Artemis, Statues of Zeus and Tykhe, the Goddess of good luck are among those works adorning this hall.
In the gallery on the left hand side of the entrance leading to the museum of sarcophagi beautiful one from another are being exhibited. Right across from them, is sarcophagus of King Tabnit of Sidon made out of black stone. From the inscription thereon, it is decided that the sarcophagus belongs to General Peneftah lived in time of 26th family in Egypt and used for King Tabnit of Sayda for the second time.
On both sides of this sarcophagus, Egyptian and Greek type sarcophagi take place, magnificent Lycian sarcophagus behind them dates back to 5th century B.C. and was found in Necropolis of King of Sidon. This sarcophagus called Lycian sarcophagus due to its resemblance to the sarcophagi of Lycian region was found at Sidon by Osman Hamdi in 1877 and brought here. On one side of it a lion hunt and two carriage each drawn by four horses, and on the other side a boar hunt are illustrated. On narrow sides the fight of Kentoros and Lapith and a scene of fight between the Kentoros over a deer can be seen. Behind this sarcophagus which is a work of a Lycian sculptor takes place a satrap’s sarcophagus again brought from Sidon. On this work which belongs to the later part of 5th century B.C., the life of a governor general of Persia called Satrap is illustrated.
After an intervening section we arrive a hall where Alexander’s sarcophagus is. This sarcophagus with its splendor comes in sight in the center after going by three other. This sarcophagus made out of white marble and bears fine reliefs in fact does not belong to Alexander, but it is called by this name due to his war and hunt scenes thereon. This sarcophagus with an 2.12 m. height, 3.18 m. length and 1.67 m. width shows Alexander’s battle with Greeks as the subject for the illustrations on narrow surfaces thereon. One at the left end is the illustration of Alexander. On the other there are the scenes of lion and deer hunts. The wounded lion in the center of hunting scene is illustrated in the act of billing. Also the cavalier to the left of the lion is Alexander himself on his head, he wears a hand having the royal symbol. The sarcophagus which belongs to 4th century B.C. is shaped like a temple and displays a delicate stone labor which arouses administration with its painted and high reliefs. Behind this sarcophagus takes place the sarcophagus of Weeping Maidens. On this sarcophagus made for a Sidonian in 350 B.C. there are eighteen sad women. They are separately illustrated to get rid of monotony.
On the top cover two identical funeral processions are illustrated. In this department, there are the halls of the museum which shall be reorganized. On the upper floor of the newly opened part of the museum, the Anatolian Civilizations. Through Ages’ Exhibition is on display. On the left side of the hall the works of Troy can be seen. City of Troy burned down and rebuilt nine times is at a distance of 30 km from Canakkale. This city also has been inhabited from 3500 B.C to 300 without interruption. Therefore it is possible to follow the cultures of periods parading one after another.
First excavation in Troy which occupies an important place in history for reasons of being the first site of excavation in Anatolia, constituting subject for Epic Poems of Homeros, and giving a firm chronology, was made by Schliemann in 1870. Story of excavations and colorful personality of Schliemann made Troy so much more important.