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Istanbul Archaeological Museums - İstanbul Arkeoloji Müzeleri

Home > Turkey > Art | Museums | Places of Interest
by Cressida Ryan (subscribe)
Classicist and traveller
Published January 31st 2014
Tombs, temples and tiles
The Istanbul Archaeology Museums are an absolute treasure trove of extraordinary architecture and objects from the area. Throughout history Istanbul has been a focal point for different cultures to come together, as Asia and Europe meet, and the museum reflects all parts of this rich cultural heritage.

The main building houses primarily Greco-Roman things. From the monumental to the minute, it gives you an insight into the life of the ancients.

At the massive end, the whole front of a temple is preserved, and you can walk upstairs to see its pediment in a way which is usually impossible.

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Temple front


Looking to the floor, there are plenty of impressive mosaics. Some collect lots of small images.

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Floor mosaic


Others give a whole scene. This one, known as the 'Orpheus mosaic', depicts Orpheus surrounded by all the different beasts he is said to have charmed, offering a representation of the Romans whole natural world, imbued with the nuances of mystery cult.

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Orpheus mosaic


One room has a whole range of busts and other sculptures. It's easy to spot key players in Greek and Roman myth and history. Augustus is instantly recognisable - all images of him have the same distinctive fringe arrangement; the locks are unmistakable.

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bust of the Emperor Augustus


The museum has lots of exhibits linked to death. Its most famous is probably the supposed sarcophagus of Alexander the Great.

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Sarcophagus of Alexander the Great


Whether or not is was his, it's an impressive monument well worth close scrutiny for its intricate stonework and paint traces. Far less lauded is a small panel dedicated to a pet dog. The owner was clearly distraught at his loss and wanted to honour his pet's memory. Dogs have long been a man's best friend, so it would seem.

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Dog dedication


There are two other main collections in the museum compound. One is the Ancient Orient Museum, which consists of the sections of Pre-Islamic Arabian Art, Egypt Collection, Mesopotamia Collection, Anatolia Collection, Urartu Collection and Cuneiform Documents. The other is the Tiled Kiosk Museum. This houses around 2000 objects belonging to the Seljuk and Ottoman eras.

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Tiled Kiosk Museum


Originally part of a palace complex, it now acts as an exhibit in its own right, with sumptuously tiled rooms. Display cases show even more amazing objects. Islamic art can't feature the human image, so is extremely inventive and detailed in its abstract decoration, and this whole building is dazzling.

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Tiled room


This room in particular has amazing fittings, including a wonderful fountain built into the wall.

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Fountain in the Tiled Kiosk Museum


All in all it's a vibrant, colourful, fascinating museum, with so many different cultures represented you're bound to find something to interest you.

There are toilets available, free of charge, with toilet paper provided. These are 'hole in the ground' type ones, so be aware that you'll need to squat unless you can use the disabled cubicle. Admission to the Museum is 10 Turkish Lira, (roughly £3.30) and it is open every day except Mondays. Photographs are permitted.
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Why? Oriental meets Classical, architecture & objects
When: 09:00-17:00 except Mondays
Phone: 90 212 520 77 40 - 41
Where: Istanbul
Cost: 10 Turkish Lira
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