If you live in Turkey or ever go traveling in the country, you have probably seen the brown road signs along the highway indicating a nearby historical site. Turkey is home to many and Anatolia has been revered as a cradle of civilization for centuries. Stretching from East to West, it is like one expansive archaeological museum. For a detailed look at history, Turkey should be at the top of your list of places to visit.
Istanbul Archaeology Museums
Located in the garden of Topkapı Palace, Istanbul's Archaeology Museum complex is a group of three archaeological museums that are home to more than 1 million artifacts, representing nearly all eras and almost every ancient civilization in world history; from the ornate Alexander Sarcophagus to the glazed tile images from the Ishtar Gate of Babylon. With art collections made up of ancient Greek, Roman and Near East artifacts, the archaeological museums in Istanbul hold the most varied treasures.
The Museum of the Ancient Orient, built in 1883, includes collections of pre-Islamic items mainly from the expansive lands of the Ottoman Empire. Once you enter the museum, you will see Egyptian, Anatolia, Urartu and Mesopotamia artifacts from the pre-Islamic Arabian Peninsula. Among them, the Ishtar gate of ancient Babylon is the one that draws the most attention.
Opposite the Museum of the Ancient Orient is the Archaeology Museum, where you will see sculptures and sarcophagi. Unearthed by Osman Hamdi Bey in 1887, the sarcophagi from the Royal Necropolis of Sidon are center pieces of the museum. A marble head of Alexander, the Mourning Women Sarcophagus and the Alexander Sarcophagus are displayed and exhibitions from different periods including the Archaic, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires show how the legacy of civilization found a place in these lands.
The last museum to visit in the complex is Tiled Pavilion that has displays from Seljuk, Anatolian and Ottoman tiles and ceramics from 12th century to the 20th century. The pavilion was constructed in 1472 during the era of Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror.
Ankara Museum of Anatolian Civilization
Located in the capital city of Ankara, the Museum of Anatolian Civilization includes treasures that date back thousands years. Displays of gold, silver, glass, bronze and marble artifacts are included in the museum and the coin collections from the first minted money to modern times are also present. The museum was elected as the first European Museum of the Year in 1997 by Switzerland.
Ancient settlements in Turkey
Çatalhöyük in central Anatolia
Located in the Cumra district of Turkey's central Anatolian city of Konya, Çatalhöyük is among the oldest settlements of mankind in the Neolithic Age. Dating back to 7,400-5,200 B.C., Çatalhöyük is considered the largest and most well preserved ancient site in the world. Çatalhöyük was included in UNESCO's World Heritage Sites list in 2012 and since then, measures have been taken to improve the standards of protection for the ancient relics. Standing as proof of the development of civilizations and social life, the place includes houses decorated with wall paintings, sculptures and other features of Neolithic Age housing culture.
Those who want to discover life in ancient times can see the site and houses with their interior and exterior designs. To understand ancient social life, culture, religion, agriculture and domestic life, Çatalhöyük embraces all the history embedded in it. In Çatalhöyük, you can spend a day exploring the houses and later you can visit Konya's city center, situated in one of the largest provinces in the country and known for Rumi's doctrines.
Göbeklitepe in the southeastern province of Urfa
Regarded by some as one of the oldest temple complexes in the world, Göbeklitepe is reported to be the oldest known sculpture workshop based on evidence recently revealed by archaeologists. On the outskirts of Urfa, one can see it when you visit the city. Archaeological excavations conducted in the area have unearthed many artifacts, and it is characterized as "the ground zero of history," dating back 12,000 years. Its fame lies in the fact that it is the largest site built when humans were still hunter-gatherers, before the invention of agriculture. Moreover, some of the illustrations are so amazing they make modern artists envious. Along with Göbeklitepe, Urfa is also considered a sacred city. It is called "The City of Prophets," named in honor of Abraham's legacy and is mentioned in the holy books of all three major Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The city is considered a crossroads for different faiths, and numerous prophets are believed to have lived there with its history dating back more than 9,000 years. Both Göbeklitepe and Urfa are amazing destinations for quick visits in history.