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Archaeological Museum

The Istanbul Archaeological Museum is located adjacent to the Topkapi Palace. A simple way to find the Museum is to first go to the Topkapi Palace where you will find an open court with trees, this is a public area, about half way down the court, turn left into a cobbled street, walk down here and the museum complex is located on the right. The museum is in fact three museums in one. The main museum is housed in what is referred to as the “Old Building”, this spreads into another attached building with six floors, two of which are below ground, and is known as the “New Building”.  The second museum is known as the “Tiled Kiosk Museum”, and displays collections of some exquisite pottery and tiles. The third is referred to as the “Ancient Orient Museum” and contains oriental artefacts, most of which were found during excavations in a number of countries who were then under Ottoman rule.

The Old Building was built originally from a design by Osman Hamdi Bey. Started in 1881, further additions were added in 1902. In 1908 architect Alexander Vallaury created the neoclassical facade you can see today. This is a two story building with a display of tombs and statues on the ground floor, with the next floor housing a display of coins and coin moulds, medals, and seals. There is also a library containing an estimated 70,000 books.

The New Building has two floors below ground which are used for storage, the remaining four floors have displays from both the local, and surrounding cultures. As an example, on the first floor is an exhibition named  “Istanbul Through the Ages”. this contains items displaying the history of the neighbourhoods of Istanbul, from the Archaic, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods.

There is in excess of a million exhibits throughout the twenty galleries. An outstanding example is what is known as the Alexander Sarcophagus which dates from the 4th century BC. It got its name from the fact that it was once thought to have been made for Alexander the Great, as it depicts scenes from aspects of his life, including some of his more famous battles, but it has since been discovered to have been made for the Persian leader King Abdalonymos, who led his people in battle against the Macedonians.

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The entrance to the Tiled Kiosk Museum has a facade consisting of two stories with a marble porch and featuring fourteen columns. The Kiosk itself, was created in 1472 by Fatih Sultan Mehmet, and is one of the oldest examples of Ottoman architecture in Istanbul. The Tiled Kiosk Museum holds approximately 2000 items from the Seljuk and Ottoman periods, some dating as far back as the 11th century. They are displayed in six rooms that are accessed via a central area.

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The Ancient Orient Museum is located to the left the main Archaeological Museum. It was originally a school but was converted to be part of the museum in 1917, with a further period of modernisation that was completed in 1973. Two neo-Hittite lions carved from basalt guard the entrance. Contained in the museum is a fine collection of Anatolian archaeological finds plus a fine display of pre-Islamic artefacts from ancient Egypt and the Arabian peninsula.

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