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Museum of Anatolian Civilizations

The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations (Turkish: Anadolu Medeniyetleri Müzesi) is located on the south side of Ankara Castle in the Atpazari area in Ankara , Turkey. It consists of the old Ottoman Mahmut Pasa bazaar storage building, and the Kursunlu Han. Because of Atatürk’s desire to establish a Hittite museum, the buildings were bought upon the suggestion of Hamit Zübeyir Kosay, who was then Culture Minister, to the National Education Minister, Saffet Arikan. After the remodelling and repairs were completed (1938 -1968), the building was opened to the public as the Ankara Archaeological Museum. It is one of the richest museums in the world

Today, Kursunlu Han, used as an administrative building, houses the work rooms, library, conference hall, laboratory and workshop. The old bazaar building houses the exhibits. Within this Ottoman building, the museum has a number of exhibits of Anatolian archeology. They start with the Paleolithic era, and continue chronologically through the Neolithic, Early Bronze, Assyrian trading colonies, Hittite, Phrygian, Urartian, Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman periods. There is also an extensive collection of artifacts from the excavations at Karain, Çatalhöyük, Hacilar, Canhasan, Beyce Sultan, Alacahöyük, Kültepe, Acemhöyük, Bogazköy (Gordion), Pazarli, Altintepe, Adilcevaz and Patnos as well as examples of several periods.

The exhibits of gold, silver, glass, marble and bronze works date back as far as the second half of the first millennium BC. The coin collections, with examples ranging from the first minted money to modern times, represent the museum’s rare cultural treasures.

Museum of Anatolian Civilizations reaching the present time with its historical buildings and its deeply rooted history was elected as the first “European Museum of the Year” in Switzerland on April 19, 1997.

The history of the museum

Main building from the courtyard.The first museum in Ankara was established by Mübarek Galip Bey, Directorate of Culture, in 1921, in the section of the Castle of Ankara called Akkale. In addition to this museum, artifacts from the Augustus Temple and the Byzantine Baths were also collected. Upon recommendation of Atatürk and from the view of establishing an “Eti Museum” in the center , the Hittite artifacts from the region were sent to Ankara and therefore a larger museum was needed.

The Director of Culture at that time, Hamit Zübeyir Kosay and Saffet Arikan, Minister of Education recommended that the Mahmut Pasa Bazaar and the Inn be repaired and converted into a museum. This recommendation was accepted and restoration continued from 1938 to 1968. Upon the completion of repairs of the bazaar, where the domed structure is, in 1940, a committee chaired by German Archaeologist H. G. Guterbock arranged the museum. For a more extensive discussion of Hans Guterbock’s exile in Turkey and his saga in coming to the US from Turkey, see Turkey’s Modernization: Refugees from Nazism and Atatürk’s Vision by Arnold Reisman.

In 1943, while the repairs of the building were still under progress, the middle section was opened for visitors. Repair projects of this part were carried out by Architect Macit Kural and repair work upon tender was performed by Architect Zühtü Bey. In 1948 the museum administration left Akkale as a storage house, and the museum was in four rooms of Kursunlu Han the repairs of which were completed. Restoration and exhibition projects of the part around the domed structure were prepared and applied by Architect ihsan Kiygi. Five shops were left in their original form, and the walls between the shops were destroyed and thus a large location was provided for exhibition. The museum building reached its present structure in 1968. Kursunlu Han, which has been used as an administration building, has research rooms, a library, a conference hall, a laboratory and workshops, and the Mahmut Pasha Vaulted Bazaar has been used as the exhibition hall.

The Anatolian Civilizations Museum, being among exceptional museums with its unique collection, has Anatolian archaeological artefacts, artefacts from the Palaeolithic Age to the present are exhibited.

History of buildings

A historical view of Kursunlu Han, now the main museum building.The Anatolian Civilizations Museum is in two Ottoman buildings located near Ankara Castle, in the historical Atpazari district of Ankara. One of the buildings is Mahmut Pasa Bedesteni and the other is Kursunlu Han.

Bedesteni was built by Mahmut Pasha, one of ministers (viziers) of Mehmed II the Conqueror during 1464-1471. The building does not have any inscription. In the sources it is recorded that pure Angora garments were distributed here. The design of the building is of the classical type. There are 10 domes covering a rectangle designed to enclose the location, and there are 102 shops facing each other.

According to historical records and registry books, Kursunlu Han was built as a foundation to finance Mehmet Pasha’s (Mehmet the Conqueror’s vizier) alms giving in Üsküdar, Istanbul. It does not have an inscription. During the repairs of 1946, coins of the Murat II period were discovered. The findings indicate that the Han (inn, caravanserai) existed in the fifteenth century. The Han has the typical design of Ottoman Period hans. There is a courtyard and an arcade in the middle and they are surrounded by two-storey rooms. There are 28 rooms on the ground floor, 30 rooms on the first floor. The rooms have furnaces. There is a barn with an “L” type on the ground floor on west and south directions of the rooms. On the north side of the han there are 11 shops and 9 shops on east side and 4 shops facing each other within the garden. The inn (han) was built by Mehmet Pasha and in 1467 Mehmet Pasha was promoted to Prime Minister (Grand Vizier). Upon orders by Mahmut Pasha the vaulted bazaar was built. He kept his position until 1470. He had his mosque, soup kitchen and madrasa in Üsküdar, and his body is buried there.

These two buildings constituting the museum today were abandoned after the fire in 1881.

Exhibited artifacts
Palaeolithic Age (….8000): The age is represented by the remains discovered in the Antalya Karain Cave. The people of Palaeolithic Age were hunting and collecting communities living in caves. The stone and bone tools of the people of that Age are exhibited.
Neolithic Age (8000-5500) : During this age food production began and first settlements were established by the communities of this age, the artefacts of the age were discovered in two important centers of the age, namely Çatalhöyük and Hacilar and are exhibited in the museum. The remains include the mother goddess sculptures, stamps, earthenware containers, agricultural tools made of bone.
Chalcolithic Age (Copper-Stone) (B.C. 5500-3000): In addition to stone tools, copper was processed and used in daily life during this age, and rich remains dating from this Age were discovered in Hacilar, Canhasan, Tilkitepe, Alacahöyük and Alisar and are exhibited in the museum.
Early Bronze Age (B.C. 3000-1950): The people living in Anatolia in the beginning of third millennium B.C. added tin to copper and alloy to copper and invented bronze. They also worked all metals of the age with casting and hammering techniques. Valuable metals, magnificent death presents discovered from royal tombs of Alacahöyük, ruins from Hasanoglan, Mahmatlar, Eskiyapar, Horoztepe, Karaoglan, Merzifon, Etiyokusu, Ahlatlibel, Karayavsan, Bolu, Beycesultan Semahöyük, Karaz-Tilki tepe constitute the rich Old Bronze Age and are exhibited in the museum.
Hittite Period (B.C. 1750-1200): The first political union in Anatolia in second millennium was established by the Hittites in the Kizilirmak basin. The capital city was Bogazköy (Hattusa) and other important centers were inandik, Eskiyapar, Alacahöyük, Alisar, Ferzant. Embossed bull figure containers, earthenware artifacts, tablets of government archives, seals in the name of the king can be seen.
Phrygian Period (B.C. 1200-700) : The Phrygians immigrated from the Balkans in the 1200s and acquired control over Anatolia, their center was Gordion. The works of art discovered in Gordion and its ruins are the best examples of the Phrygians and are exhibited in the museum.
Late Hittite Period (B.C. 1200-700) : Upon end of the Hittite Empire, some Hittite communities established province states in south and south-east Anatolia, and the Late Hittite Principalities period ensued. Malatya-Arslantepe, Karkamis (Carchemish) and Sakçagözü are some important Late Hittite settlements.
Urartian Period (B.C. 1200-600) : The Urartian civilization reached an advanced architecture and mining technology in centers like Altintepe, Adilcevaz, Kayalidere, Patnos, Van, Çavustepe and lived during the same times as the Phrygians.
Lydian Period (B.C. 1200-546) : The origin of Lydian art comes from the Bronze Age in which there were relations, friendly or hostile, between their ancestors and the Hittites. Lydians made spectacular progress in Iron Age especially from Gyges period to Croesus (685 BC to 547 BC). The exhibited artifacts mostly date from the 6th century BC.
Collections including Greek, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine period artifacts from the first millennium, made of gold, silver, glass, marble and bronze.
Coins represent exceptional cultural assets.
Ancient jewellery.

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