Lonely Planet review
The superb Museum of Anatolian Civilisations is the perfect introduction to the complex weave of Turkey's ancient past, housing artefacts cherry-picked from just about every significant archaeological site in Anatolia.
The museum is housed in a 15th-century bedesten (covered market). The central room houses reliefs and statues, while the surrounding hall displays exhibits from Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze Age, Assyrian, Hittite, Phrygian, Urartian and Lydian periods. Downstairs are classical Greek and Roman artefacts and a display on Ankara's history.
The exhibits are chronologically arranged in a spiral: start at the Palaeolithic and Neolithic displays in the room to the right of the entrance, then continue in an anticlockwise direction, visiting the central room last.
Items from one of the most important Neolithic sites in the world – Çatalhöyük, southeast of Konya – are displayed here. There's a mock-up of the inside of a dwelling typical of those uncovered at the site, one of the most famous mother goddess sculptures unearthed from the excavations and wall paintings of hunting scenes.
Also on show are many finds from the Assyrian trading colony Kültepe, one of the world's oldest and wealthiest bazaars. These include baked-clay tablets found at the site, which dates to the beginning of the 2nd millenium BC.
One of the striking Hittite figures of bulls and stags in the next room used to be the emblem of Ankara. The Hittites were known for their relief work, and some mighty slabs representing the best pieces found in the country, generally from around Hattuşa, are on display in the museum's central room.
Most of the finds from the Phrygian capital Gordion, including incredible inlaid wooden furniture, are on display in the museum's last rooms. The exhibits also include limestone blocks with still-indecipherable inscriptions resembling the Greek alphabet, and lion- and ram-head ritual vessels that show the high quality of Phrygian metalwork.
Urartian artifacts are also on display here. Spurred by rich metal deposits, the Urartians were Anatolia's foremost metalworkers, as the knives, horse-bits, votive plates and shields on display demonstrate. There are also terracotta figures of gods in human form, some revealing their divine powers by growing scorpion tails, and neo-Hittite artefacts.
Downstairs, classical-period finds and regional history displays provide a local picture. Excavations have unearthed a Roman road near the Column of Julian, and Ankara has its own 'missing link', the 9.8-million-year-old Ankarapithecus (a 30kg, fruit-eating primate).
At the time of research all but one of the rooms in the museum was closed for major renovations. It will have all re-opened by the time this book hits the shelves, but the order of displays may be different to that explained here. Renovations or not, get there early to avoid the flood of tour groups and school parties.