Museum of Anatolian Civilisations

Top choice museum in Ankara

The superb Museum of Anatolian Civilisations is the perfect introduction to the complex weave of Turkey's ancient past, with beautifully curated exhibits housing artefacts cherry-picked from just about every significant archaeological site in Anatolia.

The central hall houses reliefs and statuary, while the surrounding halls take you on a journey of staggering history from Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze Age, Assyrian, Hittite, Phrygian, Urartian and Lydian periods. Downstairs is a collection of Roman artefacts unearthed at excavations in and around Ankara.

The exhibits are chronologically arranged starting with the Palaeolithic and Neolithic displays to the right of the entrance, then continue in an anticlockwise direction. Do the full loop before visiting the central hall and then backtrack to see the Roman exhibits downstairs.

Items unearthed from one of the most important Neolithic sites in the world – Çatalhöyük, southeast of Konya – are displayed in the first hall including the most famous mother goddess sculptures and the wall mural thought by some experts to be the world's first town map.

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 millennium BC.

The hall devoted to Hittite artefacts is where the museum really shines, with fascinating displays of Hattuşa's haul of cuneiform tablets and striking figures of bulls and stags. 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 displayed in the last hall. 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. Spurred by rich metal deposits, the Urartians were Anatolia's foremost metalworkers, as the knives, horse-bits, votive plates and shields on display demonstrate. This last hall also contains neo-Hittite artefacts and terracotta figures of gods in human form, some revealing their divine powers by growing scorpion tails.