Hatay Archaeology Museum

Top choice in Eastern Mediterranean

This incomparable museum contains one of the world's finest collections of Roman and Byzantine mosaics, covering a period from the 1st century AD to the 5th century. Many were recovered almost intact from Tarsus or Harbiye (Daphne in ancient times), 9km to the south. The entire collection from the old museum in the centre of Antakya has been moved to purpose-built premises just out of town on the D430 to Reyhanlı.

The museum is positively enormous, spread over 19 halls and at present difficult to navigate. Among the museum's highlight pieces (most found in Room 7) are the full-body mosaic of Oceanus & Thetis (2nd century) and the Buffet Mosaic (3rd century), with its depictions of dishes of chicken, fish, eggs and bread. Thalassa & the Nude Fishermen (5th century) shows children riding whales and dolphins, while the fabulous 3rd-century mosaics of Narcissus & Echo and the Drunken Dionysus depict stories from mythology. Among the museum's quirkier mosaics are the happy hunchback with an oversized phallus; the black fisherman; an obese infant Hercules strangling two snakes; and our favourite: the mysterious portrayal of a raven, a scorpion, a dog, a snake, a centipede, a rat and a pitchfork attacking a nazar (evil eye) while a horned dwarf with a gigantic trailing phallus obliviously plays the pipes.

Along with mosaics, the museum also showcases artefacts recovered from various mounds and tumuli (burial mounds) in the area, including a Hittite mound near Dörtyol, 16km north of İskenderun, and a Palaeolithic-era cave called Üçağızlı Mağarası near Samandağ. Taking pride of place in the collection (Room 15) is the so-called Antakya Sarcophagus (Antakya Lahdı), a spectacularly carved marble tomb from the 3rd century with an unfinished reclining figure on the lid.