The best place in the country to get to grips with the complex weave of Turkey's history, the exhibits here house 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 Neolithic and Chalcolithic, through the Bronze Age Assyrian and Hittite eras, to the Iron Age's Phrygian and Urartian periods.
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 head downstairs where there are displays of Roman artefacts unearthed at excavations in and around Ankara.
Items discovered at 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.
Some of the most interesting exhibits are in the early Bronze Age section where the fascinating finds unearthed during excavations of the Assyrian trading colony Kültepe (near Kayseri, in Cappadocia) are displayed. These include cuneiform tablets that date to the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, disk-shaped idols and cult objects.
The Hittite collection follows, with Hattuşa's haul of cuneiform tablets (including the famed letter of friendship sent by Naptera, wife of Pharaoh Ramses II, to Puduhepa, wife to Hittite king Hattusili III) and striking figures of bulls and stags.
Most of the objects 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 artefacts are displayed at the end of the final hall. 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.