After strolling and picnicking (I noticed some folks looking longingly at our thermos) in the gardens outside of the Archaeology Museum, we casually walked in to what would be one of the most fascinating collections of Greek, Roman and Middle-Eastern, art I've ever seen. The museum is broken up into three different buildings -- Museum of Ancient Orient, Museum of Islamic Art (mostly just tile/ceramic work) and the Archaeological Museum (the main building.)

What was so striking was the quantity and the quality of sculpture they had -- all without glass, all to be marveled right up close. It was a much more intimate experience than going to the Met in New York or the British Museum in London, where everything is under glass and roped off, to protect the work yes, but also making it difficult to really put your eyes and all your senses up to the anitquities. This place was a refreshing contrast! I got nose to nose with many an ancient face.

During the 1800s, the Ottoman Empire extended through parts of the Middle East into what is now Syria, Israel and Eastern Iran -- so anything found there, they carefully shipped back to Istanbul for further research and display. It is these expeditions, led by Osman Hamdi Bey, that led to the Museum's creation (along with a neighboring library and research institute). The museum is still abuzz with students taking notes and sketching -- one can feel the history and knowledge pulsing through the halls of endless sculpture, pottery, tools, and writings.

(a discus thrower, assembled from many different parts -- the head is thought to originally look towards the discus, stands dramatically against a black ground)

The most notable items housed here are the first recorded peace treaty, a carved stele the size of a small school notebook, Kadesh Peace Treaty (1258 BC) between Ramessess II of Egypt and Hattusili III of the Hittite Empire and the Alexander Sarcophagus. This elaborate coffin/tomb (there were 18 other lesser sarcophogi buried with it!) was thought to have belonged to Alexander the Great, but was later recognized as belonging to a Greek King, who likened himself to the heroic, conquering Greek figure. What's so amazing is the carved marble is delicate and soft, the rendering of figures showing restraint and grace on behalf of the artists who made it . . . It's breath-taking. And it looks like it was made YESTERDAY. It's perfect.

(boy walks into light, right past the boy sculpture)

The museum deserves an entire leisurely afternoon -- even then, you probably can't tour every nook and crany. If you do go, the museum is open everyday except Mondays, they let the last visitors in at 4pm, but one hour is not enough, not by a long-shot. Go all day! It's right near the Aya Sophia and Blue Mosque and is entirely different, but yet another astonishing part of Turkish history.

(We picnic before we enter -- one cannot view art on an empty tummy! Dave basks in the warm winter sunlight)

1 comment:

  1. this reminded me of so many happy haunts in museums with another photographer you probably know, Richard Ross...especially in berlin and another in denmark. all those lovely people who have lost their head but got to keep their lovely bodies forever! cr