Archaeological Museum of Istanbul


Istanbul Archaeological Museum is one of the largest museums in the world, with over a million works of various cultures. The museum is Turkey’s oldest museum building. It was established as an Imperial Museum by painter and archaeologist Osman Hamdi Bey in the late 19th century and opened to the public on June 13th, 1891.

Units of the Archaeological Museum

In the collection of the museum, artifacts belong to civilizations within the borders of the Ottoman Empire, from the Balkans to Africa, from Anatolia and Mesopotamia to the Arabian Peninsula and Afghanistan. Since the museum consists of three main units, it is called Istanbul Archaeological Museums.

Archaeological Museum (main building)
Old Oriental Works Museum
Tiled Pavilion Museum

History of Istanbul Archaeological Museum

Istanbul Archaeological Museums collects the first museum works in Turkey that was inherited by the Republic of Turkey from the Ottoman Empire. It is possible to trace some of the most interest of collecting historical artifacts in the Ottoman Empire back from the time of Mehmet II. However, the emergence of systematic museology as an orderly coincides with the establishment of the Istanbul Archaeological Museums in 1869 as the Imperial Museum.

The Imperial Museum, which consists of archaeological artifacts collected up to that day in the Hagia Irene Church, forms the basis of the Istanbul Archaeological Museums. The Minister of Education of the period, Saffet Pasha, was very closely interested in the museum and made personal efforts to bring artifacts to the museum. Also, Edward Goold, one of the Galatasaray High School teachers, was appointed as the museum director. In 1872, when the Minister of Education Ahmed Vefik Pasha resigned from the Imperial Museum for a while. Dr. Phillip Anton Dethier re-installs him as a manager. As a result of the work done by Dethier, the space in Aya İrini church was insufficient; thus a new construction comes to the agenda.

Searching for A New Museum Building

A new building was not at the table due to financial difficulties, so they converted the “Tiled Kiosk” built during the reign of Mehmet II in the 15th century into a museum building. The Tiled Kiosk, which is still part of the Istanbul Archaeological Museums, was restored and opened in 1880.

In terms of construction date, the oldest building in the Istanbul Archaeological Museums complex is the Tiled Kiosk. Tiled Kiosk Museum is the building where the most exquisite examples of Turkish tiles and ceramics are at the moment is the oldest civil architecture example built by Mehmed II in Istanbul. The Seljuk effect in the structure is outstanding. The date of its construction as 1472 in the tile inscription on its door, but we do not know its architect.

There are two other buildings around the Tiled Kiosk. One of these buildings is the building that was established as the first Academy of Fine Arts of the Ottoman Empire and later arranged as the Museum of Ancient Orient. The building, where the Old Oriental Works is today, was built by Osman Hamdi Bey in 1883 as the School of Fine Arts, namely the Academy of Fine Arts. This academy, which will form the foundations of Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University in the future, is the first fine arts school opened in the Ottoman Empire. The architect of the building is Alexander Vallaury, who will later build the Istanbul Archaeological Museums Classic building.

Upon moving the academy to another building in Cagaloglu in 1917, they allocated this building to the Directorate of Museums. Halil Edhem Bey, the museum director of the period, thought that it would be more appropriate to display the works of the ancient cultures of the Near East countries separately from the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine works. They enabled the building to become the Museum of Ancient Orient. It belongs to Abdulhamid II.

New Building for Growing Collections

In 1881, with the appointment of Osman Hamdi Bey, the son of Grand Vizier Edhem Pasha, as a museum director, a new era was established in Turkish museology. Osman Hamdi Bey made excavations in Mount Nemrut, Myrina, Kyme, and other Aiolia Necropolis and Lagina Hekate Temple. He collected the works from this museum. Between 1887 and 1888, he reached the Necropolis of the Kings as a result of his excavations in Sayda, which is in Lebanon today. He returned to Istanbul with many sarcophagi, especially the Tomb of Alexander the Great. Sidon (Sayda, Lebanon).

Osman Hamdi Bey needed a new museum building to display magnificent works such as İskender Tomb, Crying Women Tomb, Lycian Tomb, Tabnit Tomb, etc. At the request of Osman Hamdi Bey, the famous architect of the time, Alexandre Vallaury built the Istanbul Archaeological Museum building. It became Muze-i Humayun (Imperial Museum) and opened to visitors on June 13th, 1891.

The museum opened to visitors as it appeared on June 13th is celebrated as the day of museum curators in Turkey. With the addition of the north wing in 1903 and the south wing in 1907, the main museum building was created today. An addition was made between 1969-1983 to the southeast adjacent to the Main Museum building due to the need for new exhibition halls, and this section was called the Additional Building (new construction).

Some of the Most Important Artifacts

– The earliest known written treaty called Kadesh.

– The copy of the Hammurabi Code, which is the earliest known written law.

– Pieces from the entrance of Ishtar Temple, built by Nabukadnessar.

– The sarcophagus of Alexandre the Great.

– The Sidamara Sarcophagus.

– The treasure of Troy.

– The Earliest known love poem.

– Siloam Inscription. One of the oldest known Hebrew texts.

– Temple warning inscription, which was at the entrance of Beth HaMikdash.

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Private Tours of the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul

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