5 Must-See Artifacts in İstanbul Archaeology Museums
Tablet of a Love Poem
The İstanbul Archaeology Museums house a remarkable clay tablet discovered during excavations in the Ancient City of Nippur, dating back to 2000 BC. This tablet presents the world's earliest documented love poem, providing readers with a fascinating glimpse into ancient Sumerian culture.
In the customs of Sumerian tradition, an annual marriage ceremony between the king and a nun symbolizing Inanna, the goddess of love and fertility, was conducted to ensure a fruitful and prosperous year. It is believed that the poem inscribed on this tablet was intended to be recited to Sumerian King Shu-Sin, further enhancing the significance of this unique artifact.
Bust of Alexander the Great
A fascinating discovery was made in the lower agora of the Ancient City of Pergamon—a head sculpture believed to have belonged to either Alexander the Great or a deity or hero portrayed in his image. This remarkable find, dating back to the 2nd Century BC, is thought to have been severed from one of the structures located on the upper side of the city.
The sculpture holds immense historical and artistic significance as it represents one of the compositions associated with Alexander the Great. Known for his profound impact on human history, Alexander's legacy continues to captivate the imagination. This head sculpture serves as a tangible link to that influential era.
Among the remarkable treasures housed in the museum, one particular artifact stands out—an ancient sarcophagus dating back to the 3rd century AD. Unearthed during the Ambar Höyük excavations in Konya and later transported to İstanbul, this sarcophagus is truly a unique find.
Weighing an astounding 32 tons, the sarcophagus boasts a magnificent structure that immediately captures the attention of onlookers. It holds the distinction of being the first discovered example of a sarcophagus crafted in Anatolia, further adding to its significance. What truly sets this sarcophagus apart are its exquisitely detailed engravings, showcasing extraordinary craftsmanship.
The sides of the sarcophagus depict mythological scenes, offering a glimpse into ancient narratives and symbolism. Additionally, the cover of the sarcophagus features two male and female figures believed to be the individuals interred within. These intricate details contribute to the overall allure of this remarkable piece.
Not only does this sarcophagus hold immense artistic value, but it also carries historical importance within the field of archaeology. Discovered in the year 1900, it has played a crucial role in expanding our understanding of the past. Consequently, it holds a well-deserved place as one of the most significant artifacts displayed in the museum.
Sarcophagus of Alexander
The sarcophagus discovered by Osman Hamdi Bey, widely regarded as the first Turkish archaeologist, during the 1887 excavations in Sayda, is a stunning example crafted from the renowned Pentelikon marble. This remarkable artifact offers a captivating glimpse into history.
One of the most visually striking scenes depicted on the sarcophagus is believed to depict the Battle of Issos. This historic conflict pitted Alexander the Great and his Macedonian forces against the Persians. Despite its name, the sarcophagus is not attributed to Alexander the Great himself but rather to one of his commanders, Abdalonymos. Following the victorious Battle of Issos, Abdalonymos was recognized as the king of Sidon.
Dating back to the 4th century BC, this magnificent work of art can be found awaiting visitors at the İstanbul Archaeology Museums. It showcases superb craftsmanship and artistic detail, a testament to the skill of ancient artisans. The use of Pentelikon marble adds to its visual splendor, further enhancing its allure.
Kadesh Peace Treaty Tablets
The Kadesh Treaty, discovered during the excavations in Hattusa (Boğazköy), stands as an extraordinary testament to the history of diplomacy. Dating back to the 13th century BC, it holds the distinction of being the first recorded peace treaty in human history. Preserved on terracotta tablets, two copies of this momentous treaty are currently exhibited at the İstanbul Archaeology Museums.
These tablets represent a significant turning point in the annals of diplomacy. They signify the convergence of two ancient superpowers, who, despite their undefeated status in war, chose to forge an alliance based on the principle of equality against potential mutual adversaries. The Kadesh Treaty serves as an unparalleled symbol of this historic union.
Visitors to the İstanbul Archaeology Museums have the privilege of beholding this unique relic, which embodies the ancient civilizations' commitment to diplomatic engagement. It stands as a testament to the enduring importance of peaceful resolutions and serves as a reminder of humanity's ongoing pursuit of cooperation and harmony.
The Kadesh Treaty tablets are not only historical artifacts but also symbolic representations of an extraordinary milestone in the evolution of international relations. Their presence at the museum offers an opportunity to witness firsthand the legacy of ancient diplomacy and the significance of written agreements between states—a legacy that continues to shape our modern world.