Museum of the Ancient Orient (Guided Tour)

Free with Istanbul Tourist Pass®

Regular Price: € 25

The Museum of the Ancient Orient is one of the main three units of Istanbul Archaeological Museums. The other units are in the same location as the Istanbul Archaeological Museum and the Tiled Kiosk.

In the Museum of the Anicent Orient there are exhibitions of unique collections of artworks belonging to the pre-Ionian eras of Anatolia and Mesopotamia, and the pre-Islamic eras of Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula. Most of these artifacts were unearthed in archaeological excavations that started at the end of the 19th century and lasted until the First World War. They were brought to Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire of the era, which was the ruler of these forementioned countries at the time.

The exhibitions in the museum are pre-Islamic Arabian, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Anatolian, Urartian Artifacts and cuneiform documents such as the Stele of the Akkadian King Naramsi, the Treaty of Kadesh, the Ishtar Gate, and the Tablet Archives which contains 75,000 cuneiform documents.

Museum of the Ancient Orient (Guided Tour) is free with Istanbul Tourist Pass®

Regular Price € 25

Avoid paying the €25 tour fee and skip the ticket queues with Istanbul Tourist Pass.

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Hours & Schedule

  • From 1 AUG - 31 Dec

  • Monday and Tuesday: NO TOUR
  • Wednesday to Sunday:  3:00 PM 

The approximate duration is 90 minutes

Please meet your guide at the meeting point 10 minutes before the tour start time.

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How To Get There?

Where to meet

The tour starts in front of the Carpet Museum (Halı Müzesi), opposite the entrance to Topkapı Palace. Please meet the guide there.

Getting there

Take the T1 Bağılar - Kabataş tram and get off at Sultanahmet station. The meeting point is an easy five minute walk away, behind the Hagia Sophia Museum.

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Remember

  • Skip-the-line is available only with a certificated tour guide.
  • This tour is combined with Archeological Museum and msueum of Tiled Kiosk
  • Istanbul Tourist Pass holders do not pay admission.

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The History of the Museum’s Building

 

The building itself is a unique historical structure. It was built by Osman Hamdi Bey in 1883 as Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi, better known as the Academy of Fine Arts. This academy, which would 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 was Alexander Vallaury, who would later build the Classical Building of the Istanbul Archaeological Museums. In 1917, after the academy was moved to another building in Cağaloğlu, this building was allocated to the Directorate of Museums. Halil Edhem Bey, the head of the Directorate of Museums, thought that it would be more appropriate to exhibit the works of ancient cultures of the Near East countries separately from the Greek, Roman and Byzantine works, and he arranged the building as the Museum of the Ancient Orient.

During the Second World War, the Museum of the Ancient Orient was discharged for defense purposes. In 1963, a major arrangement was made in the museum structure and it was opened to visitors in 1974. The Museum of the Ancient Orient gained its present form on September 8, 2000 and it is continuing to serve as a tourist attraction eversince.

 

If you are visiting the Museum of the Ancient Orient keep in mind that nearby a similar tourist attraction is located. The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art is an impressive museum that combines Turkish and Islamic artifacts You can access this museum for free with Istanbul Tourist Pass. Plus, your guide is free of extra charge!

Four Main Exhibition Sections in The Museum of the Ancient Orient

1.   Mesopotamia:

Findings from the Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, and Babylonian civilizations are exhibited in a historical sequence documenting the development of Mesopotamia.

2.   Egypt:

Findings from 3000 BCE to 600 CE are on display. Some of them were gifted by Khedive Abbas Pasha in 1894, and some were found during several excavations in Anatolia. Among these works, there are stone or bronze statuettes, wooden sarcophagi and burial finds.

3.   Anatolia:

Early Bronze Age, Hittite Imperial Period, Late Hittite Period finds are exhibited. There is also a wide variety of artifacts unearthed during the Zincirli and Karkamış excavations.

4.   Arabia:

This collection contains works related to the pre-Islamic cultures of the Arabian Peninsula. The most valuable parts of the Museum of the Ancient Orient mostly belonging to the Assyrian King II. There is a statue of Salmanasar, a winged statue of the Hittite King Tuthalia IV, a relief depicting Assyrian soldiers with spears, a mummy from the 10th century, a statue of the Sumerian King Fudea and many cuneiform clay plates.

The First Love Poem of the History

There is a cuneiform tablet numbered “Istanbul #2461” in the Cuneiform Documents Archive of the Museum of Ancient Orient. The tablet was found in 1889 in the ancient Sumerian city of Nippur, located in the southeast of present-day Iraq.

 

It was deciphered by the American Assyrian and Sumerologist Samuel Noah Kramer, who came to Istanbul in 1951 and started working on the Sumerian tablets. It was translated into Turkish by Muazzez İlmiye Çığ. It soon became clear that on this cuneiform tablet, the world's oldest love poem was written. Its authenticity is confirmed by Guinness World Records.