Ancient Anatolian History Lesson in Ankara

Turkey > Ankara

February 2013

Breakfast in Ulus, old quarter of Ankara — I love the olives and cold cuts and the cheese! But why are we in Ankara? The real reason we are here is to catch a plane to Sanliurfa (Urfa), since we couldn’t fly to Urfa from Cappadocia directly, and we are in no mood for a really long bus ride. Nothing much in Ankara anyway, so one day should be sufficient for us to tick Ankara in our ‘place-visited’ list.

Ulus is in old (central) Ankara. The modern Ankara is south of here, where the gleaming towers, the malls and the boulevards are. By the way the stalls down there look interesting, I should take a look.

I stroll along the stalls — here a tobacco merchant, where the goodies are displayed in clear plastic bags — browsers are encouraged to feel the texture and sniff the aroma. Stalls like this aplenty, a testimony to the Turks being heavy smokers, male and female alike. Plain white cigarette sticks are also sold in clear plastics, marked with famous brands — Marlboro, Winston, Camel, etc. Are these legit sticks?

We only have a day in Ankara, so we decide to visit the highly-regarded Museum of Anatolian Civilisations, just a walking distance away from our hotel, up on a hill to the east. At the entrance we can view the rest of northern Ankara.

One of the most important museums in the world, winner of  the first European Museum of the Year Award in 1997. Unfortunately it’s under major renovation now and only the main building is open.

Nevertheless the main hall doesn’t disappoint — it houses displays of all the major civilisations in Anatolia starting from 2000 BC — that’s about the period Prophet Abraham was alive. Truly ancient stuff.

From the Assyrian period, that’d be 2000 BC. Together with Mesopotamia (in present-day Iraq), Anatolia was also the cradle of civilisations. On the left tablet, the guys with the funny hats and beards are gods.

More Assyrian statues — god and lion. Easily at least 4,000 years old.

A winged griffin — lion’s body, bird’s head. From the Phrygian period, about 1000 BC. Remember ‘Hierapolis of Phrygia’?

A roaring lion with a cross on its chess, also Phrygian.

Depiction of a legend from the Neo-Hittites period, 1200 BC, i.e. at the tail end of the Bronze Age.

A sphinx with three heads — human, lion and bird, from Neo-Hittites period. Very intriguing — how did the ancient people think up such creatures? Or maybe they really did exist then?

This hall used to be an Ottoman caravanserai (inn) from the 15th c., but is now the main building of the museum, founded at the behest of Ataturk.

The precious exhibits are well-displayed with concise notes in English and Turkish. A must-visit for history fans in Ankara.

Winged ‘griffin-demons’, supposedly holding up the sky, another Neo-Hittites product. Imagination of the ancients, still?

This is Gilgamesh – Master of the Animals (stone relief from Neo-Hittites period). Some of us may have heard of the Epic of Gilgamesh — an epic poem from Babylon, one of the earliest known literary works, written in cuneiform. Gilgamesh was a hero-king in the Sumerian legends, thought to have ruled 2500 BC. The epic also tells of a huge flood which sounds very similar to Prophet Noah’s flood — read this DESCRIPTION. So was Gilgamesh a contemporary of Noah, describing the same catastrophe?

Neo-Hittites soldiers — note the headgear, looks like the Roman’s a thousand years later.

This is fascinating, the clay bulls of the Storm God of the early Hittite period — pottery used in religious ceremonies some 3,600 years ago. Still looking good.

More Neo-Hittites warriors, from 1200 BC.

Neo-Hittites from of writing, a type of hieroglyphs.

Assyrian clay tablets, about 2000 BC, showing their form of cuneiform writing.

Hittite bronze tablet from 1300 BC, another cuneiform form of writing.

Left stone relief, Neo-Hittites’ King Araras holds the hand of his son Kamanis, while in the middle, seven of the king’s children are playing some type of game. On the right, the Queen is holding her youngest child.

Three women (priestesses possibly)  in a religious ceremony, holding stalks of grain and staff-like objects. Neo-Hittites.

Baked clay ritual vessel in the shape of a boat, from Assyrian period, about 2000 BC.

Ivory statuette of a naked goddess, also Assyrian, 2000 BC. To her right, figurines of a god and a goddess. These objects are very small.

More cute Assyrian figurines — two gods and a goddess.

Neo-Hittites sphinxes — these are big stones.

More Hittite ceramic from 1700 BC — a vessel to hold fluids.

Hittite period figurine in a vessel. Most likely male.

Ritual vessels from Hittite period, 1700 BC.

Two-headed duck ritual vessel, also Hittite. Quite elaborate decorations.

Warriors from the Late Hittite period, 900 BC. Poor soldier being run over.

On the left, the Mother Goddess Kubaba, worshipped since Paleolithic time, as a symbol of fertility. She has various names throughout the ages, and is known as Kubaba by the Late Hittites. Here she holds a mirror with the left hand and a pomegranate with the right. Interesting headgear.

Another depiction of Kubaba, this time holding a stalk of grain and a pomegranate. For the Greeks she was known as Artemis while the Romans called her Diana. The Mother Goddess ends our most interesting museum tour. Stuff I saw in history books and on telly, now I see for myself.

Giddy with so much ancient history in my head, we leave the museum to seek lunch, on a fine but cold afternoon.

 

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