The archaeological museum in southern Antalya province on Turkey’s breathtaking Mediterranean coastline is shedding light on ancient times with brimming antique artifacts and historical finds. 

The Antalya Museum, among the most important archeology museums in the world, has treasures, sarcophagi and sculptures from different periods of mankind and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

The museum was established in 1922 in the historical Kaleici quarter, then moved to Yivli Mosque in 1937 before settling in its present building in the Konyaalti district in 1972.

Shedding light on many periods — from the vital period that started with the fossil age to the Ottoman Empire — the museum contains 13 display halls, a children’s section and open galleries.

It exhibits treasures from the Ottoman and Seljuk periods, marble sarcophagi reflecting the archeology of the region, statues representing gods, emperors, empresses and mythological heroes belonging to the Roman period, as well as jewelry, glass, bronze and ceramic artifacts, and prehistoric items from the Karain Cave.

There are 6,487 artifacts, including 3,582 archaeological exhibits and 2,905 coins.

Nearly 175,000 people visited the museum in 2019 and 45,342 last year despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly 6,700 people visited in the first three months of 2021 as Turkey was under strict measures to help stop the spread of the virus.

Artifacts that were found during illegal excavations in different areas of Turkey and smuggled abroad but later returned, thanks to efforts by the Culture and Tourism Ministry and Foreign Ministry, are also on display.

Among works are the parts of a sarcophagus brought back from the Brooklyn Museum in New York City in 1995 and the Heracles Sarcophagus that was returned from Germany in 1998. And 1679 coins named the Elmali Treasure, which were found in Antalya’s Elmali district and brought back from the US in 1999.

Director Mustafa Demirel told Anadolu Agency that the museum has one of the largest sculpture collections in the world.

He said sculptures and findings unearthed in excavations in Perge Ancient City since 1946 are displayed and nearly 50 important sculptures were unearthed after 2012 in particular.

Noting that all the works are restored in the museum’s laboratory and prepared for display, Demirel said: “The Antalya Museum is a chronological museum. Visitors have the opportunity to examine works chronologically, from the fossils period to the Karain Cave, the earliest settlement in Anatolia, to the works of the Eastern Roman period and the Seljuk Empire.”

He also stressed that excavations in the region are ongoing and efforts are also being conducted to return artifacts that were smuggled abroad.

*Writing by Jeyhun Aliyev from Ankara

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