Founded as the “Imperial Museum” by the famous archaeologist and painter Osman Hamdi Bey in 1891, Istanbul Archaeological Museums are located in the Gülhane Park, just to the south of Topkapı Palace. The name is plural since it consists of three museums in one complex: the Museum of Ancient Orient (Eski Şark Eserleri Müzesi), the Tiled Pavilion Museum (Çinili Köşk Müzesi) and the Archaeology Museum (Arkeoloji Müzesi) , which resides in the main building. The museums house over one million objects that represent almost all of the eras and civilisations in world history.
Of the three, the Archaeology Museum in the neoclassical building that was designed by Alexandre Vallaury is the largest and most important. It houses an extensive collection of sculptures from prehistoric and ancient times to the Roman era as well a large exhibit documenting the archaeological history of Istanbul from the legend of its founding right up to its Ottoman era. The most interesting and famous pieces include the Alexander Sarcophagus and other sarcophagi uncovered in the Sidon excavation.
The Museum of the Ancient Orient is located on the left after you enter the complex. The building which was built in 1883 has a collection of pre-Islamic items collected from the Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula. The most interesting and famous pieces include a Hittite copy of the famous Treaty of Kadesh (1269) between the Egyptian and the Hittite empires and the Ishtar gate of ancient Babylon, dating back to reign of Nebuchadnezzar II.
The last of the complex’s museum buildings, right across from the Archaeology Museum, is the Tiled Kiosk, which was constructed in 1472 by order of Mehmed the Conqueror. The Kiosk has a superior display of Seljuk, Anatolian and Ottoman tiles and ceramics dating from the 12th century to 20th century.