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Part of the Fertile Crescent, Anatolia is situated between Europe and Asia, and is the home to some of the earliest civilizations in the world. Early urban society began in Anatolia during the Neolithic Age (10th-5th millennium BC), with Göbeklitepe, Çatalhöyük and Istanbul (Yenikapı). Followed by the Chalcolithic Age (5th-3rd millennium BC) and the Early Bronze Age (3rd-2nd millennium BC) with Troy, Aslantepe, Alacahöyük, and Kültepe. After the period of Assyrian (25th or 24th millennium BC – 608 BC) and Hittites (18th millennium BC – 800 BC), with Hattusha, the Anatolian kingdoms of Urartu (860-580 BC), Phrygia (750-600 BC), Lydia (680-546 BC) with Aphrodisias, Caria (11th-6th century BC), and Lycia (395 BCE-1176 AD) grew in importance beginning at the dawn of the first millennium BC.  Following the invasion of Anatolia, Ephesus and the Commagene kingdom, by the Achaemenid Persian Empire (546-334 BC) in the 6th century BC, they became its provinces. Alexander the Great then conquered Anatolia in the 4th century BC, and Greek cultural influence and power penetrated into Europe and Asia. Under the Roman Empire (133BC – 395 AD), Anatolia was absorbed into Roman territory, and the civilizations surrounding the Mediterranean, including Pergamon, Assos, Miletus, and Didyma, lived their “Pax Romana.” Ancient times aside, Turkey has been home to other great empires that have shaped history, most importantly the Seljuk, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires.

As a part of the process of modernization at the beginning of the 19th century, a number of Western-style institutions had already been established in the Ottoman Empire. In 1846, a collection of antiquities was established in Istanbul. In 1868, this collection was inaugurated as the Ottoman Imperial Museum. As the Empire was still controlling the Near East and most of the Balkans, its collections grew rapidly and, in 1891, it moved to a new building, now the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. The Museum was founded on June 13, 1891 with the title of Müze-i Hümayun (the Imperial Museum,) commissioned by archaeologist, painter and curator Osman Hamdi Bey. The main building of the Museum, which was built by the renowned architect of the period, Alexandre Vallaury, took its current form, with the construction of the two auxiliaries in the right and left sides in 1903 and 1907. Istanbul Archaeology Museum is among the richest museums in the world today with its collection of more than one million pieces that carry traces of various periods and cultures in world history.

The beginnings of Turkish archaeology date back to the early years of the 19th century during the Ottoman Empire. Kemal Atatürk created the basis of modern archaeological study in the modern Republic of Turkey, which was founded in 1923. At the same time, the Turkish Historical Society and the Faculty of Language, History, and Geography at Ankara University were established in order to train young archaeologists. These were followed by the Faculty and the Institute of Archaeology at Istanbul University in Istanbul. Famous archaeologists such as H. Güterbock, H. Th. Bossert, B. Landsberger and E. Bosch, were brought to Turkey to educate young Turkish archaeologists in Ankara and Istanbul. The Turkish government also sent them to Europe to study methods of archaeology. The excavations at Ahlatıbel and Alacahöyük were also carried out during this period.

By the first decade of the 20th century, there were already a number of archaeologists, institutions and museums in the Turkish provinces, including in Bursa, Selanik (Thessaloniki), Konya, Sivas, and Ankara; the holdings of the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations has consistently increased. The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations was established in 1921 by Mübarek Galip Bey, who was also the Director of Culture, and is located on the south side of Ankara Castle in Atpazar. Its holdings are among the richest in the world. A great number of archaeological collections of the Paleolithic era, and continuing chronologically through the Neolithic, Early Bronze, Assyrian trading colonies, Hittite, Phrygian, Urartian, Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman periods, are exhibited in the museum. There is also an extensive collection of artifacts from the excavations at Karain, Çatalhöyük, Hacılar, Canhasan, Beyce Sultan, Alacahöyük, Kültepe, Acemhöyük, Boğazköy (Gordion), Pazarlı, Altıntepe, Adilcevaz and Patnos, as well as examples of several periods. After remodeling and repairs were completed in 1938-1968, the Ottoman Mahmut Paşa Bazaar storage building and the Kurşunlu Han were opened to the public as the Ankara Archaeological Museum, and was selected for the first “European Museum of the Year” Award in Switzerland in 1997.

As of today, many excavation projects in Turkey have been conducted by national and international teams of archaeologists. Currently, 15 sites including archaeological properties in Turkey are included in the World Heritage List; 60 sites are nominated in the Tentative List of World Heritage sites by the World Heritage Centre of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

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