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MUSEUM OF ANATOLIAN CIVILISATIONS
2001 /JANUARY

The Museum of Anatolian Civilisations in Ankara stands in a green garden with bird boxes in the pine trees. Sitting down on one of the benches in the garden, you look out over Ankara. The soil of Anatolia, which still holds so many secrets, seems to breathe deeply, carrying you away in its ancient rhythm.
It is from the embrace of this soil that the objects displayed in the museum have come, bringing with them so many memories from thousands of years in the past, to tell their stories of past lives and cultures. Although they have no mouth or tongue with which to speak they are suffused with legends and secrets to divulge.

Before you have taken many steps around the museum, you are struck by the realisation that art is one of manknd'sa most basic needs, reflecting the need to declare, 'I am here'. You see rock paintings dating from 6000 BC found at the neolithic site of Catalhoyuk.

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MUSEUM OF ANATOLIAN CIVILISATIONS
2001 /JANUARY

These frescos executed in red paint over plaster and depicting vultures and hunting buffalo and deer, acquaint us with a master artist who lived thousands of years ago. Through the eyes of this prehistoric painter we see all the splendour of the bison, elegant agility of the deer on its long slender legs, and the celestial sovereignty of the vulture.

A little way beyond these a pottery figurine of the Mother Goddess found at Catalhoyuk and dating from 5750 BC awaits you. Seated on her rock throne with her hands resting proprietorially on the necks of two leopards, she majestically rules the world. Her breasts are swollen with milk and her arms are strong. Between her legs is a newly born child. For thousands of years, without speaking a word, she has symbolised the fertility and bountifulness of women. You encounter the Mother Goddess not only in this exquisite 20 cm high figure, but in many wall paintings, figurines and other objects around the museum.

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MUSEUM OF ANATOLIAN CIVILISATIONS
2001 / JANUARY

Her ubiquity is due to the fact that she remained a symbol of abundance and fertility in Anatolia throughout the neolithic, chalcolithic and bronze ages. Some of the figures depict the Mother Goddess with others of her sex, such as in the stylised figures of two women holding hands, a double idol, and gold figure portraying mother and daughter; all of which were excavated at Alacahoyuk and date from the second half of the 3rd millennium BC. Sometimes we see her suckling her child, as in the bronze figure dating from 3000 BC unearthed at Horoztepe, sometimes hand in hand with leopards, seated or standing, naked or clothed. These ancient women from sites near Ankara, from Hasanoglu, Horoztepe, Alacahoyuk and Karaoglan, will point you the way to another section on the ground floor where you will find hundreds of artefacts relating to domestic life in Anatolia, and a room devoted to womn'se jewellery.

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MUSEUM OF ANATOLIAN CIVILISATIONS
2001 / JANUARY

These pieces of jewellery, gleaming seductively and gracefully, seem to be tranquilly awaiting the return of their owners. Your face reflects on the jewellery in the display cases, and the jewellery reflects back on your face. You realise in astonishment how closely your own necklace resembles that behind the glass. A necklace dating from the second half of the 3rd millennium BC, bracelets of similar age, and a belt from Alacahoyuk are all made of gold. The Anatolian womn'sa love for this bright yellow metal shines both in the museum cases and on the arms of Turkish women today, such as Ummuhan from Akcakoca, a lady from Sivas, and Emine Hanim who rolls out gozleme at the nearby Pirinc Han. Neighbours, friends, acquaintances and strangers, mothers, aunts, and nieces all jangle spiral bracelets very similar to those in the museum. Next to the gallery of jewellery is another filled with glass objects, predominantly green in colour.

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MUSEUM OF ANATOLIAN CIVILISATIONS
2001 / JANUARY

As if in defiance of their materiaean fragility, they appear to jig and dance cheerfully on their beds of black velvet: bottles, jugs, cups, vases, miniature amphoras, tear bottles and perfume bottles. In the room devoted to Ankara, the city which stood on the crossroads of Anatolia, linking east and west, south and north, the last display cases are filled with magnificent examples of Turkish tiles. In the wake of archaic, classical, and Hellenistic pottery came Seljuk and Ottoman Turkish tiles and plates with their characteristic turquoise blue.

Next to the late period Kutahya and Iznik tiles is a pair of oil lamps with large globe shades, and a pair of bath pattens intricately decorated with mother-of-pearl and silver filigree.

If you live in Ankara you probably pass the bronze sculpture in the form of a solar disc every day. It stands in Sihhiye, in the centre of the main boulevard running from Ulus to Cankaya.

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MUSEUM OF ANATOLIAN CIVILISATIONS
2001 / JANUARY

The bronze stags encircled by a pair of bull's horns is an inalienable part of the cityscape. You will see the same figure again throughout the day in many parts of modern Ankara, because this magnificent work of art and ceremonial symbol dating from the second half of the 3rd millennium in the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations has been adopted as the symbol of the Turkish capital. The original figure is only 24 cm in height, but it looks on proudly at the visitors streaming through the Bronze Age Gallery.When you leave the museum you look at the panorama over Ankara for the last time, and head back for the city. You are filled with the moving sense of being the latest heir to the many layers of cultures which lie buried but not forgotten beneath this soil.

* Cigdem Ulker is a lecturer at Hacettepe University Faculty of Education

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