LOADING...

























New horizons for Turkish archaeology with Atatürk
2003 / April

When the Turkish Republic was established in 1923 with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as the first president, wide-ranging reforms were implemented in the social, political and economic spheres to carry the country into the modern age. The most important of these changes took place in education. Since it was not possible to permit the continuation of traditional educational institutions alongside the modern, the medreses were abolished. At that time the only institution of higher education was Istanbul University, but that did not provide an education which met the needs of the age, so young scholars were sent to Europe and America to train as teachers for the new institutions of higher education. This was a process that took time, however. From 1933 onwards Jewish scholars, scientists and artists were forced out of their posts by Hitler's regime, and began to go in fear of their lives. Other countries were often unwilling to accept them and Atatürk invited many to Turkey, appointing them as lecturers at Istanbul University and other institutions. Despite the difficult economic conditions in Turkey at that time,

PAGE 1/6


























New horizons for Turkish archaeology with Atatürk
2003 / April

they were provided with the best salaries and facilities for their work that the country could afford. As a result, not only were important advances made in the standard of Turkish higher education, but these famous scholars were able to continue their work. Atatürk attached great importance to historical research, particularly Turkish history. Climatic changes had been the main factor behind waves of Turkish migration out of Central Asia. When had this migration begun and where it had taken them? Who were the ancient inhabitants of Turkey? How had these civilisations developed and what were their origins? Could there be any relationship between them and the ancient Turks? What was the place and role of the Turks in world history? To answer these questions documentary and material sources were required. First of all written documentation and antiquities were gathered and placed in archives, libraries and museums. At that time the only museums were Istanbul Archaeological Museum, Izmir Museum and the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, and new museums were needed.

PAGE 2/6


























New horizons for Turkish archaeology with Atatürk
2003 / April
Within six months of the proclamation of the Republic Topkapi Palace, which was an important cultural and historical repository of the Ottoman Empire, was turned into museum on Atatürk's instructions. Then Haghia Sophia was restored and opened as the Museum of Byzantine Art, an event which created a stir internationally. The Financial Times wrote, 'No other example is such decisive proof of Atatürk's elevated character, far-reaching tolerance, and passion for truth, and of the beneficial progress made in the social and scientific structure of his country as the decision to transform the Mosque of Haghia Sophia into the Museum of Byzantine Art.' Another example of the importance which Ataturk attached to history was the transformation into a museum of Mevlânâ's Dergâh, following the closure of Turkey's religious sects. The Museum of Fine Arts in Istanbul, the Ethnographic Museum in Ankara, and the Hittite Museum (today the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations) in Ankara were all established at Atatürk's instigation.
PAGE 3/6


























New horizons for Turkish archaeology with Atatürk
2003 / April

'Archaeology and anthropology are the primary fields of historical research. So long as history is based on the documents revealed by these disciplines, it will be built on firm foundations,' Atatürk declared. He was aware that Turkey was an inexhaustible source for archaeology, and wished Turkish archaeologists to uncover the cultural treasures lying beneath Turkish soil. Young people were sent to Europe to study archaeology, and the Turkish Historical Institute was established as the first step towards this goal. Courses in archaeology were launched first at Istanbul University, and subsequently foreign lecturers began to teach archaeology at the Faculty of Language, History And Geography in Ankara. Where the preservation of antiquities was concerned, he appreciated the importance of public awareness and encouraged cooperation between the state, press and public, in addition to the academic work of the Turkish Historical Institute. He bequeathed a large part of his own money to this institute, to ensure that research and excavations should continue after his death.

PAGE 4/6


























New horizons for Turkish archaeology with Atatürk
2003 / April

Wherever he travelled in the country Atatürk visited local museums and ancient ruins. When he saw Aspendos Theatre in Antalya he immediately proposed that it be restored and used once more as a theatre. The excavations at Alacahöyük and Ahlatlibel in 1935 and 1936 were also carried out at Atatürk's request, and the finds from these sites provided valuable information about the cultural history of Anatolia and the Middle East, showing the way ahead for future generations. Excavations in Trakya (Eastern Thrace) in 1936 under Professor Arif Müfit were also launched at Atatürk's request, and revealed finds of great importance. These were followed up in 1938 by excavations at Vize (Bizye) once the capital of Eastern Thrace, and although Atatürk was seriously ill at the time (he died on 10 November 1938), he asked to see them. After examining the objects with pleasure, he said, 'Continue your excavations, and you will discover many more cultural riches in our country.'

PAGE 5/6
 


























New horizons for Turkish archaeology with Atatürk
2003 / April
During the 15 years that Atatürk was president of Turkey, his contributions to the development of Turkish archaeology were enormous, and opened new horizons in the knowledge of ancient history.

* Dr Muazzez Ilmiye Çig is a sumerologist
PAGE 6/6
 
Previous Next































Previous Next