Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Museum of Anatolian Civilization offers fun to kids

From the Turkish Daily News:

Turkish Daily News, Turkey
Sunday, September 24, 2006

Museum offers archeology fun (including for children)

by BARI? Alt?nta?

The best of what all the diverse civilizations of Anatolia left behind is
now in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, an embodiment of
diversity, the hallmark of Anatolia. Its artifacts, however, are more than
mere witnesses to lost civilizations. Many are endowed with compelling
sculptural force and decorative beauty, making the museum as much a
collection of great art as of archaeology

ANKARA - Turkish Daily News - Over its long and varied history, one thing
remained constant in Anatolia: invasions. Throughout the years everyone
from migrants to conquerors, adventurers and traders tried to make it
their own, or at the least gain passage through its territories. It has
been traversed by perhaps a greater variety of peoples and cultures than
any comparable part of the world. Home to vast towns built by the Hittites
and their successors the Phrygians -- the people of King Midas -- Anatolia
is the site of what is generally said to be the earliest settlement known
in history, Çatal Höyük. The Greeks, Persians and Alexander and his
Macedonians as well as the Seleucids and the Byzantines settled in
Anatolia after the Phrygians.

The best of what all these civilizations left behind is now in the Museum
of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, an embodiment of diversity, the
hallmark of Anatolia. Its artifacts, however, are more than mere witnesses
to lost civilizations. Many are endowed with compelling sculptural force
and decorative beauty, making the museum as much a collection of great art
as of archaeology.

The museum is made up of two Ottoman buildings, a caravansary (inn for
travelers) and a bedesten (bazaar), both built in the 15th century but now
housing artifacts from the Hittites, Urartians, Assyrian Colonies,
Phrygians, Greeks and Romans.

Exhibits displaying findings from Paleolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic,
Early Bronze, Assyrian Colonies, Hittite, Phrygian, Urartian and later
periods, right up until the modern day, can be seen in the museum. They
feature flint hand-axes from the Paleolithic age, a statuette of the
Mother Goddess -- representing fertility, often depicted as a corpulent
woman -- vessels, cooking pots, cosmetic utensils, boxes, items of
personal adornment, sickles, frescos painted on walls, spear and
arrow-heads and many other articles made by the people of the early
civilizations settled in Anatolia.

The museum is home to a variety of artifacts and artwork from the Hittite
Empire including a statue of King Tarhunza and reliefs depicting different
aspects of Hittite life as well as those from the Urartians, Lydians,
Assyrians, Phrygians and later civilizations such as the Romans.

1997 European Museum of the Year:

In addition to being the proud winner of the 1997 European Museum of the
Year Award from the European Museums Union of the European Council, the
museum also carries out cultural activities, including scientific
conferences, concerts and even festivals for children.

"I don't think there's another museum that is as productive as a
university in publications," says Museum Director Hikmet Denizli. Indeed,
the museum attaches great importance to publications. Books on research
conducted in the museum are published in seven languages every year.

With a computer network set up recently, information about the museum has
been digitalized and is expected to be made available on the Internet by
the end of this year.

For the last 50 years the museum has carried out many archaeological
excavations in Anatolia, and many researchers have made a name for
themselves by way of the museum.

Future projects

Visited by over 400,000 people annually, the museum has ambitious
projects. Categorized as the "national museum" of Turkey, the museum's
finances were recently handed to the Ministry of Culture, an opportunity
that allowed the museum to "think big," according to Denizli, who says the
museum now has a chance to find funding for grand projects that it would
not be able to dream of before.

The museum is close to realizing a long-held dream of expansion. "The
problem of financing has been solved," says Denizli, after a law
stipulating that 10 percent of property tax is to be allocated to the
nation's cultural assets. According to Denizli, both local and national
administrators in Turkey are becoming increasingly aware of the importance
of protecting historical and cultural artifacts. The museum is set to
start two major projects, excavations at the Phrygian Valley and at Hac?
Tu?rul, in cooperation with Japanese archeologists.

Denizli thinks Turkish museum administrators have failed to make viewing
historical and art objects interesting for either children or adults. "For
example, we have the pottery that King Midas ate from. We could hold a
food festival, we have recipes from the Phrygians," he enthused, while
acknowledging the challenge such ideas presented.

As parents and administrators' awareness increases, museum visits have
also seen a rise, he observed. "A museum should meet all its visitors'
requirements: Food, drinking, music, internet, places to rest and even
medical facilities," he said.

Denizli's museum certainly differs from the dry and dusty archeological
scene in Turkey that he complains about.

An unforgettable learning experience:

Kids can now be archeologists for the day, thanks to an archeology
workshop created at the museum where children can participate in a number
of fun educational activities. These include building their own models of
the objects in the museum; pressing coins the way the Lydians did and
learning about the barter system used before money was invented; solving a
puzzle by matching a given pattern with the correct civilization; make
jewelry similar to the artifacts of personal adornment worn by different
civilizations of the museum; write their own name in hieroglyphs on
tablets; work to restore new findings of excavations; as well as drawing
pictures and digging like true experts.

Under a new project, the museum has brought students from some schools to
excavate objects previously buried by museum staff in a designated
excavation ground in the museum's yard. After being told about how
archeological digs are carried out, every child is given a unique
responsibility as part of the excavation team and digs to reveal pieces of

The workshop also offers aid for visually impaired children, such as
actual Hittite lions that can be touched and felt.

The museum has organized four children's festivals this year, some held
at the Roman Baths, which included games and competitions.

Another entertaining activity carried out by the museum in cooperation
with some schools is theatrical performances held in ancient settings.
"That is a lot of fun for us too," says Denizli. "In order to get
everything right, you double-check the specifics of, say, the clothing of
a certain civilization and refresh your own knowledge and the students
learn at light speed that way."

The museum's experience has shown that children learn better when they
are told about a limited subject, instead of listening to an expert drone
on about a long period or various subjects. Drawing on this fact, the
museum now has conferences for children allocated to a single topic only,
such as jewelry or Hittite tablets. To cement the learning -- and add to
the fun -- after every conference they get to do what they learned about,
just like the ancient people of the subject.

Cooking a la Neolithic:

Soon children will have the opportunity to learn to make bread the
Neolithic way. Unfinished buildings in the museum's yard will be turned
into Neolithic homes with roof-entrances, like those found in Çatal Höyük.
In addition to learning to make bread the way the people did in the Stone
Age, children will also be able to make clay items on potter's wheels, all
while actually inside the houses.

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