December 31, 2013

Postcard from Turkey: The Archaeological Museum in Boğazkale

by Aaron Haines

After my visit in Uşak, I took a four hour bus ride to Ankara where I spent the night and then left early the next morning for Boğazkale. After sitting on a hot bus for three hours watching daytime Turkish TV (the bus driver was a fan of soap operas), I arrived in Sungurlu, the closest major town to Boğazkale. Upon stepping off the bus, I was immediately befriended by a nice Turkish taxi driver who offered to take me to Boğazkale for an exorbitant fare. I politely declined and started the one mile trek towards the town center of Sungurlu in hopes that I could find a minibus headed for Boğazkale. I eventually located the minibus station and sat down to wait. In Turkey, the minibus drivers don’t drive anywhere until their vehicle is full and unfortunately for me, it was noon and no one was interested in going to Boğazkale except for me. After waiting for a half hour, I decided that the 15 seater minivan was never going to fill up and decided to take a taxi.
Yard of Boğazkale museum (AH)

I finally arrived in the small town of Boğazkale and had the taxi drop me off outside the archaeology museum. It had a sizeable lawn and pavement area with a tall wrought iron fence surrounding the lot. Various archaeological artifacts were in the yard, but unlike the Uşak museum, these pieces were carefully displayed and labeled. A few of the larger pieces were even placed under wooden shelters to protect them from the elements.

Disputed sphinx (AH)
As I stepped into the museum, the first thing that caught my eye was the large pair of sphinxes flanking the doorway to the central gallery. The left sphinx had been the center of a heated debate between Turkey and Germany ever since the beginning of the 20th century when the statues had been discovered and sent to Berlin for repairs. Germany only sent back one of the sphinxes and the other remained in Berlin where it was built into the wall of the Pergamon Museum. Germany did not return the sphinx until 2011 after Turkey threatened to revoke Germany’s dig permit at Hattusha. The museum consisted of a couple of small rooms preceding a much larger central gallery. There were many text panels explaining the works displayed as well as information about the Hittites and other civilizations that inhabited the surrounding region. All of the works were well lit and beautifully displayed.

Main gallery (AH)
After passing between the sphinxes, I entered the main gallery which consisted of a ground floor and a second story balcony area. More archeological artifacts were displayed as well as replicas and explanations of the ancient city of Hattusha. The most arresting works on the ground floor were two tall ceremonial bull vases. There were fewer cameras than at Uşak, but the display cases appeared to be much more modern and secure than those at Uşak. Also, the visibility in the main gallery was excellent since it was just one main room and the guard had complete visibility of both the ground floor and the balcony level.

The bench outside the museum (AH)
After visiting the galleries, I sat on a bench outside the museum and chatted with the security guard. He spoke almost no English so we talked in Turkish. He told me that a guard was present at the museum 24/7 and that the cameras monitored both the interior of the museum as well as the surrounding yard. Each night, the fence gate as well as the main door’s outer iron grate are locked. There were also powerful motion detection lights on the exterior of the building that would turn on if a person approached the building at night.

Hattusha site (AH)
I left the museum and walked about twenty minutes to the Hattusha archaeological site where the ancient capital of the Hittites once stood. Near the entrance is a reconstruction of the city walls to give visitors an idea of how massive the walls and towers of the city were. I then spent the next three hours hiking around the ancient ruins by following the wide road that snakes its way throughout the ruined city. Except for the occasional Turkish family or group of backpackers, I had the place to myself. At the very top I found the gate where the two sphinxes had been originally discovered where a replica now stands. From the gate there was a spectacular view of the ruins and surrounding landscape.

Original site of sphinxes with replica
As the sun began to set, I made my way back into the town center of Boğazkale. On my way down the country road, I ran into the museum security guard taking an evening stroll with his family. He introduced me to his wife and young daughter and asked how I liked Hattusha. I told him that I was on my way back to Sungurlu and he warned me that it might be too late to take a taxi. I thanked him and we parted ways. As I continued walking, I thought about my chances of finding a taxi and decided that the odds were slim. So I stuck out my thumb and hitchhiked back to Sungurlu with a nice Turkish gentleman driving home from work. From there, I caught one of the last buses going back to Ankara where I wearily walked back to my hostel at midnight.

All photos taken by Aaron Haines.

Aaron Haines is a senior majoring in art history at Brigham Young University and traveled to Turkey this summer using grant moneys from the BYU Office of Research and Creative Activities to observe the security of four archaeology museums. He visited the archaeology museums in Uşak, Boğazkale, Ankara, and Istanbul each of which houses artifacts that have been recently repatriated by Turkey from other countries. Aaron has a special interest in cultural property law and preservation as it applies to Italy and Turkey and speaks Italian and some Turkish. He recently returned from an internship at the American Embassy in Rome and is currently interning with the U.S. State Department’s Cultural Heritage Center.

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