Tarsus Museum is an attractive venue that combines, as it often happens in Turkish museums, archaeological and ethnographic sections. The museum boasts more than 35,000 exhibits in its collections, of which the vast majority are antique coins. In addition, the museum collections contain more than 5,000 archaeological artifacts, 1.5 thousand ethnographic objects, and six historical manuscripts. Moreover, Tarsus Museum supervises ten archaeological sites, five nature reserves and conservation areas, and more than two hundred historical buildings, of religious, military, and civilian character. The most famous of them is probably the St. Paul's Well, located in the centre of Tarsus.
History of the museum
Tarsus, known in the ancient times as Tars, and its immediate surroundings have a great density of archaeological sites and buildings from many periods of prehistory and history. However, even in the mid-twentieth century, the exhibits found in this area, including beautiful mosaics, were transported from Tarsus to the museums in Adana and Antakya. Only in 1969-1970, Tarsus authorities initiated the creation of a local museum. Initially, the artifacts were exhibited in the building of an old madrassa. It was erected built in the 16th century at the behest of Kubat Pasha from the Ramazanid dynasty. The building was renovated in 1966, and served as a museum in the years 1971-1998.
In 1998, continuously expanding museum collections were moved to the new museum, built in an area known as the Cultural Complex of the 75th Anniversary. It is located in the heart of the city of Tarsus, in the vicinity of many monuments such as the Cleopatra Gate, the Church of St. Paul, and the Great Mosque.
The museum building has two levels above the ground and a basement. The part of the museum open for visitors consists of two main halls, with archaeological and ethnographic exhibits.
In this hall, there are archaeological artifacts from the area around the city of Tarsus. They were discovered during excavations, purchased by the museum, or recovered from smugglers who attempted to take them out of Turkey. These finds represent seven thousand years of prehistory and history of the region. They are exhibited in chronological order. Among them, there are objects from Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze, and Iron Ages. They represent, among others, the civilisation of Urartu, the period of Archaic Greece, the Classical Greece period, the Hellenistic era, the Roman rule, and the domination of Byzantium.
The chronological section includes the kitchen utensils, cylindrical stone seals, and loom weights, from archaeological sites in the vicinity of Adana and the eastern Anatolia. The Hellenistic period is represented by a variety of pottery objects, including amphorae, and oil lamps. The Roman period artifacts include golden jewellery, glass jars, bronze and terracotta figurines, weight and daggers.
The Archaeology Hall also has a section dedicated to particular archaeological sites of the Tarsus region. Gözlükule tumulus is represented by objects dating back to the Bronze Age, including - bronze tools, terracotta objects, and kitchen utensils. The finds from excavations in the area of Cumhuriyet Square in the centre of Tarsus include a table leg, bronze lamps, terracotta figurines of actors, amphorae, a mosaic of Tethys, and bone tools.
In the area of a Roman temple, now known as Donuktaş, located in Tarsus, the archaeologists unearthed marble architectural elements, glass bracelets, heads of terracotta figurines, and oil lamps. Another batch of oil lamps and marble capitals of columns were extracted from the St. Paul's Well. Stone exhibits, including marble busts and statues dating back to the period from 330 BCE to 396 CE, come from Tarsus and its surroundings. The exhibition is completed with tombstones and terracotta grave stelae, covering the period from the 6th century BCE to the 5th century CE.
Numismatics section is the richest museum exposition. It displays selected specimens of the approximately 30,000 coins held by the institution. The oldest coins, from the 5th century BCE, come from the Persian Empire. Other examples represent the period of Classical Greece, the Hellenistic era, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and the era of Islam.
Objects on display in the Ethnography Hall represent the local culture of the Cilician Plain (tr. Çukurova). The exhibition aims to demonstrate the influence of lifestyle and religion on the material culture. You can see the handicraft items made of silver, copper, and wood. Local cultures of the Yoruks and the Turkomans are represented by saddles, amulets, carpets, traditional costumes, silver hats, and purses.
Weapons from the Ottoman period are an important part of the exhibition. There are guns, swords, knives, bottles for gunpowder, and shields. Among the objects of everyday life, it is worth to mention silver watches, pipes, rings, water pipes, and manuscripts of the Quran. The most interesting part of the exhibition seems to be a recreated interior of a typical household from the Tarsus region, from the period of the Ottoman Empire.
The museum is situated in the area of the Cultural Complex of the 75th Anniversary (tr. 75 Yıl Kültür Merkezi), on Muaffak Uygur street. This location is in the centre of Tarsus, within the walking distance from major tourist attractions of the city. The Cleopatra's Gate is just 500 meters to the south-east from the museum.
The museum is closed on Mondays. On other days of the week, it is open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. The entrance is free of charge.