At the end of the First World War, during the time when Antalya was under the Italian military occupation, Italian archeologists started to remove the archeological treasures that had been found in the the center or the surroundings to the Italian Embassy, which they claimed to do in the name of civilization. To prevent these initiatives, Suleyman Fikri Bey, the Sultani teacher, applied to the Antalya post and jurisdiction of the provincial Governor in 1919 and had himself appointed as voluntary officer of antiquities and first tried to establish the Antalya Museum by collecting what remained in the center.
The museum at first operated in the Alaeddin Mosque in 1922, then in Yivli Mosque beginning from 1937, and then moved to its present building in 1972. It was closed to visitors for a wide range of modifications and restorations in 1982. It was reorganized according to a modern approach for a museum and opened to the public in April 1985, after the restorations and display arrangements made by the General Directorate of Ancient Objects and Museums.
The museum contains 13 display halls, a children's section and open galleries. The objects only belonging to the region are generally presented chronologically and according to their subjects.
Natural History & Prehistory Hall
In addition to the three display windows, in which the fossils of geological periods are presented, the chipped gravel, hand axes, diggers, bone tools found in the Karain Cave and stratigraphies from pre-Paleolithic period to Roman period are presented.
Karain is a cave located 27 km northwest of Antalya and at the foot of Sam Mountain. Besides the remains which have been found in the 10,5 m thick soil fillings dating from the Paleolithic Period, there are also the tooth and skeleton remains of Neanderthal human beings that had lived in the Mesolithic Period.
Semayuk is the only center representing the Early Bronze Age, most of the artefacts were found in graves, including pots of various sizes, seals, brush handles, idols and especially gifts for the dead. Interesting is a grave made of a big earthenware jar. The most interesting side of this kind of burial is the placing of the corpse in the earthenware jar in the position of a baby in the womb of a mother.
The Hall of Small Works-I
The technical developments of ceramic art after the invention of the pottery wheel, vase forms, different embellishment styles, are presented dating from 12th B.C. to 3rd B.C. periods. The two display windows in this section are for the interesting finds of make-up materials and accessories.
The Hall of Gods
The gods in the salon are the main God Zeus surrounded by Aphrodite, Tykne, Athena, Nemesis, Itygieia, Hermes and Dioskurs and at the opposite side there are Serapis, Isis and his son Harpo, all of Egyptian origin. The statues are the Roman copies, dating 2nd century A.D., of their Greek originals and all of them were found during Perge excavations.
The Hall of Small Artifacts-II
The selected artifacts of different cultural phases dating from 4 B.C. to 6 A.D. are presented in the display window. The vase presented to the Princess of Egypt, Benerike, the Athena engraved on silver plate, bronze Statues of Apollo and Hercules, the head of Attis, the marble Statue of Priapus representing fertility, the earthenware and marble statues are the hall's exhibits of outstanding value. In the underwater display window, there are objects that were found in ancient sunken ships.
The Hall of Emperors
The most beautiful examples of portraits, representing the main character of Roman sculpture, are presented in this hall. All of the statues were found in the Perge excavations. There are many statues of 2-3rd centuries, because the most magnificent period of the region's historical development was during this time.
There are portrait statues of the Emperor Trajan and Hadrian, of Septimius Severus, Sabina, Faustina, Julia Domina, Julia Soemias, Plankia Magna and there are also statues of Three Beauties and a belly dancer statue made of black and white marble.
The Hall of Burial Culture
The two walled tombs in the hall belong to Domitias Filickas and his family. On the cover, the wife and husband are shown in a lying position. The Erases on the corners symbolize the happiness of a family. The other important walled tomb, dates from 2 A.D., its subject is Hercules. One of the walled tombs is the most striking example of illegal trafficking of antique objects. A piece of the walled tombs, which was broken off and smuggled out, was brought from the USA and mounted in its place in 1983. Appropriate to the original positions, grave steles sprinkled on the soil ground and ash pots are presented in the hall.
The Hall of Mosaic and Icons
The most important of the mosaics in the museum is the Mosaic of Philosophers, which was found in the Seleukeia excavation and on the border of which the names of famous thinkers of antiquity, such as Solon. Tukyclides, Lykurgos, Heredot, Demosthenes, Itesiodos and the names of orators, historians and mathematicians are inscribed. On another mosaic coming from Seleukia, Orpheus charming the wild animals with his flute is depicted.
There are also corners reserved for examples of local sculpture, chipping equipment and bronze sculpture techniques in this section. The icons presented in this hall are collected from the region of Antalya, dating generally from 18th and 19th centuries.
The Hall of Coins
The 2500 year long tradition of minting coins, dating from 6th century B.C., its technique and economy are presented in an educational order in the hall. In the presentation, state coins of the Pamphilia, Pisidio, Likia regions, and generally regional coins of the chronological order of Classic, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk ages and the Ottoman period are the main focus. There are also gold and silver hoards in this section.
The ethnography section of our museum comprises of two big halls and a passage combining these halls. In the first hall, chinaware, porcelains, religious artifacts, insignia, seals, charms, watches, ornamental objects, locks, keys and clothes are presented. The chinaware is from Seljuk and Ottoman periods. The Seljuk chinaware was brought from Aspendos and there is also the Kubadabat style with objects crafted in the "Siralti" technique in the middle of 13th century.
The Ottoman chinaware in square panel forms presents examples of Iznik artisanship from 15-16-17 and 18th centuries. Five porcelain plates were produced at the Yildiz Factory, which operated for a short time till the end of 1920. Religious artifacts are objects that can always be seen in all of the regions of Anatolia. But the Seljuk Qur'an, which we may claim to be a regional work of art has a special importance.
Signs, seals, charms and watches are presented in one of the display windows. The charms are spell binding prayers and these charms are used for different purposes. The ornamental objects are the best examples of accessories still used in Antalya. There are also keys and locks presented as quality artisanship. Clothes, purple velvets embroidered with silver tread and Yoruk (nomad) materials can be examined in two sections. Yoruk clothes, socks, baggy trousers, long robes worn over baggy trousers, undershirts, purses, girdles and caps can all be examined.
In the section ensuring the passage to the 2nd hall there are inscription plates, such as hilyes, naats, icazets and katigs of our calligraphers. The second hall is formed of four sections of carpets, Yoruk materials, interiors and guns. Besides the regional artifacts and materials in this hall, the carpets of Usak, Gordes, Ladik, Mucur, Bergama, Kula and Avonos are presented. The oldest carpet in our carpet collection is an Usak carpet of the 16th century.
The Dssemealti carpet has an important place in the ethnographical objects of the region. Dosemealti is the name of a place in the northeastern part of Antalya District. The “Halelli” carpets are the oldest and traditional examples of the carpets among Dosemealti carpets. These works are of nomad character and small in size. The sacks, saddle boas, igliks, prayer rugs, sills, cicims, sumaks which show the rug techniques of Antalya region are presented with black tents as Yoruk artisanship.
A part of the hall is reserved for a living, sleeping and bath rooms of a modest Antalya home. In a part of the display windows, arrows, bows, knives, guns and rifles with flint stones and swords, equipment of dervish lodges, powder flasks, powder scales, and oil cans and also guns and supporting materials are presented. Besides this, the scales, goat hair spindles and counters such as Culfalik, musical instruments and spoons can be emphasized as local tools and artifacts. The pipe with cover, Yoruk and zerk kemence (a string-bow instrument) and the flute made from an eagle's wing bone are interesting artifacts. Spoons from Bademli village of Cevizli of Akseki are presented from their design phase to their completed and organized forms.
A hall in the entrance of our museum was organized as a Children's Museum, which is the first of its kind in our country. In the display windows of this section, there are various children's toys and antique moneyboxes.
Simple restorations, and educational activity opportunities for ceramic sculpture and drawing are provided and their works are presented in the studio section, in order to make the children enjoy museums, antique objects and to awaken their interest.