In the Van Region with its history going back to 5000 BC, it is possible to see the cultural heritages which carry the traces of this long history to our times in almost all parts of the region
This wealth was justly noticed by Mr. Mustafa Noyan who was stationed at Van in 1930’s as The Director of Education and portable cultural assets began to be collected at the Van Centre. A depot built in 1932 for this purpose became the foundation of the Van Museum. As a first step the Urartian hierography insrcribed victory stelae which were abundant in the region and sheep and ram shaped tomb stones from the Akkoyunlu and Karakoyunlu periods which were strewn around unprotected were collected and transferred to the museum building. As the number of cultural heritages grew, in 1945 as a result of the initiatives taken, the Van Museum Bureau was established. At that period Hakkı Yakupoğlu and Muhittin Toprak held office as administrators.
Eventually the Van Museum Office became insufficient in meeting the requirements of neither the storage nor the display of this material which increased both through purchases and as a result of some modest excavations and the bureau was replaced by the Van Museum Directorate which was completed in 1972.The Van Museum Directorate, which currently is located at the Şerefiye Mahallesi Hacıosman Sokak No:14 in a two storey concrete building, so far has benefited from the services of the following Museum Directors : Cevat Bozkurtlar (16.05.1973 – 14.03.1978), Zeki Göven (14.03.1978 – 13.10.1978) and Orhan Aytuğ Taşyürek (13.10.1978 – 20.08.1979). Mr. Ersan Kavaklı who became the director of the Van Museum on that date, still holds this position
Sections of The Van Museum
1- The Archaeological Works Section
This section consists of the stone works displayed in the museum garden and two halls of 18.30 m. x 7.20 m. in size on the ground floor and the inner courtyard. A rich collection of stone works is exhibited at the museum garden, and hieroglyph inscribed victory stelea from the Urartu period, inscriptions, the God Teishaba relief, sheep and ram shaped tomb stones from the Akkoyunlu and Karaakoyunlu periods and gravestones from the Seljuk period are some of them.
In the Hall of Archaeological Works, material from the Prehistoric period to the Urartu period are exhibited in chronological order. The particularly significant group of displayed material in this hall are the Urartu period works while there are some prehistoric findings consisting of obsidian and bone tools which were discovered at Tilkitepe and Kızdamı settlements, tools and ceramics from the 3rd millennium and painted ceramics from the 2nd millennium . Grave findings from the Karagündüz necropolis excavation and the Çavuştepe, Toprakkale, Van, Anzaf Citadel and Ayasın Citatel excavation findings such as earthenware pottery, bronze helmets, swords, belts, kitchen utensils and wall tiles as well as other material were added to the Museum collection through purchases and demonstrate the magnificence of the Urartu Period.
In the inner court yard which is known as the hall of stone, works such as rock paintings from the Tirishin Plateau belonging to the Neolithic period, hieroglyph inscriptions from the Urartu period and stone sarcophagus transferred from the Gevaş Seljuk Turkish Cemetrey provide a brief history of Van.
2- The Ethnographic Works Section
In the Ethnographic Works Section in addition to an imposing collection of woven works with the Van-Hakkari region kilims, silver belts, bracelets, head pieces, earrings, necklaces and tobaco cases, worry beads and cigarette holders from various materials produced at Van and bronze kitchen utensils are exhibited.
At one corner of the ethnographic works hall where Manuscript Korans and literature works from various periods are displayed, an Oriental Corner illustrating the autenthic structure of Van is on display for the pleasure of the visitors.
3- The Section Of The Armenian Massacres
This section was inaugurated on 2 April 1990, the freedom from occupation day of Van. It is organized with the aim of documenting the massacre undertaken by the Armenians during the occupation of Van in 1915 by the Russian troups reinforced with the Armenian brigands. Skeletons of the murdered Turks who died during the massacre at the Çavuşoğu Hay field of the Erciş District of Van and findings from the Zeve massacre where nearly 2500 Turks were killed at Zerve Village of the central District are exhibited. Among the findings revealed at a day-long archaelogical and anthropological excavation undertaken at Zerve by the Van Museum Directorate on 2 April 1990. Amulets, beads with moon and star motifs, 2 Late Ottomon Period coins as well as the Russian shells amply demonstrate the reality of the massacre Books in Turkish and foreign languages on the Armenian Massacre in Eastern Anatolia are also displayed in a separate case.
The Statistical Information
As of end of 1997 the Van Museum collection includes 17.699 archaelogical materials, 1007 ethnographic materials, 18.140 coins, 4 tablets, 415 seal and seal imprints and 153 manuscripts, totaling to 37.418 pieces.
The first step towards a museum in the province was taken in 1932, when caneiform tablets, which constitute the majority of cultural assets documenting the long and rich historical past of the area, and the ram and sheep shaped tomb stones belonging to Akkoyunlu and Karakoyunlu were taken under protection for storage.
The Van museum which was originally established as a depot – museum, due to its growing inventory, was raised to the status of the Museum Office in 1945 and to the Museum Directorate in 1972 and that year it moved to its new building. Today, the Van Museum is important with its rich collection of the Urartu material, which in the 1st millennium created a superior civilization in Eastern Anatolia. The museum has two display halls where the archaeological and ethnographic materials are exhibited.
In the Hall of Archaeological Works; there are obsidien tools, bone tools found during excavations at the Kızdamı and Tilki Tepe prehistoric settlements, absidien tools and ceramics belonging to the 3th millennium culture and the samples of paint decorated ceramics from the 2nd millennium .
Numerous findings of the Early Iron Age from Van – Erciş and magnificent examples from the Urartu era were discovered at the Ernis Necropolis and Toprakkale at Van city itself as well at from Çavuştepe at the Gürpınar district, all of which were important Urartu settlements. They show the mastery of these people in working metals, stone and bones into articles. In the Hall of the Ethnographical Materials, there are the world renown Van, Hakkari kilims, the Van style silver belts and head ornaments, tobacco boxes and neclaces as well as manuscripts and coins from various periods.
The section of the museum arranged as the “Oriental Section” is also popular with the visitors. In the museum garden inscribed victory stellae from Urartu period and the four piece relief of the Urartu God Teisheba from the same era are exhibited. The tomb stones shaped in a ram and a sheep forms belonging to the Akkoyunlu and the Karakoyunlu and tomb stones with ephitephs from the Seljuk period are also displayed in the garden. The inventory of the Van Museum is 33749 pieces in total with 14568 archeologial items, 920 ethnographic pieces, 17806 coins, 3 tablets, 338 seals and 114 manuscripts.
The Van Castle (Ancient Tushpa)
It is the first capital of the Urartu. The Van Castle was built by the Urartu King Sarduri I, towards the middle of the 9th century B.C. The entrance of the castle which has reached us in rather good condition is in the north-west. The Sarduri I. Tower (Madır Tower) stands to the west of the entrance. It has inscriptions written by Sarduri I in the Assyriann language.
There is the grave of the Urartu King Argisti I going up from the north-west corner of the castle and the annals on the walls inscribed in the caneiform script. There are grave chambers of the Urartu kings in the southern section of the castle.
In the south, there are remains from the old city of Van. Among these the Grand Mosque from the Seljuk period and the Kaya Çelebi and Hüsrev Pasha mosques from the Ottoman period are of interest.
Toprakkale (Ancient Rusahinili)
It is the second capital of the Urartu and was built on the Zimzim Rocks. Founded by the Urartu King Rusa II, it was named Rusahinili. There are remains of the temple of Urartu Chief God Haldi and remains of the city walls and water cictern.
Çavuştepe (Ancient Sardurihinili)
The Çavuştepe Castle which is situated 24 km to the south -east of Van was built by the Urartu King Sarduri II who reigned during 764 – 735 B.C. The excavation have been carried out since 1961 by the Turkish scholars. The Lower and Upper castle are joined in the centre with the main entrance. There is a large rock platform at the Upper Castle, which is in the east, and a temple which belongs to the Chief God of Urartu, Haldi. There is a great number of workshops in the Lower Castle, 4-5 m. high stone walls, a palace, a depot, cellars and the Temple of Urartu God İmuşini.
It is 40 km to the east from Çavuştepe. It was built by Sar Süleyman who was the Leader (Bey) of the Mahmudi dynasty, which was connected to the Ottomans. The castle rises above the sharp rocks of the river with the same name. The west – facing entrance of the castle and its original door have reached us without being destroyed. There is an inscription in Farsi about its construction and lion reliefs above the door.
Time has not been kind to an old bath, a religious school, a fountain, a cictern, cells and rooms.
It is situated on the Van – Tatvan highway, 37 kmto the south from the city centre. Gevaş was settled from the Urartu period on, and the Seljuk graves from the 14th century are interesting. There is the Halime Hatun vault to the south of the castle which was built by the Urartu and later used by the Seljuks. In the cemetrey which contains more than 400 graves, the unique characteristics of the stone art as well as decorative arts and caligraphy of the Seljuks has reached its summit.
The Akdamar Church
Akdamar Island, is 55km from Van and a twenty minute motor ride from the jetty on the Van – Tatvan highway. It is known for its original church. The Akdamar Church was commissioned to the architect priest Manuel by King Gakik I of the Vaspurakan dynasty during the years 915 – 921 B.C.
The church has a four leaved clover plan with a domed centre, and it is built from red coloured cut tufa stone.
At the exterior of the structures there are stone reliefs depicting religious themes from the Bible and the Tevrat as well as the earthly themes, such as life at palace, hunting scenes and human and animal figures. The manner these themes are worked in show an influence of the 9th and the 10 th century Abbasi Art, which was itself in turn greatly influenced by the Central Asian Turkish Art.
The interiors of the church walls are decorated with frescoes showing religios themes, which are practically disappearing today. These wall paintings have a special significance as the most comprehensive and the oldest examples found in this region.