The Istanbul Archaeological Museums are made up of three main units: the Istanbul Archaeological Museums, the Ancient Orient Museum and Tiled Kiosk Museum. The collection of the Archaeological Museum - Turkey's first museum - houses over one million artifacts belonging various cultures collected from the imperial territories.
The Archaeological Museum was founded on June 13, 1891 under the name of Müze-i Hümayun (the Imperial Museum). Commissioned by archaeologist, painter and curator Osman Hamdi Bey, the museum met a need to display important artifacts such as the Sarcophagus of Alexander the Great and King Tabnit, both unearthed at the Royal Necropolis of Sidon (Saida, Lebanon), a site considered one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of that era. The main building of the museum was designed by the renowned architect Alexandre Vallaury a later took its current form with the construction of auxiliaries built in 1903 and 1907. The artifacts displayed in the main building's exhibition halls are presented in chronological order with an emphasis on the antique. In addition, to the Alexander and Tabnit sarcophagi, the permanent collection features numerous remarkable artifacts including the Mourning Women Sarcophagus, also unearthed in the Sidon Royal Necropolis excavation, the Tabnit Sarcophagus, and the Brankhit Sculptures of the Didim-Miletos Sacred Way, belonging from archaic period until Late-Roman period.
Also included are Greek Kore and Kouros (young girl and boy) statues, a lion-headed statue from the Halicarnassus Mausoleum, the bust of Aphrodite from the famous Zeus Altar in Bergama, a portrait of Alexander the Great, artifacts as well as samples of art and sculpture of the Roman Empire, collected from provinces throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. The annex constructed between 1969-1983 and the complex presently known as the Auxiliary Building lie on the southeast adjacent of the main building. This complex hosts the following exhibition halls: "Surrounding Cultures of Istanbul," ''Thrace, Bithynia and Byzantium," "Istanbul Through the Ages," "Anatolia and Troy Through the Ages," and "Surrounding Cultures of Anatolia: Syria, Palestine and Cyprus."