The museum is housed in St. Peter's Castle, the recognizable town icon. The castle juts out into the center of Bodrum's two harbors on what was once the island of Zefirya, named after Zephyros, the god of the west wind. At the time of Mausolus, there was probably a temple dedicated to Apollo on the site, as well as a palace fortress. The land structure passed to the kingdom of Pergamum and then later to Rome before winding up in the hands of the Turks. Western sources say that the Knights Hospitalers of St. John wrenched the settlement out of Selçuk Turk hands to provide a refuge to Christians and increase their influence over the west coast of Asia during the Crusades. Turkish references say that Sultan Celebi Mehmet granted permission to the Knights Hospitalers to build an outpost. The truth remains that from their base over on the island of Rhodes, the Hospitalers' mission evolved from primarily medical to mostly military. Construction on the castle began in 1402 and became a symbol of the unity of Christian Europe against the Ottoman "infidels." According to the pope, anyone contributing to the construction of the castle would go to heaven; the naming of the castle towers illustrates the involvement of the various European nations, as does the presence of plaques, inscriptions, armor, and other artifacts.
After the earthquake of 1522, the Hospitalers raided the Mausoleum for building stones for repairs (some of which can be seen on the outer wall of the chapel), which apparently was not as effective as the Knights had intended, as the castle was captured by Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent that same year. Under the Ottomans, the church was converted to a mosque, adding a minaret and a public bath.
Although the castle is under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, the museum exhibitions are overseen by the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, an American nonprofit organization with bases both at Texas A&M and in Bodrum. St. Peter's Castle took on double duty in 1963 as Bodrum's Underwater Archaeology Museum, where various shipwrecks have been reassembled for display and occupy several buildings in the castle. In the chapel, the East Roman Ship dates from the 7th century A.D.; the interesting display allows you to walk onto a full-scale reconstruction of part of the ship and the excavation site.
The Bronze Age Shipwrecks exhibit displays findings recovered from sunken trading vessels discovered by local sponge divers. The artifacts, dating to the 13th and 16th centuries B.C., are indispensable for understanding the late Bronze Age. Also on display is the world's oldest known shipwreck, discovered in 1982 at Ulu Burun, which contained a cargo of treasures, including copper ingots, tin, exotic wooden logs, hippopotamus ivory, and precious gems. In addition to Canaanite gold jewelry, one astonishing find was a solid gold scarab attributed in hieroglyphics to one-time owner Egyptian Queen Nefertiti (scarabs, which were representations of beetles, were often carried by sailors for good luck).
Usually, archaeologists can reassemble an object from broken pieces of glass, because many of the object's pieces are often found in the same place. Not so in the Glass Wreck Hall (separate admission 4YTL/$3.50/£1.60; Tues-Fri 9am-noon and 2-4pm), which contains piles of recovered glass that defy this theory. Archaeologists deduced that the ship in question was actually transporting broken glass as cargo for recycling. This superb collection of early Islamic glass has proved important in dating similar artifacts from other medieval Islamic sites.
The Carian Princess exhibit (separate admission 4YTL/$3.50/£1.60; Tues-Fri 9am-noon and 2-4pm), also called the Queen Ada Hall, displays the tomb of what is commonly believed to be Queen Ada, a Hellenistic ruler of Halicarnassus, along with a gold crown and a few glass cases of other jewelry. The exhibit is hardly worth the added admission.
While ambling around the extensive castle grounds, home now to families of peacocks, doves, geese, and an ostrich, be sure to visit the dungeon, a kitschy re-creation of an amusement-park horror exhibit. The castle's two main courtyards provide respite from the relentless sun. Or you can step into medieval England and sip a glass of white wine in one of the stone alcove booths in the castle's English Tower.
- © Frommer's 2013
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- Very Highly Recommended 2010
- tel: 0252/316-2516
- St. Peter's Castle, Bodrum center
- Tues-Sun 8:30am-noon and 1-7pm (last entrance at 6:30pm; closes earlier in winter)
- No Sweat
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