Türkİye, Culture

Turkey: Seljuk cemetery offers insight into history

Seljuk Square Necropolis known as largest historical Islamic graveyard in Turkish-Islamic world, Turkish professor says

Turkey: Seljuk cemetery offers insight into history

By Sener Toktas and Ali Ihsan Ozturk

BITLIS, Turkey

Eying for a place in UNESCO’s permanent list of world heritage, a large group of centuries-old towering tombstones in southeastern Turkey sheds light on the history.

Located in the Bitlis province, the Ahlat district, which is among three “Kubbetul-Islam” (Domes of Islam) across the world, attracts scores of foreign and local tourists each year.

The district is also home to the largest necropolis in the Turkish-Islamic world.

As a group of some 400-700 years old towering tombstones in southeastern Turkey, is now part of UNESCO’s temporary world heritage list, the Seljuk Square Necropolis is working to jump into the permanent list in 2019.

Mehmet Kulaz, the head of arts department at eastern Van’s Yuzuncu Yil University, said Ahlat -- home to various historical civilizations -- was enriched with remnants of ancient cultures.

“This legacy is comprised of architecture. But, Ahlat obtains its existence rather with giant cairn and cist-type sepulchers at the square necropolis, nowadays,” Kulaz said.

Also mentioning five more historical sepulchers in the district, Kulaz said it is the Seljuk Square Necropolis that makes Ahlat most famous.

“The square cemetery is also known as the largest historical Islamic graveyard in the Turkish-Islamic world,” Kulaz said, adding, “It deserves this title.”

The Seljuk Square Necropolis, built on a 220-square-meter area, includes more than 8,000 tombs with reliefs and carvings, as well.

Also mentioning underground tombs, Kulaz emphasized that more than 1,000 tombs can be unearthed in case of an excavation in the entire region.

The ongoing works in the area are concentrated on restoration and conservation upon the request of Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry, Kulaz added.

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