The tombstones in the Seljuk Meydan Cemetery in the Ahlat district of eastern Bitlis province, are each a work of art decorated with reliefs, inscriptions and motifs that shed light on the region's history.
The Seljuk Meydan Cemetery, which is on the UNESCO World Culture Heritage Temporary List, is located on a 210-square-meter (2,260-square-feet) area in the Ikikubbe neighborhood and known as the largest Islamic cemetery in the world. The cemetery, consisting of around 8,200 graves, welcomes thousands of local and foreign tourists every year. The tombstones unearthed during archaeological excavations that have been long carried out in the area take visitors on a journey through time with their Arabic inscriptions, motifs, verses and inscriptions of Asma Allah Alhusna (The 99 Names of Allah).
The tombstones were purified of lichen during studies carried out under the direction of professor Recai Karahan from Van Yüzüncü Yıl University’s (YYÜ) Art History Department. Inscriptions on the tombstones were epigraphically analyzed by expert academics. Following the analysis, Turkish, English and Arabic translations of the inscriptions are being printed on signboards to be placed near tombstones, allowing visitors to understand the inscriptions.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Emre Günay, vice-chair of the excavation team at the Seljuk Meydan Cemetery, noted that important findings that offer insight into the history of the cemetery have been unearthed through their work.
“On the tombstones and sarcophagi, there are verses from the Quran, hadiths, the names of the masters who built the stones along with herbal decorations and geometric motifs used extensively in Islamic and Turkish art. This cemetery, which sheds light on Islamic Turkish history, also has an important place in world tourism. These artifacts are being carefully cleaned and brought to tourism by our teams,” he added.