BITLIS, Turkey

Towering Seljuk tombstones in eastern Turkey are getting prepared to be introduced to the world as part of a project.

Fragments of monumental tombstones buried under the soil in Seljuk Cemetery, located in the Ahlat district of Bitlis province — a UNESCO’s tentative world heritage list — will be erected under the project by the Ahlat district governorship and a nature and cultural heritage foundation in the district.

A 10-person team, including restorers and art historians from Italy, will join excavation works headed by Recai Karahan, a professor from Van Yuzuncu Yil University, at the cemetery that has 8,103 tombs in a 210-decare area.

Within the project, 100 broken and buried tombstones will be brought to light. They will be restored and cleaned of lichen, while inscriptions will be read.

Exhibitions will be opened in Ahlat and Italy with an introductory film on the cemetery and photos of tombstones, each of which is a historical artifact.

“The lichens on the stones are cleaned with hard work to reveal the rich decorations on the tombstones,” Mikail Ercek, curator at Ahlat Museum, told Anadolu Agency.

“The decorations revealed are handled with great delicacy. It’s impossible not to admire these tombstones,” said Ercek.

He said that nearly 200 of the tombstones are standing.

“This is the source for being the first artifact left by our ancestors in this tradition in Anatolia. It is possible to see the versions of the motifs here in different parts of Anatolia,” he said.  

Use of new techniques

Necati Aktekin, coordinator of the project from the district governorship, said the project is intended to preserve cultural heritage.

“Our aim is to see the different restoration techniques used in Italy and show the techniques applied in Ahlat to create new techniques for restoration,” said Aktekin.

“In addition to promoting the Seljuk Cemetery abroad, we also aim to restore our stones and make them more qualified,” he added.  

*Writing by Sena Guler

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