The Seljuk Han of Anatolia
Tucked in the middle of a leafy residential neighborhood of Kayseri, this han displays a rare arrangement of iwans around the courtyard.
Eravşar, 2017. p. 218; photo I. Dıvarcı
Eravşar, 2017. p. 223; photo I. Dıvarcı
Eravşar, 2017. p. 220; photo I. Dıvarcı
The Cirgalan Han is located in the midst of the tranquil residential neighborhood of Cirgalan in Kayseri. It is on the Sivas Road (the ancient Kayseri-Sivas caravan route), 11 km outside of downtown Kayseri.
It is built on a sloped hillside. The rocky area on the east side of the han may have been a tufa stone quarry which supplied the materials used in the construction of the han.
The Seljuk historian Ibni Bibi called this area as the "Cırgalan Plains". The word Cırgalan is the name of one of the ranges of the Celestial Mountains in Central Asia. The term was generally used during the Seljuk era to denote the flat plains where the army assembled. There are two well-known military training grounds around Kayseri, the Mashad Plains and the Köşk Plains, often mentioned in the texts of Ibni Bibi.
It is believed that the region was settled by Central Asian immigrants in the 13th century, and was moreover a place inhabited by those fleeing from the advancing Mongol army. Many Turks came to Anatolia from Central Asia before the Mongol invasion in 1243.
This han is not mentioned by the many travelers who passed through Kayseri, and this may be due to the fact that it was in the middle of the village and not on the high road.
Late 13th century or early 14th c.
As there is no inscription, it is not possible to determine an exact construction date or patron.
It must be remembered that the Mongols invaded Kayseri and Sivas, and the city of Kayseri was razed by the Mongols in 1243. This han could thus have been built after this date, or rebuilt if it was destroyed by the Mongols. A clue to dating may also be gleaned from reading the journals of Qadi Muhyiddin Ibn Abduzzahir. In his role as the historian who accompanied the Mamluk Sultan Baybars on his campaign to Anatolia in 1277, he recorded the names of the places conquered by Baybars, but did not mention this han in his journal, as he did for the Karatay Han. Baybars arrived in Kayseri after a stopover in the Karatay Han, taking the Malatya road, but turned towards Sivas when he left the city in order to mislead the Mongols. Since he didnt speak of the Cirgalan Han, one is tempted to think it did not exist at that time and could have been built after this time. Or perhaps Baybars, like many of the travelers of the 19th century, did not see the han.
No trace of any inscription has been found.
Covered with open courtyard (COC)
Covered section smaller than courtyard
Covered section with a central aisle and one aisle on each side running perpendicular to the back wall
The han is currently in ruins. The majority of the walls have collapsed.
Prior to the excavation project of 2009, only a small section of the covered section was standing and the courtyard was buried. Despite this, it was still possible to distinguish the plan can during the 2009 project.
The plan consists of a covered section used for lodging and an open courtyard which included various spaces for service facilities. The han is oriented east to west. The entrances to both sections face west.
The open courtyard, used for various service facilities, is located to the west and in front of the covered section. It is on the same axis as the covered section and is slightly wider than it.
The arrangement of the service areas in the courtyard of the Cirgalan Han is quite different than what is generally seen in most Seljuk hans. The typical Seljuk plan for courtyards consists of an open arcade on one side of the courtyard and a covered section on the other. However, in this han, the service spaces of the courtyard consist of iwans, placed on the entrance side and the two lateral sides. It is not clear why this iwan configuration was preferred over open arcades. Since we do not know exactly what these spaces were used for, it can be imagined that they had a different use than is generally seen, perhaps for more permanent storage of goods or as a depot of some sort. However, it is known that the use of iwans in courtyards was a widely-established practice in Central Asia, especially in hans.
The open courtyard space is entered through a door in the center of the western facade. The space after the entrance is in the form of an iwan, with two more spaces added on both sides of the door. A square room measuring 6.5 x 6.5 m is located next to each space in the corners of both sides. Remains of a space considered as an iwan was unearthed in the southern corner of the courtyard, and to its west is a square room. On the northern side (left) of the courtyard are three iwans.
The covered section is divided into three naves by two support walls, each with five square piers. It is noteworthy that the side naves were connected perpendicularly to the mid nave. The covered section thus has three support systems. Remains of pointed ruined arches extend in the east-west direction to the rear wall. The central nave is covered with a pointed barrel vault extending in the same direction. The side naves are covered with pointed barrel vaults opening towards the middle nave from the side walls. The arches which support the vaulted side naves were built low in the east-west direction. The piers supporting the arches in the middle nave are square.
It was not possible during the excavations to determine if the covered section had slit windows or a loading platform in the middle nave. The location of the crown door of the covered section was discovered during the excavations.
There is one iwan in the covered section at the rear left side, and it is believed there was perhaps another one on the right side.
There is no decoration in this han, although recent excavations have revealed some stenciled plaster decoration in the northern section of the facade of the covered section, and other areas could have been plastered in a similar way. Numerous stones bear mason's marks. Due to the fact that the use of mason marks in Kayseri buildings seems to have ceased by the 14th century, stylistic analysis of these mason marks have led scholars to attribute the construction of the han to the 13th century.
The walls are 0.90 m thick. The walls were built by filling mortar between two large freestones, a technique seen in the Seljuk structures in Kayseri and its surroundings. In this technique, the front face of the stones are scraped smooth and the back sides are left rough for better adhesion, with the joint forming a neat line on the wall. Several mason marks can be noted, especially in the stones of the covered section. There are no support towers for the walls of the covered section or the courtyard.
The han measures 20 x 30m.
STATE OF CONSERVATION, CURRENT USAGE
An excavation project was carried out in 2009 by experts of the Kayseri Museum under the direction of the Kayseri Metropolitan Municipality, led by Ali Baş. At this time, the plan of the structure was determined. A statistical survey of the remains was established in order to proceed with the restoration. However, at this time, there are no plans for restoration work. The uncovered foundations of the han were not closed over after the excavation work and no conservation work has been carried out to stop further degradation.
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Eravşar, 2017. p. 221; photo I. Dıvarcı
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