The Seljuk Han of Anatolia

Architectural elements


These raised platforms were especially useful for the traveling merchants. These platforms, or "loading docks", have cut-stone side walls and pavement, and are approx. 4 feet high. They exist in some 20 hans, although it can be assumed that they were present in all of them. These raised platforms made it easier to unload goods from the backs of camels. The goods were stored on top of these platforms for the duration of the merchant's stay in the han. Remnants in a few hans show that there were stone basins under the arches of the platform area, probably holding water and fodder for the animals. People would spread also their bedding on these raised platforms and would sleep alongside their unloaded goods. The raised area would offer some degree of cleanliness from the animals tethered in the courtyard area.

In the majority of the hans, each platform or stable area was covered by a barrel vault. It was common to have a wide platform area with a stable area on each side, thus comprising thus three vaulted galleries (Akhan). When there are five bays, the raised platform band forms a U, but the vaults may change direction. This was the typical layout for the larger hans, such as the Aksaray Sultan, Ağzikara and Sari hans.



Some of the hans have the remains of the traditional Anatolian tandir clay or stone pit ovens used for baking bread or roasting meat. These were generally located near the loading docks. The ovens were fired by wood or charcoal. The dough was "slapped" on to the hot sides of the oven where it quickly baked. A long stick or hook lifts off the bread once done. This type of bread baking is frequent in Central Asia, Iran and Pakistan.


While most of the larger hans had mosques, it has been harder to find the exact traces of bathing areas (hamam). There are only 6 known baths in the covered hall with open courtyard type: Sultan Han Aksaray, Sultan Han Kayseri, Sari, Ak, Ağzikara, Elikesik, and Ertokuş. To the right of the Cimcimli Han is a ruined structure, with stones decorated with Byzantine motifs, which was probably a hot springs bath. In the larger hans, the baths included all the traditional sections of an urban hamam, from cold room to hot room, but on a reduced scale. In light of the importance placed on cleanliness in the Islamic culture and as a requisite for prayer, all hans must have had some provision for ablutions and bathing.


It can be assumed that the latrines were near the bathing areas, yet there is a lack of clear-cut architectural evidence for the provision of wet services. They must have been at the end of the stables and had wooden partitions similar to those in a group of latrines in the courtyard of the Aksaray Sultan Han. It would make sense that the latrine area be located in the same area as the stables, and may have been a simple space partitioned with curtains. The Evdir han is equipped with a latrine in one of the outer abutments. In the Kargi and Aksaray Sultan Hans, the latrines were grouped together in a large corner space. The latrines in the latter occupy a large space at the northwest corner of the courtyard, with a deep stone channel encircling the space on the east, north and west sides. Apparently there were several individual latrines along the channel, divided by timber partitions.


Feeding the large numbers of visitors must have been a major activity in the daily life of the han. Once again, there is little architectural evidence for designated spaces for cooking. There are no spaces that can be clearly identified as a kitchen, with chimneys, fireplaces or water systems. One must assume that cooking was done in the various cells in the courtyard, or campfire style with portable tandir ovens in the middle of the courtyard or in a courtyard arcade.

By their very function of serving as outlying trading posts, most hans stood alone, isolated from other buildings and urban centers. Other contiguous buildings are sometimes noted, and were probably built after the han as a normal consequence of growth.

All hans had a source of fresh water nearby, either from a fresh-running river or lake (Sari, Kesikkpr), or by springs, wells or cisterns (Kirkgz, Evdir). No water source can be determined for some 15 hans, but it is assumed that there was one nearby that has since dried up.

Domes were located at the cross vaults and over the mosque prayer rooms. Unfortunately, most of them have collapsed.

The roofs of the hall and courtyard are generally flat, but contain crenellation.

Many hans have massive towers on their outer walls. They can be on the side of the courtyard or the hall, or can be at the corners (in hall or courtyard). They can be half-round, polygon, square, T-shaped, or star-shaped.

Han Corner Side Total
Sultan Han Aksaray 6 18 24
Eğridir 6 14 20
Karatay 6 12 18
Pazar 6 10 16
Sultan Han Kayseri 6 9 15
Ağzikara 6 7 13
Sari 6 6 12













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