Istanbul’s historic city walls digitalized

Istanbul’s historic city walls digitalized

Istanbul’s historic city walls digitalized

The historic walls of Istanbul have been transferred to a digital environment after four years of work. Now the walls, with all their information and photographs, can be viewed on the website with a single click.

Surrounding the Historical Peninsula and standing as the greatest architectural structure of the current-day city, the walls of Istanbul constitute a major part of the cultural heritage of the city.

According to the project’s website, the construction of the walls, parts of which are also included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, started in the first quarter of the 5th century. With various additions and repairs in different eras, this line of defense was able to protect the capital of the Byzantine Empire for approximately 11 centuries.

The walls are considered among the most important examples of the Roman and Byzantine military architecture surviving to the present day, and a large part of these 24-kilometer-long walls remains today, with 244 towers and 61 gates still standing. However, urbanization and other human activities, along with natural disasters such as earthquakes, have slowly caused the walls to lose some of their original qualities. These damaged monuments are in danger of perishing.

Koç University - Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for Late Antiquity and Byzantine Studies (GABAM) initiated a project in 2017 to document this important heritage site and bring together relevant visual and written data to create a digital resource on the city walls. The project aimed at documenting all aspects of this defensive system, gathering all related information together and sharing this data with the world through a digital platform.

The project was conducted with an international team of approximately 30 experts including archeologists, historians, art historians, epigraphists, photographers and other experts in various fields.

Professor Neslihan Asutay-Effenberger is the scientific editor of the project, while Professor Zeynep Ahunbay, Professor James Crow and Professor Albrecht Berger are in the scientific advisory board.

“We began to work with Barış Altan, administrative coordinator of GABAM and the project coordinators, Nikos Kontogiannis and Merve Özkılıç. Our priority was to document the city walls visually for several reasons. Photographic documentation involved a huge volume of work: Each wall section, tower and gate were professionally photographed with all their façades. From 3,000 digital photographs and 40-hour-long drone flights, videos showing the complete line of walls have been prepared and a rich archive has been created,” said GABAM Director Professor Engin Akyürek.