Ottoman documents to shed light on history

Ottoman documents to shed light on history

Ottoman documents to shed light on history

Court documents and Ottoman archives, which have been found in excavations of the old city of Van by the Istanbul University Van Area Historical and Archaeological Research Center, will shed light on a history of 400 years in the region. 

Now, the findings are being classified. The restoration of 3,500 documents has already been finished. Some 35,000 documents related to Van, which are in the Ottoman archive in Istanbul, have been summarized. 

The excavation team, comparing the documents found during the excavations in Van and the documents in the Ottoman archives in Istanbul, aims to obtain important information about the city’s 400-year history. 

Director of Istanbul University Ottoman Archive Application and Research Center Professor Ali Fuat Örenç said Van, which was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1548, came to the fore as a center of administration and trade in a very short time. 

He said their rich archive materials related to Van and excavations there gained new importance with the newly obtained documents, and that studies were continuing in the Ottoman archives. 

Örenç said the summaries of documents shed light on a nearly four-century history of Van and its surroundings. 

“The number of these summaries is about 35,000. However, considering the book and file contents, the number of documents belonging to Van exceeds 100,000. The great social and economic change in Van and its surroundings, starting from the conquest in 1548 until the end of the Ottoman Empire, is reflected in the documents. When the content of these documents is examined, issues like the formation of the administrative structure of the Van governorate, the features of governors and other managers appointed to Van for four centuries and the duty of Van governor attract attention,” he said. 

“Thousands of documents about the settlement of big tribes in the region, their physical development, public buildings, maps from various centuries, project drawings, social and religious life, foundation artifacts, people’s applications to the state, research and many other issues are in the archives,” he added. 

Richest archive documents in Ottoman Empire

Director of the Istanbul University Van Area Historical and Archaeological Research Center Associated Professor Erkan Konyar said they had carried out excavations in the areas of public buildings in the old city of Van since 2013. 

He said the Van Courthouse, which was found during excavations, appealed to a wide range of places and that they had found 12 books in excavations there. 

Hundreds of pages from books are a very important collection in terms of the history of the region, said Konyar. 

“This year, we learned there are almost 100,000 documents about Van. We classified them and got all the summaries. There are all kinds of information about the city, such as forensic cases, population movements and commercial activities of Van. We have finished the hard part. We will enter into the process of classification and publication of the documents thematically. This is the richest archival documents east of the Ottoman Empire,” said the professor. 

Konyar added that people who are studying Ottoman archives were very excited about the documents.