By VERCÄ°HAN ZÄ°FLÄ°OÄžLU
The author of a soon-to-be-released book has said he can prove that the skull of the Ottoman eraâ€™s most acclaimed architect was taken from his tomb to try and show that he was an ethnic Turk.
According to Professor SelÃ§uk MÃ¼layim from Marmara University, the corpse of Mimar Sinan, best known for the 16th-century SÃ¼leymaniye Mosque in Istanbul, was taken from its modest tomb next to that building Aug. 1, 1935, in order to measure the famed architectâ€™s skull.
Documents show that the team, headed by Turkish Historical Society Director Hasan Cemil Ã‡ambel, society member Åževket Aziz Kansu and historian Afet Ä°nan, conducted the excavation in an hour, MÃ¼layim told the HÃ¼rriyet Daily News & Economic Review recently.
â€œThe purpose was to prove he was an ethnic Turk,â€ the professor said. â€œKansu took measurements with compasses and other tools and from these measurements it was decided that he was an ethnic Turk.â€
At the time of the teamâ€™s foray into the tomb, there was a rising appreciation of Mimar Sinan in Europe, where people were increasingly claiming that the great architect could not have been Turkish, MÃ¼layim said. â€œThe excavation was an answer to these claims.â€
To this day, few members of the Turkish public know that the man hailed as the greatest of Ottoman architects was actually a Muslim convert of Armenian origin.
Following the excavation of Sinanâ€™s tomb, the Turkish Historical Society team took its findings to Mustafa Kemal AtatÃ¼rk, the founder of the Turkish Republic. â€œHe refused to look at the results, saying, â€˜Instead of measuring his skull, make a statue of the architect,â€™â€ MÃ¼layim said.
The idea that Sinanâ€™s skull is missing from his tomb is not a new one, but one that many experts have avoided repeating in public.
Afife Batur from Istanbul Technical University confirmed that racial studies were conducted in the mid-1930s. â€œI have not personally studied this subject. But claims that [Sinanâ€™s] skull was taken out of his grave have always existed,â€ she said. â€œI donâ€™t think there is a need to look in his tomb. Historical documents will cast light on everything.â€
This sort of claim can only do insult to the memory of Mimar Sinan, said historian Ä°lber OrtaylÄ±, director of the TopkapÄ± Palace Museum. â€œThere is not a single piece of truth in these claims. People think they are doing historical research,â€ he said.
MÃ¼layimâ€™s research will be published as a book in Turkish and English next month by the Islamic Research Center under the title â€œSinan Bin AdbÃ¼lmennÃ¢n - A World Architectâ€™s Story, Works and Beyond.â€
The professor said he was prompted to undertake his longtime research on Sinan by his studies at AtatÃ¼rk State University, as well as by newspapers from 1935 that revealed interesting details about the famous architect.
In his book, MÃ¼layim suggests that not only Sinanâ€™s skull, but also those of some of the leaders of the SelÃ§uks, one of the Turkic peoples that ruled Anatolia, are missing from their tombs, he told the Daily News.
MÃ¼layim, who has already written two books on the most celebrated of all Ottoman architects, believes that the architectâ€™s skull has either been smuggled abroad or lies among other skulls in storage at Ankara Universityâ€™s Language, History and Geography Faculty.
The skulls of the SelÃ§uk rulers were also excavated for measurement, MÃ¼layim claimed, adding that there was even talk in earlier years of exhibiting those skulls in the Anthropology Museum being planned for Ankara at that time.
â€œHad there been such a museum, it would have been a big gain and at least the skulls would not have gone missing,â€ he said. â€œWe can only find out about the fate of Sinanâ€™s skull if we can reach Kansuâ€™s family and his private notes.â€
MÃ¼layim also argued that the tomb of Mimar Sinan was opened one more time in the 1950s to see whether the claims that his skull was missing were true.
â€œAgain we understand from documents in our hands that it was seen that the skull was not there,â€ he said.
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