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Tomb of Ahi Evran

Date of Submission: 15/04/2014
Criteria: (iii)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Turkey to Unesco
State, Province or Region:
Central Anatolia, City of Kırşehir
Coordinates: N39 8 52 E34 9 34
Ref.: 5902
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

The property located in the city centre of Kırşehir is about 400 meters away from Cacabey Madrasa and 200 meters away from Kale Höyük (Kale Mound) which is the historical centre of the city for 5000 years.

Ahi Evran, regarded as the sage of tanners and leader of 32 craft and trade types, is a Turkish philosopher who founded “Ahi-order”. He was born in the district of Hoy in Azerbaijan, which is left within the boundaries of Iran today. Exact date of his birth is not known, but it can be deduced from the fact that he lived for 93 years and died in 1261 that he was born in 1171. After he was educated in Azerbaijan, Khorasan and Bagdat, he moved to Kayseri in Anatolia in 1205 and established Ahi-order there and provided its organization through many cities in Anatolia. He lived in Konya and Denizli for a while and settled in Kırşehir until his death in 1261.

Ahi means “brother” in Arabic language while Ahi-order is the name of the organization that gathers craft and merchant masters in the territory from Anatolia to Central Asia under a single roof and supports them in any kind. It is closely related to “brotherhood” and a combination of “artisanship, trade and profession” with “maturity, morality and truth”. The person called “Ahi” is definitely an artisan man, a merchant or a profession owner, besides he is mature, well-behaved, charitable as well as honest and confidential in his works and behaves. The first step in the way for being “Ahi” is the assistantship followed by apprenticeship, semiskilled rating and finally mastership. Shift from one step to another takes generally 1000 days (nearly three years). Main elements of Islam faith can be seen in the organizational structure of Ahi-order, yet the system was kneaded with beliefs and thoughts of Muslims. It was soon accepted and easily spread in Islam world. Disorganization of the order started from the end of the 16th century due to the problem of finding raw material and consumer of their products as a result of invasion of industrial products of Western countries to Anatolian markets. The order went through in these circumstances until 1861 and then a regulation came into force annihilating monopoly in trade and artisanship. The guilds were totally left off by an act in 1912 and the works and activities of the Ahi hermitages totally came to an end following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. However, in order to keep its meaning and values alive, “Ahilik and Craftsmen and Merchants Festival” is celebrated in the third week of September every year centrally in Kırşehir but throughout the country, under the organizational and institutional cover of the Ministry of Customs and Trade and with the participation of President, Prime Minister and Ministers.

Following the death of a social or a religious leader, at the exact point or near the burial area are built graveyards, mescits, mosques and hermitages in time. It is understood that subsequent to the burial of Ahi Evran, the graveyard where his followers were buried were established around. In his researches in Kırşehir during 1960s, Semavi Eyice, an art historian researcher, detected and published the human shaped grave stone of Halil, son of Osman, dated 1310. Researcher Mehmet Onder mentions about a lion shaped gravestone in the tomb. In another research, it is noted that a grave stone with composition from early period were found within the tomb and now stands in Museum of Kırşehir. Unfortunately, graveyard of Ahi Evran is completely disappeared in present day.

It is true to say that the tomb of Ahi Evran and the thirteen graves date back to 13th century, however the hermitage were built in 1482 on the memory of Ahi Evran. The nominated property is among the T planned hermitages. It is directly moved to sofa section when entered from the west gate. It is situated mescit on the right and the tomb on the left. The grave was transferred to current place afterwards. Following the low arched door, one can pass to another sofa section in the middle. Grave on the left of this sofa section, a cabin on its right and the graves of the followers of Ahi Evran in the opposite are placed.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Ahi Evran was one of the society leaders in the 13th century and also for centuries following his death and is remembered with legendary deeds even today. He had contributed to Anatolian Turkish craftsmen and merchants with his literary works and actions. By the order he founded, an “excellent man” and “excellent society” was aimed and not only the vocational education but also religious, moral and social knowledge has been provided to followers for this reason.

Many modern trade and crafts organizations have been influenced and fed by the moral values and the organizational scheme of the order, which has lasted for 700 years within Turkish society. The structuring of the Chamber of Merchants and Craftsmen and its confederation is a follow-up of this order which had been organized in nearly all cities and even villages. Common chests, which are created and managed in order for regulating economic life in line with the philosophy of the order, are replaced by charities and Social Security Agency today. While trainings for apprenticeship, semiskilled rating and mastership had been given accordingly to the moral rules of the order, today it is conducted by related state institution and schools in conformity with the current laws and regulations. However, this hierarchical system is still been applied in vocational education centres. Besides, rules and methods of the order for a high quality goods and production are regarded as the first examples in transition to Total Quality Management and self-control mechanism.

Ahi-order brings a humanitarian system which undoubtedly carries a universal value while no other example is seen elsewhere. Its influence on today’s economic life and organizational scheme should be studied, conserved and promoted in universal scale. It is the only standing and concrete representative of this school in the modern days.

Criterion (iii): The property is among the T shaped tombs having been applied since the Seljuk Reign. With the fact that the property is not only a tomb but also a concrete component of Ahi-order, it is completely a rarely seen representation of a disappeared tradition.

Criterion (vi): Ahi-order, in substance, is a belief and life style which was developed for integrating Turkish manners and customs with Islam faith following the acceptance of Islam in the 10-11th centuries; creating employment opportunities for many merchants and craftsmen who came from Asia to Anatolia and making them capable of compete with Byzantium craftsmen; keeping the qualities for their goods and products; regulating the production accordingly to the needs; infusing crafts morality to craftsmen; providing economic independency of Turkish people and supporting the people in need in any kind.

Ahi-order has not been seen in any other nations except Turks and has played an active role in economic life of Anatolian Seljuks in the first half of the 13th century and been a symbol of Turkish morality for many years.

Dragon iconography, which has been materialized especially through Kırşehir rugs and has been effective in the history and culture of the city, originally stems from this order. In fact, “Evran” is a Turkish originated word meaning “snake, dragon” and the finial of Ahi Evran Tomb is in the shape of a double-headed dragon. Dragon is the symbol of eternity, universe, water and cloud in Turkish Iconography. In one of the sagas told in Kırşehir, Ahi Evran disguised as a dragon or snake and lost in the pipe of the fountain. In another saga, Ahi Evran fights with dragon and dominates it. It was also written in the historical records that Ahi Evran had come to meet Hacı Bektaş Veli by travelling on a dragon. One of the characteristic figures of Kırşehir rugs which have been seen since 17th century is that the dragon figure was engraved in the epigraph or chest. Zoomorph and realistic dragon figures can be seen on the tombstones from 13th and 14th century, as well.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The architectural plan of the tomb stands original but certain repairs and additions have been applied in time. It has gone through a restoration program between 1968 and 1972 by the General Directorate of Foundations, which is the responsible state institution as in the case of other religious structures in the country.

The property has always had an important place in the city plan of Kırşehir since 1940s. One of the main and also the most crowded streets of the city pass by the area. Thanks to the expropriations around the site, a considerable area has been left free of construction. Nowadays, a project for building a new complex attached to the property is carried by the Municipality to create museum facilities to give the visitors detailed information about the order and its history as well as a research centre with conference hall and a library.

Comparison with other similar properties

Though it has been mentioned many Ahi lodges in historical records, today few of them stands. What makes Ahi Evran Tomb in Kırşehir prominent among the others is that the tomb of Ahi Evran is placed within this property and that’s why it has been taken as the centre for celebrating Ahi Festival every year. Moreover, in the Ottoman period, it was in a position of being a centre where the decisions on the organizational issues of the order throughout the Empire are taken, which shows the property’s value and importance for the order back then.