Այցերու գումար - Total Pageviews - Total de visitas

16.7.13

Reading Armenian Tombstones from Taksim Square

Vartan Matiossian
 
On July 12, 2013 the Armenian Turkish weekly Agos reported that employees of the Archeology Museum of Istanbul had found 13 Armenian-inscribed marble tombstones, dating back to the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, during construction work in Taksim Square. The tombstones come from the Armenian cemetery of Surp Hagop, near the buildings of the Hilton Hotel and other constructions, and were found at a depth of 1.50 meters.
As it is well known, the recent massive protests in Gezi Park, an area closed to Taksim Square in Istanbul, uncovered parts of the hidden past of the area, including the confiscation and destruction of the Armenian cemetery in the area during the 1930s, with tombstones used for construction work. The newly found ones, most likely, are speechless survivors of the destruction.
The marble stones have been currently housed at the Archeology Museum to be examined by experts. According to a preliminary report from the museum, "the epitaphs are in general illegible. Two of them do not have any letter on them. On five of them only the dates are legible. The epitaphs which are legible show that the deceased were men, coffee makers and sellers, and barbers. It say 'Kayseri city, Talas village' on one of them, while another one had 'Keghva village' [sic]. The person who was from Kayseri also has a 'haji' (pilgrim) on it. Eight of the tombstones are without any ornaments, while five of them have ornaments. The ones with ornaments have circular shapes, water bowls, incised pelmets, symbolic letters, and mirror shapes."  
The website of Agos has featured photographs of eight tombstones provided by the museum. (However, the captions of the pictures are not the transcription of the inscriptions, but just the description of their content.) Interestingly, we found two inscriptions related to Kayseri (Gesaria in Armenian, the classical Caesarea) among them: one used Turkish ղայսէրլը, and the other, Armenian կեսարացի, but we could not see "Talas village" anywhere. None of those inscriptions had the word հաճի (haji) either, which actually appears in another inscription related to someone from Marzvan (Marsovan).
The first Kayseri inscription is  about someone from the village of Areveni, although we could not find the name through a cursory search of Arshak Alboyajian's mammoth two-volume history of Caesarea (Cairo, 1937). It says: Այս է տապան հանգստեան Արեւէնի գիւղէն կեսարացի Ներսէսի որդի Մովսէսին որ փոխեցաւ ի կեանս Ք[րիստոս]ի ՌՄԹ [This is the tombstone of Movses, son of Nerses of Gesaria, from the village of Areveni, who passed away in 1209]. The Armenian year ՌՄԹ (1209) is 1761 in the Gregorian calendar; the Armenian mobile calendar started in 551 A.D.


Another inscription belongs to someone from the same village: Այս է տապան հանգստեան Արեւէնի Եղիազարի որդի Գրիգորին ["This is the tombstone of Krikor, son of Yeghiazar of Areveni"). The fifth line appears to be undecipherable. By the way,  Agos' reading, "Şarklı (Doğu’lu)" (= Oriental (Eastern)), as if the Armenian word were Արեւելք instead of Արեւէն), seems to be defective.

 
There is a third inscription also related to Kayseri: Այս է տապան հանգստեան ղայսէրլը [....] Կարապիտ օղլու Տիքեշ Արութիւն փոխի ՌՄԻԴ [This is the tombstone of Dikeş [dikiş = sewing] Arutiun, son of Garabid [.....] from Kayseri, who passed away in 1224 (=1775)].
 
 
Finally, the inscription with the alleged "Keghva village" line actually reads: Այս է տապան Կեղցի Չօմաղ գիւղէն Սիմավօնի որդի Մանուկին որ փոխեցաւ ի կեանս Ք[րիստոս]ի ՌՄԺ ["This is the tombstone of Simavon, son of Manuk, from the village of Chomagh in Keghts, who passed away in the year of Christ 1210."]


In any case, a centuries-old cemetery was razed for the sake of modernity and the destruction of one more piece of memory. It was a measure very consistent with the policy of forgetting that was at the core of post-Ottoman Turkey. 

No comments:

Post a Comment