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“Virtual Archaeology” in Light of a New Document on the Topkapı Palace’s Waterworks and Earliest Buildings, circa 1509

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This article introduces an unpublished document concerning the water distribution network of the Topkapı Palace. Preserved in the Topkapı Palace Museum Archive, the undated document sheds light on not only the palace’s waterworks but also the locations and names of its earliest buildings. Clues suggest that it was written immediately after the 1509 earthquake. Its heading reads: “Description of the fountains and water jet fountains, some of which have been flowing since olden times and some of which were added later.” This oldest written source on the hydraulic landscape of the Topkapı Palace elucidates the original layout of the palace complex. It refers to the two architects responsible for this project as ʿAcem Miʿmar and Miʿmar Hamza, who are identified in this article as the chief architect who preceded Mimar Sinan, namely, Miʿmar ʿAlaʾüddin, nicknamed ʿAcem ʿAli (Persian ʿAli), and his son Hamza. The document is significant for understanding the water distribution networks and layout of the palace before a rebuilding campaign in the 1520s under this first chief architect of Sultan Süleyman.


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