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THE TILES OF KUBAD ABAD PALACE
2002 / FEBRUARY

On the southwest shore of Lake Beysehir is a small verdant plain, beyond which rise the foothills of the Anamas Mountains, a branch of the Toros. Here, on the summit of a rocky headland, are the remains of the 13th century Seljuk palace complex of Kubad Abad. The palace was built by the most celebrated Seljuk sultan Alaeddin Keykubad in 1235-1236, and consists of the Great Palace to the north, the Little Palace to the south, and a shipyard beyond.
Excavations carried out here in 2001 uncovered the palace baths to the east of the Great Palace. The ruins and traces of numerous buildings belonging to the palace are scattered over the site. The remains of courtyard walls, ramps, water pipes, fountains, and a harbour can be identified. South of the shipyard was the royal hunting park known as firdevs or garden of paradise, where a dam created a small artificial lake supplied from streams high in the mountains.

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THE TILES OF KUBAD ABAD PALACE
2002 / FEBRUARY

The buildings of both the Great and Little palaces of Kubad Abad were arranged around central courtyards with eyvans (recessed bays in the façade), a layout originating in Central Asian and Persian architecture. The interiors of these buildings were decorated with wall tiles in various techniques and decorated with a wide array of designs incorporating human figures, a feature unique to palace decoration. Tiles mainly in the form of eight pointed stars and crosses have been found in the throne room and reception hall of the Great Palace, and at various places in the ruins of the Little Palace.
The fascinating representational style of these tiles combines with the symbols of Seljuk iconography to create a world of fantasy. The most prominent figure is the double-headed eagle, both symbol of royalty and a protective talisman of the palace. On the breast of many of these eagles are inscribed the words 'Es-Sultan' (the Ruler), 'El-Muazzam' (the Magnificent), and 'Es-Saadet' (Felicity).

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THE TILES OF KUBAD ABAD PALACE
2002 / FEBRUARY
Also frequently depicted are birds of prey trained for hunting such as hawks, buzzards and falcons. Stylised trees of life are common, flanked by birds either facing towards or away from one another, the most splendid of all being the pairs of peacocks.
Lions, foxes, rabbits, goats, bears, camels, wolves, wild goats, donkeys, horses and hunting dogs are other creatures inhabiting the luxuriant forests depicted on the tiling panels. As well as the wild game and domestic animals so vividly painted by Seljuk artists, fabulous animals of legend and folktale are also to be found here: sirens with human heads and the bodies of birds, sphinxes with human heads and the bodies of lions, winged griffons with birds' heads and lions' bodies, and dragons. The latter symbolise the heavens and the universe, to which they were givers of order.
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THE TILES OF KUBAD ABAD PALACE
2002 / FEBRUARY

Among the rest is a curious picture, deriving neither from traditional folklore nor religion, but rather in the nature of a caricature. It consists of a caml'st head attached to a bird's body in illustration of the Turkish for ostrich, devekusu or 'camel bird', and is a typical example of a conceptual picture, as found in Turkish and other Oriental cultures.
The tiles bearing miniatures style pictures found at Kubad Abad form the most important source of information about the depiction of the human figure in Anatolian Seljuk art. The largest single group among these depict sultans and courtiers full-face, and seated cross-legged in what is known as the 'Turkish posture'.

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THE TILES OF KUBAD ABAD PALACE
2002 / FEBRUARY
Some of the figures hold goblets in one hand representing both universal sovereignty and the water of life, itself symbolising heaven and immortality. In the other they hold pomegranates, opium poppies, handkerchiefs or flowers. In some cases we find them holding fish, symbolising the astrological sign of Pisces. Another group of figures consists of people standing and engaged in various tasks. Some hold goats or rabbits, and are presumably servants preparing for the feasts which concluded hunting expeditions.
Most of the figures are oriental in character with round faces, slightly slanting almond shaped eyes, curved eyebrows, pointed noses, and small mouths, while a lesser number have typically Mediterranean features. The decorative motifs on the tiles, particularly those with figures, are clearly derived from a pictorial tradition traceable back to Uighur art.
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THE TILES OF KUBAD ABAD PALACE
2002 / FEBRUARY

Details such as the clothing worn by the figures in the Kubad Abad tiles are a valuable source of information about Seljuk ethnography.

* Professor Dr Rüçhan Arik is head of the archaeological excavations at Kubad Abad

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