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The astronomical orientation of the historical Grand mosques in Anatolia (Turkey)

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In the ancient civilizations, the sky has been observed in order to understand the motions of the celestial bodies above the horizon. The study of faiths and practices dealing with the sky in the past has been attributed to the sun, the moon, and the prominent stars. The alignment and orientation of constructions to significant celestial objects were a common practice. The orientation was an important component of the religious structure design. Religious buildings often have an intentional orientation to fix the praying direction. In Islam, a sacred direction (Qibla) towards Kaaba located in the courtyard in the Sacred Mosque in Mecca has been used for praying and fulfilling varied ritual tasks. Therefore, the mosques had then to orientate towards the Qibla direction, being designated by a focal niche in the Qibla-wall, wherever they were built on Earth. In this study, the orientations of the historical Grand mosques in Turkey are surveyed with regard to the folk astronomy derived from pre-Islamic Arabian sources, early traditions of the Islamic period, and geometric-trigonometric computation in mathematical astronomy inherited and developed mostly from Greek sources according to the Islamic view of the World geography.
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Archive for History of Exact Sciences (2018) 72:565–590
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00407-018-0215-1
The astronomical orientation of the historical Grand
mosques in Anatolia (Turkey)
Mustafa Yilmaz1·Ibrahim Tiryakioglu1
Received: 15 March 2018 / Published online: 17 September 2018
© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018
Abstract
In the ancient civilizations, the sky has been observed in order to understand the
motions of the celestial bodies above the horizon. The study of faiths and practices
dealing with the sky in the past has been attributed to the sun, the moon, and the
prominent stars. The alignment and orientation of constructions to significant celes-
tial objects were a common practice. The orientation was an important component of
the religious structure design. Religious buildings often have an intentional orienta-
tion to fix the praying direction. In Islam, a sacred direction (Qibla) towards Kaaba
located in the courtyard in the Sacred Mosque in Mecca has been used for praying and
fulfilling varied ritual tasks. Therefore, the mosques had then to orientate towards the
Qibla direction, being designated by a focal niche in the Qibla-wall, wherever they
were built on Earth. In this study, the orientations of the historical Grand mosques
in Turkey are surveyed with regard to the folk astronomy derived from pre-Islamic
Arabian sources, early traditions of the Islamic period, and geometric-trigonometric
computation in mathematical astronomy inherited and developed mostly from Greek
sources according to the Islamic view of the World geography.
1 Introduction
Ancient civilizations had the benefit of real dark night skies and experienced the full
spectacle of the starry heavens. Our ancestors all around the World would gaze up
at this celestial environment and became intimately familiar with the solar, lunar,
and stellar movements as they revolved across their vision while their sight always
limited by the distant horizon. Throughout various ancient cultures, the movements of
Communicated by George Saliba.
BMustafa Yilmaz
mustafayilmaz@aku.edu.tr
1Department of Geomatics, Faculty of Engineering, Afyon Kocatepe
University, 03200 Afyonkarahisar, Turkey
123
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