Thursday, February 5, 2009

Turkey: Istanbul's Nakkastepe Jewish Cemetery

Although Carnegie Museum of Natural History research associate Aydin Örstan specializes in mollusks and snails, he did spend an afternoon at one of Istanbul's old Jewish cemeteries back in October and recently blogged about it, adding some of his beautiful photographs.

He and a friend climbed over a high metal fence to get in to photograph the tombstones (and collect snails!).

"Only much later, at the end of our expedition did we realize that there was a regular entrance for the use of perhaps slightly more normal people. The cemetery consisted of an old section on a gentle slope overlooking residential districts and a presently used smaller section on a facing hillside. We concentrated our efforts in the old section where many marble tombstones were scattered, some haphazardly, over the hillside."

Although neither man could read the Hebrew inscriptions, some were in European languages. Here is a photo of Wolf Goldenberg's 1882 stone:

The oldest inscription they could read that day was that of a Dr. Marco Dalmedico from 1869, and another for Raphael Delmedico was also located.

Aydin's research showed that the cemetery was much older than the stone they had found.

Brewer (1830) mentioned a visit in 1827 to a "Jewish burying-place near Coos-Conjux on the Asiatic side [of Istanbul]" that was undoubtedly the same cemetery in Kuzguncuk, while according to Rozen (2002), the oldest Jewish tombstone in Kuzguncuk is from the 16th century.
The book reference is Brewer, J. 1830. A Residence at Constantinople, in the Year 1827. Durrie & Peck, New Haven. (Google Books) Rozen, M. 2002. For a history of Istanbul's Jewish Community, check The Formative Years, 1453-1566. Brill, Leiden. (Google Books)

Read the complete blog post at the link above and view more of Aydin's photos.

Thank you, Aydin, for allowing readers to share in your adventure.

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