Distance marker (milestone)
Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts
Hegira 66–86 / AD 685–705
Height 40 cm, width 30 cm, depth 9 cm
Eriha (Jericho), near Jerusalem.
A distance marker or milestone usually erected to indicate distance between two stations along a pilgrimage or trade route, this one belonging to the period of the fifth Umayyad caliph, 'Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (r. AH 66–86 / AD 685–705). The milestone is nearly square and has an inscription incised on its surface. The inscription consists of eight lines of kufic script. It cannot be read in its entirety because the upper section of the milestone has broken off and is missing. The legible portion reads: 'The slave of God, the commander of the faithful 'Abd al-Malik – may God's mercy be upon him – erected this stone. From here to Damascus is 109 miles'.
Very few inscriptions have survived from the Umayyad period to the present. In addition, this milestone is significant because it shows the stylistic development of kufic script on stone during the Umayyad period.
How was object obtained by museum: The inventory states that the object was transferred from the ruins of Khan al-Hatrura at Eriha (Jericho) to the Tiled Pavilion (Çinili Köşk) in 1884 as part of the 19th-century initiative to collect artworks from across the country. The object was transferred to the Museum in 1941.
In the early years of Islam, distance markers were erected on important trade and pilgrimage routes in order to show the distances to the travellers. These milestones bear date, patron names and toponyms related to the region, and are thus of documentary importance.
The object was dated to 66–86 / 685–705 based on the mention in the inscription of 'Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, who was the caliph during this period.
The inventory states that the object was transferred from the ruins of Khan al-Hatrura at Eriha (Jericho) to the Tiled Pavilion (çinili Köşk) in 1884 as part of the 19th-century initiative to collect artworks from across the country. The object was transferred to the Museum in 1941.
Inventory records indicate that the object was found amongst the ruins of Khan al-Hatrura at Eriha and taken to the Tiled Pavilion in 1884. Since Khan al-Hatrura is further from Damascus than the inscription would infer (109 miles) it is thought that the milestone was brought to the khan from a place further to the north.
Clermont-Ganneau, C., “Notes d'épigraphie et l'histoire arabes”, Journal Asiatique (e serie IX, avril–mai–juin) 1887, p.472–497.
Kerametli, C., “Türk ve Islam Eserleri Müzesi'nde Erken Islam Devrine Ait Kitabeler”, Şarkiyat Mecmuası VI (1965), Istanbul, 1966, p.20.
ölçer, N. et al, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul, 2002, p.32.
Van Berchem, M., Matériaux pour un Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum, deuxieme partie, Syrie du Sud, Tome Premier, Jerusalem 'la ville', Cairo, 1922, p.17–18, catalogue no. 1.
Gönül Tekeli "Distance marker (milestone)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;tr;Mus01;1;en
Prepared by: Gönül Tekeli
Translation by: Barry WoodBarry Wood
Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions., İnci Türkoğluİnci Türkoğlu
İnci Türkoğlu has been working as a tourist guide and freelance consultant in tourism and publishing since 1993. She was born in Alaşehir, Turkey, in 1967. She graduated from the English Department of Bornova Anatolian High School in 1985 and lived in the USA for a year as an exchange student. She graduated from the Department of Electronic Engineering of the Faculty of Architecture and Engineering, Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir, and the professional tourist guide courses of the Ministry of Tourism in 1991. She worked as an engineer for a while. She graduated from the Department of Art History, Faculty of Letters, Ege University, Izmir, in 1997 with an undergraduate thesis entitled “Byzantine House Architecture in Western Anatolia”. She completed her Master's at the Byzantine Art branch of the same department in 2001 with a thesis entitled “Synagogue Architecture in Turkey from Antiquity to the Present”. She has published on art history and tourism.
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: TR 01
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Umayyads | Administrative Reforms Pilgrimage | Pilgrimage Routes and Holy Sites Along the Way
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