Name of Object:



Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Holding Museum:

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

About Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Sultanahmet

Date of Object:

Hegira 650 / AD 1252

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Cast and beaten brass with engraved decoration.


Height 19 cm, diameter 17 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Ishbiliya (modern Seville), Spain.


The astrolabe is in the form of a clock face. Seven plates belong to it, one of them fixed and the others rotating. The six rotating plates are attached to the fixed one by a central screw decorated with a rosette. On top of the faces of these plates, which have meridians, concentric circles and astronomical and astrological terms and names engraved on them, is placed an indicator with hooked ends which can be used to determine the positions of 29 stars. These in turn can be used to measure time and distance.

Historical sources indicate that the astrolabe was invented by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus in the second century BC. The most advanced types of astrolabe were used by the Muslims of al-Andalus and the Maghreb.

View Short Description

Astrolabes are astronomical instruments used for measuring time and distance. Their plates bear engraved concentric circles, meridians and astrological terms and numerals. Invented in the 2nd century BC, the most advanced astrolabes were used by the Muslims in al-Andalus and the Maghreb.

Original Owner:

Muhammad bin Batut of the Hamairi family

How date and origin were established:

According to the inscription on the astrolabe, it was made in the year 650 / 1252 and belonged to Muhammad bin Batut of the Hamairi family in Ishbiliya (modern Seville).

How Object was obtained:

Transferred to the Museum in 1964 from the Treasury of the Topkapı Palace Museum, Istanbul.

How provenance was established:

The inscription specifies the city of Ishbiliya (modern Seville).

Selected bibliography:

ölçer, N. et al, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul, 2002, p.90.

Citation of this web page:

Alev Özay "Astrolabe" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;ISL;tr;Mus01;25;en

Prepared by: Alev ÖzayAlev Özay

Alev Özay is an expert at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul. She was born in Ankara, Turkey in 1942. She graduated from the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Cultures of the Faculty of Letters, Istanbul University. She first worked at the museums of Tekirdağ and Kayseri. She attended Ottoman language courses in 1976–7 and restoration and conservation courses in 1982 organised by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. She published an article on the “Turbe of Sultan Ahmet” in 1979 and in 1983 prepared the catalogue for the Exhibition on Islamic Arts in the 15th Century of the Hijra.

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 GomezMandi Gomez

Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.

True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.

MWNF Working Number: TR 46


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