The Seljuk Han of Anatolia


Inscription plaque (kitabesi) over main portal, showing the two lion's heads on each side

Kitabesi, detail

Covered section cells

Bull's head in relief on column capital in covered section

Fishes in relief on column capital in covered section


The ardak Han is located on the Denizli-Dinar Road, near the town of ardak on the northwestern edge of the lake known as the Aci Gl (to the left of the train tracks). The old caravan route passed to the south of the han. The entrance to the han faces east and the han is linked to the main road by a by-road. This old caravan route was already in use in the Byzantine period, and led from Konya and Beyşehir to Eğirdir. The ardak Han was a crucial check point (derbent) for controlling the passage between western and central Anatolia. The ardak Castle is located near the han. It changed hands several times in the 12th century between the Byzantines and the Seljuks. Stones from this castle were used in the construction of the han.

Han Abat or Han-Abad

The Byzantines called the castle the Charax castle, and the name ardak may have derived from this, but Erdmann claims that it is derived from a name which signifies a cover with four layers.

The han was visited by several 19th century voyagers to the region, including Arundell and Hamilton.

It was finished in the month of Ramadan 637 H (1230 AD) (dated by inscription).

Alaeddin Keykubad I (1220-37)


The inscription above the entrance door of the covered section in written in Seljuk naskhi style calligraphy and consists of seven lines in Arabic. It reads as follows:

1) It belongs to the Sultan

2) This ribat was ordered to be built during the reign of our master (mawlana)

3) And our lord (sayyidna), the just sultan 'Ala al-Dunyawa al-Din Abu al-Fath

4) Kayqubad b. Kayhusraw, the victor [for] the Commander of the Faithful, by

5) the humble servant of our most exalted and noble master (mawlana), the

6) rightly guided [one] of the nation, the state and the faith, Ayaz b. 'Abdullah

7) al-Shihabi in the great month of Ramadan of the year 627.


According to the inscription of seven lines above the hall portal, this han was built in the reign of Alaeddin Keykubad by his freedman and emir Esededdin (or Izzeddin) Ayaz bin Abdullah el-Sahabi, as a place of refuge. He appears to have been a lesser-known dignitary. Eseduddin Ayaz settled in Denizli and worked in the royal palace as the last emir of Alaeddin Keykubad. He could also be the one and the same Asad al-Din Ayaz al-Ghalibi, another patron listed in numerous epigraphs of the era (walls of Sinop, north facade of the Alaeddin Cami and walls of Konya, dated 1221). This Ayaz appears to have served as a sort of master of works or supervisor of the sultan's building projects.

Covered section with an open courtyard (COC)
Covered section smaller than courtyard
5 parallel naves of equal width running perpendicular to the rear wall
6 lines of support cross vaults parallel to the rear wall


The han is oriented east-west. Its plan consists of a covered section used for shelter and lodging and a courtyard with service facilities. The courtyard is located to the west of the courtyard and is smaller than it. It appears to be a simplified version of the Sultan han group.

This han is significant as it is the first known example of several unusual architectural features and building techniques:

1) The ardak Han is the first example of a hall with 5 parallel naves instead of the habitual three.

2) The width and height of the central nave is distinctive, as is the ladder that ascends from the covered section to the roof.

3) The use of differently-shaped support towers on the exterior walls of the covered section

4) The set of stairs up to the roof, a feature that is seen as well in the Kurueşme Han

5) Lack of slit windows in the covered section

6) Lack of an open arcade in the courtyard



The entrance to the courtyard is from the east, and is not on axis with the covered section, but is shifted slightly south. An iwan is located immediately after the crown door. Rooms for attendants are to the north of this iwan and other rooms are to the south of it. One of the rooms could have been a bakery, as suggested by the burned wood pieces and ashes found during the excavations. There is a water tank outside the northern wall, and terracotta pipes were placed inside the exterior wall at that point.


A bath is located in the southern section of the courtyard. The excavations have revealed the locations of the caldarium (hot) and the tepedarium (warm) rooms and the water tank. The upper section of the bath is covered with bricks.


A rectangular mosque is located south of the entrance iwan. Entry is via a door from the courtyard, and it was covered by a pointed vault running in the north-south direction.


Covered section:

The covered section comprises 5 naves, and the central nave is higher and wider than the side naves. The naves have four support walls connected to each other by arches and 5 square piers. The piers join the wall masonry on the interior faces of the central nave and are surmounted by triangular imposts. The naves are covered with pointed vaults running east to west. There are no slit windows in the walls, an unusual feature, and lighting is provided by square openings in the roof of the vaults. Raised loading platforms can be seen on both sides of the central nave. A set of stairs in the southeast corner leads from the interior of the han to the roof.


The walls of the covered section are not bonded to those of the courtyard, which indicates that it was built first.


The exterior walls of the covered section are reinforced by 4 differently-shaped support towers: two triangular on the north side and two rounded ones on the south. There is also a triangular tower on the south side of the courtyard. 



The most significant decorative element in the ardak Han  are the two expressive lion figures in full relief on either side of the inscription plaque over the crown door to the courtyard. The lions are sitting on their haunches and  face forward. Lions are a frequently-seen decorative element in Seljuk art, and fine examples can be seen in other hans, notably in the Ak, Alara, ardak, Cay, Incir, Kesikkpr Hans.


Geometrical carvings are found on some stones. Two of the imposts of the internal piers are decorated with animals in high-relief carving, including(a bull's head and a pair of fish. Other decorative elements include fretwork and braids on the hall door, and rosettes and rows of chevrons on the sides of the entry door.


Many mason marks can be seen on the stones of the han.

Total external area: 1850 m2
Area of hall: 610m2
Area of courtyard: 1020m2

The courtyard, which was buried until 2006, was uncovered during the excavations made by the Denizli Museum. The han is in good shape and is quite beautiful. It stands empty and can be visited. There are apparently plans to convert it into a tourism business.

Acun, pp. 160-173  (includes extensive bibliography in Turkish); 455; 485.

Arundell, 1828, p. 103.

Eravşar, 2017, pp. 281-287.

Erdmann, pp. 59-61, no. 15.
Hamilton, 1842, pl. I, p. 505.

Hillenbrand, fig. 6.50, p. 552.
Karpuz, Kuş, Dıvarcı and Şiek (2008), vol. 1, p. 244.

Kutlu, 2009, p. 26, 31.

Pektaş, 2007, p. 165.

Rice, p. 206.

Riefstahl, 1931.

Uzunarsili, 1929, p. 210-12, pl. 58-60)










2001-2017, Katharine Branning; All Rights Reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced in any form without written consent from the author.