The Masterpieces Of Ahlat in Bitlis Turkey – Chapter 2,
These hundreds and thousands of gravestones in rows are each a monument representing Turkish decoration and tastes, dating from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Besides the traditional Seljuk motifs which decorate the gravestones of Ahlat the writing inscribed upon them is of value in itself. Every stone throws light on the history of the period. From them, historians have learned the names of long forgotten artists, famous commanders and scholars. It is said that in several regions of Anatolia the Seljuks would only use Ahlat craftsmen in the construction of buildings. And these craftsmen did not only work stone but also wood, bronze, and iron with equal skill. That became a kind of academy of fine arts, training craftsmen and sending them to the four corners of the nation. The city became the center for those who felt the exuberance of art in their hearts, for the greatest artists. The Great Graveyard in Ahlat is at present being organized as an Open Air Museum. Archaeologists are uncovering the hundreds of graves which lie underground and repairing the underground grave rooms. After studies here are completed it will become one of Turkey’s most interesting museums. It is to be called Ahlat Graveyard Open Air Museum, containing hundreds of masterpieces, every one of them a monument to the supreme skill of a sculptor. In the words of one art historian: “These gravestones speak for a nation which expressed its vast joy of art in stone, which spoke through stone, which built monuments to the artist. If you call these gravestones at all.”
This is really so. If your road ever takes you to the north west shore of Lake Van do not pass without seeing Ahlat. You will see a vast collection of masterpieces at Ahlat Open Air Museum, which astonishes those who see it.