Ottoman-Era Photographs


Active member
Open Culture posted an article today in regards to a new collection of 3500+ photographs of the Ottoman Empire available to view and download at the Getty Research Institute. Many are from the latter half of the 1800s and feature buildings and architecture.

If any of you have the time to do a more thorough search of the photo gallery, feel free and post what you discover below. Seems the oldest photos are from around 1853. Here are some interesting ones to start us off:

[Dolmabahçe Palace Imperial Gate], 1853-1858

[Great Sphynx], 1853-1858

[Building Facade], 1853-1858

[Bird's-eye View of Cairo], 1853-1858

[Parthenon], 1853-1858

Sainte Sophie, after 1883 (Constantinople)

Pergamos, between 1870 and 1920, undated

Constantinople. Séraskiérat, [Neg. no.] 6398, between 1888 and1900?​


Well-known member
Tartarian Factory

If one of these tall structures was put on a large contemporary metal turning lathe with two "chucks" to center the piece on the square holes then what's called TIR - total indicator runout could be measured. This would be the maximum distance that the radial round (and square) features vary from zero - the center point. If a solid large rod of aluminum were machined with round features on a typical current lathe the runout would be around 100 microns. The lathe would be huge and weigh around 10-20 tons. I don't think there are any stone cutting lathes in existence that could single point diamond turn these large pieces. If the machine is not rigid enough and there is too much wobble by even 10 microns (0.0004 inches) then the diamond that is attached to the metal rod attached to the turning machine would shatter or break off - guaranteed.

If the runout on the large pieces is over say just 20 microns then that would mean they were not rotating quickly while being machined. There might have been a large machine that was just hand rotated a bit then hand chiseled then rotated a bit more etc. to get the very good "TIR". This would be an easy check on whether its hand made with a large metal simpler turning system or machine made with diamond tipped tools and things like electric motors and very precise machinery. Another way to do this would be to have a diamond paste or slurry and some wooden forms that are held against a rotating column. That would take hundreds of hours for just one small section.

A "primitive" way to do this would be to use templates cut from wood somehow and sweep over the section being chiseled to gradually cut the shape to the same profile as the form. That's how the South American Olmec heads may have been carved. In this case the starting column is mounted on the ancient lathe structure to center it for using the forms to very very gradually hand machine the shapes.

Even if there was some geopolymer magic going on producing rock that looks just like granite the casting forms have to be made very precisely and that would still require sophisticated machinery. This can be ruled out if there is never any parting line imperfections on the columns where the casting form comes apart.

Another way to check on the precision at low cost is to take a laser scanner to the site and just scan a section to get the precision to within around +/- 20 microns. Then you could tell if the symmetry was too good for anything but space age machining systems. I am surprised nobody has done this. They have equipment like that in a few of the advanced product design companies in India.

My guess is that they at least had massive cast metal turning systems where the roughed out columns were mounted for manual machining using forms somehow to guide that chiseling. For sure they had massive lathes the question is were they electric motorized and what kind of cutting approach did they use.
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