Turkish craftsman Gabriel Cakirkaya, from the Turkish state of Bursa (west), is working on making replicas of the astrolabe machine that Muslim astronomers used in ancient times, especially in the Middle Ages, to measure the height of celestial bodies and calculate the local time and prayer times.
Jakarkaya, a 37-year-old government employee, spends most of his free time remaking the astrolabe machine in his 10-square-meter workshop located in one of the historic inns.
In his workshop, Jakarkaya works on producing replicas of the circular astrolabe machine used in astronomical measurements in ancient times, while being careful to adhere to the smallest details so that the product is an exact copy of the astrolabe machine.
For about 10 years, Jakarkaya has been working on producing a group of artworks that require high manual skills, based on special requests from museums and art collectors.
Before starting to produce the astrolabe, Jaqarkaya conducted a group of research into the images and information contained in ancient sources, after which he spent months working to produce the first replica of the astrolabe machine, by looking at the images and tracking the information contained in the ancient sources.
Production using old techniques
Cakirkaya told Anatolia that his interest in handicrafts began at a young age, and he also worked for years in wood carving and making a group of wooden sculptures.
He added that he learned many skills in the art of sculpture and copper processing from one of the famous craftsmen in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa (south), where he worked before moving to Bursa.
He added: During my research into the history of science, I learned about the astrolabe, how it works, and the purpose of its use. I can use a jig saw very well, and also work in sculpture, and I thought I could carve the lines on copper, which is what is needed to produce an astrolabe.
Jakarkaya pointed out that “the astrolabe is usually made of copper, due to the durability of this type of metal and the ease of use, as well as the ease of reading the written lines on this metal.”
He continued: “The lines and writings are engraved and carved on the astrolabe machine. After that, we work on the parts that we call the spider, and some parts are also cut out with a cutting saw. I do all of that in this workshop, using ancient techniques.”
He added: “I am rebuilding the machine with the same ancient techniques that were used a thousand years ago.”
Çakirkaya pointed out that “the number of people who do this work using traditional methods is very rare,” noting that he is currently studying 8 different types of astrolabes.
He explained: “I studied 8 different types of astrolabes, dating back to the period of Sultan Bayezid II between 1505 and 1506, the Rasulid state in Yemen (1229 – 1454), and the portable sundial of Nur al-Din Zengi.”
The sundial is the first clock invented by man, and the Muslim Arabs used it to determine prayer times. It depends on the sun and the angle of its deviation from the horizon, meaning that its principle depends on angles instead of hours, minutes, and seconds.
Jakarkaya pointed out that “the first artistic astrolabe in history was made in 975 AD, by the mathematician and astronomer Abu Mahmoud Hamid bin Al-Khidr Al-Khajandi, who lived in the late tenth century AD.”
Highlight the astrolabe
Jakarkaya said that he has been working for a year on making a silver astrolabe, noting that he did not find an astrolabe made of silver in historical sources, so he decided to make the first silver astrolabe.
Jakirkaya pointed out that astrolabe production is not a commercial business with a market, but rather he produces numbers of this ancient and traditional instrument based on requests he receives from people and institutions, especially museums and art collectors.
He also stated that he is also working to “shed light again on this ancient instrument (the astrolabe), and to demonstrate its importance in the development of science, especially astronomy, and the importance of the contribution made by Muslim scientists to human civilization.”