The first seismograph of Anatolia: the balance of earthquakes


Earthquakes are one of the natural disasters that have caused great destruction since the beginning of human history. For this reason, humanity seeks to minimize the consequences of this destructive natural phenomenon. In this regard, one of the most important tools that have appeared in modern times are seismographs. A seismograph is used to calculate the magnitude, duration, and center of earthquakes by continuously measuring ground movements.

It is known that the seismograph in the modern sense began to be used towards the end of the 1880s. However, hundreds of years ago Anatolian geography used an extremely simple but interesting instrument for measuring earthquakes: the earthquake balance.

This interesting device called “earthquake scales”, which was installed in some mosques built in different regions of Anatolia, was used to determine whether the buildings were damaged by earthquakes or for some other reason. Moreover, some of these magnitudes of earthquakes continue to exist despite the passage of hundreds of years, and even continue to operate in a regular manner. Here’s what you need to know about Anatolia seismographs and earthquake scales…

Earthquake scales are found in some mosques built hundreds of years ago in Anatolia.

Earthquake scales are usually located on the edges of mihrabs inside mosques. However, there are some mosques where earthquake scales are located at the main entrances or in part of the minaret.

These scales, located in different parts of the mosque, are made of cylindrical marble or concrete stones. The balance rotates easily if there is no damage to the foundation of the mosque or building where the mechanism is located.

However, these stones, which are made of marble or concrete, get stuck, turn with difficulty or do not turn at all, which means there is damage to the structure. In other words, earthquake scales work on a very simple but effective principle.

Since earthquake scales do not turn, there is damage to the structure, so precautions can be taken against possible disasters.

earthquake scale

For example, in mosques where scales still work, the structure is regularly checked for damage. In fact, imams or muezzins in some mosques constantly check the earthquake scale before praying. Of course, the extremely simple operation of these hundreds of years old structures also makes such tight control possible.

The scale of earthquakes can be found in some of the works of Mimar Sinan, one of the greatest architects that history has ever seen.

For example, the Muradiye Mosque in Manisa, which is Mimar Sinan’s only work in the Aegean and was completed in 1585, is one of the structures built using earthquake scales. Thanks to the scales on both sides of the mihrab, one can understand whether there is any damage to the structure or even today there has been a slip on the floor of the mosque.

There are other mosques in Anatolia that use earthquake scales.

earthquake scale

It is estimated that the Mahremiye Mosque in Khatai was built between 1400-1500. The mosque’s earthquake scales are still in use today. In addition, the Bursa Yesil Mosque, built in 1424 and one of the outstanding examples of the first period of Ottoman architecture, is still measured by the scale of earthquakes.

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