Tomb On Wheels

A Team Rolled A 15th-Century Turkish Mausoleum To Its New Home

“As usual, things don't always go as smoothly as you plan.”

—Ahmet Turer, professor of engineering, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey, to National Geographic

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PHOTOS BY GOKHAN BALCI/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES

Here's a stressful project: Put a 15th-century, 1,100-ton tomb on wheels and then move it more than a mile (1.6 kilometers) to its new home on higher ground. Oh, and government officials backing the project are watching every step. Earlier this year, a Turkish team pulled off the feat to prevent the medieval structure from being submerged after a hydroelectric dam project is completed in the area.

The move wasn't entirely smooth. For example, after the trip started, a tire popped and a system meant to monitor the mausoleum's stability while in transit malfunctioned. (A backup system was installed.)

“The day of the relocation, we had a lot of troubles,” Ahmet Turer, a civil engineer who helped lead the project, told National Geographic.

Project team members celebrate the relocation of Zeynel Bey Tomb.

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The US$4.2 million project sponsored by Turkey's national government faced challenges earlier as well. Opponents were concerned that the relocation would cause serious and irreversible structural damage to the monument. That didn't end up happening, thanks to the team's intense planning and careful execution.

“If the mausoleum was sleeping in its old position, we didn't even wake it up,” Mr. Turer said.

PROJECT:

Zeynel Bey Tomb relocation

LOCATION:

Hasankeyf, Turkey

TOMB'S TRAVEL TIME:

3.5 hours

COMFY RIDE:

191 wheels were used for the move

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