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Writer: Yavuz İşçen
August 2009

The visitors of Cappadocia usually do not pay much attention to dovecotes when they see fairy chimneys, Baziliquas (churches carved on the rocks), the monasteries and the fabulous underground cities. The dovecotes are relatively widespread in Cappadocia with regard to other parts of the country due to the tradition of the local farmers in which the manure has been used intensively for obtaining more productivity in the vineyards. For this aim, many dovecotes have been constructed in Cappadocia and its surroundings.

Guarding doves for the need of manure
It is known that during Ottoman Empire dove manure was being used in vine yards of Cappadocia, vineyards and orchards of Gesi in Kayseri as well as planting process of watermelon in Diyarbakır. Recently, although the dove manure is still used in the country, the artificial manner has a widespread usage. In guarding the wild doves some specific type of coops were needed to build for collecting their manure in a more proper way and for ensuring to accumulate them. These kinds of buildings can be seen in Cappadocia as rock engraved dovecotes, in Gesi Orchards as tower style stone dovecotes and in Diyarbakır wall appearance made of mud-brick, named boranhane. We do not have any document for learning since when the wild doves were used for such purposes in our country. However, by addressing the evident history of dove breeding, which began in BC 3000, it can be assumed that utilization from the wild doves for their manure could begin in the same period.

The dovecotes of Cappadocia
The dove cotes in Cappadocia are mostly designed like rooms, which is set up by carving the rocks but we can also come across house shape cotes which are made of stones. Sometimes a rock carved church transformed to dovecotes by covering the front side. The Çavuşin Church, nearby the Çavuşin Village, Kılıçlar and Mother Mary Church in Göreme and some others are the unique examples of this kind of dovecotes. We are in dept to doves in the sense that they have prevented the destruction of frescoes in the churches and monasteries, which are used as a cote especially from the mankind.
The areas, which the dovecotes can mostly be seen, are Üzengi Valley in Ürgüp and Soğanlı Valley in the boarders of Kayseri, which is the neighbour city of Cappadocia located in the east part of it. The cotes in Soğanlı Valley are 7-8 floors big buildings. Besides, we can see dovecotes in Kılıçlar Valley in Göreme, Güllüdere Valleys nearby the Çavuşin Village, Balkanderesi and Kızılçukur valleys in Ortahisar and Çat Valley nearby Nevşehir.

The oldest samples of these cots in the region were built in the 18th Century but they are not many. Most of the cotes in the region were built in the 19th and early 20th century. The cotes also attracted the attention of some western travellers who visited the region at the beginning of the 18th century. The two Western travellers, Charles Texier and William Hamilton drew attention  to doves in their memories and gravures. 

The techniques used in cote building
The cotes were generally constructed by carving the rocks as a room. The inside area of the cotes range from 5 to 10 m2. The outer wall has 4 or 5 holes, which is used as an entrance for doves. Cote builders used to paint around the holes in order to attract the birds. Inside the cotes, there are hollows, which allow doves to lay their eggs and are called as ‘niş.’ There are also roost poles, which lay between two walls and connect them with each other. Hence, this simple mechanism eases to collect the manure clustered on the floor. The cotes have a capacity to accommodate 100 doves. They were built quite above the valley level and on the rocks, which prevent humans and other creatures to disturb doves. In order to protect the cote against from foxes, mousses, pine martens people use to make a mixture from plaster, white part of egg and lime and spread it to the walls for protecting the cotes. This mixture makes the surface slippery, which avoids dangerous wild animals to reach the dovecote. There is also an outside door, in the shape of a tunnel allowing a person to enter the cote for collecting manures and it is reached by means of the ladders.

The ornaments used in cote decorations
There are several kinds of ornaments on the outer side of the cotes in Cappadocia and its surroundings. Thus dovecotes lead us to see the unique examples of Turkish-Islamic paintings. The red colour, prevalently used in the region is produced from kind of a soil called ‘Yoşa’, mostly found in the region. People also use root-paints produced from different plants and some paints produced from soil consisting of iron oxide.
The carpet motives are widely used in the cotes. Some geometrical figures, figures representing the social life in the region, and plant and animal figures are also used on the ornaments. Among these figures, a man smoking nargile (hookah) and a man ‘playing sword and shield’ dance are the ones that mostly draws attention. Wheel of fortune in figure was prevalently used on the dovecotes of Çavuşin, Göreme and Zelve. Apart from the wheel of fortune which used to represent the four Gods of wind in the past but currently, represents the spinning word, spinning faith and the circle of love and destiny, the life tree, the bird perching on a tree and pomegranate figures are the other figures, mostly used on the dovecotes. The life tree signifies the path to the other world and the birds perching on a tree symbolises the guards of the life tree, and the holly creatures that accompany human beings in their journey to the other world. Pomegranate representing the abundance and plenitude has always been accepted as a blessed fruit in Anatolia through out the history. In addition to these figures, some inscriptions written in ancient Turkish has been found in some cotes. There are calligraphy’s in the cotes which show the date of construction, the words like ‘Maşallah’ and ‘Allah’ and rarely the identity and profession of its owner. 

Note: This article has been published in Peribacası Cappadocia Culture and Publicity Magazine, August 2009 issue. It is under protection of the copyrights of the magazine. No part of this article may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by electronic, mechanical or other means without prior permission from the owner.


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