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The History of Coppersmithing

Throughout history, copper has headed the list of minerals that have enhanced the life of humans and it has even given its name to a particular period of history. The discovery of copper, and later bronze, as a result of combining the copper with tin, allowed great advances in civilization to be made. Evidence of the first copper smelting work, dating from 7000 BC, has been found at Çayönü, Diyarbakır, where copper tools such as pins and hooks, and ornamental items were produced. In Gaziantep, Adıyaman and Kilis, the finding of many burial mounds dating from the Copper Age, which lasted from 5500 BC to 3000 BC, has shown that coppersmithing in this region dates back to ancient times.

Coppersmithing is the production of everyday objects from sheets of copper and brass, which is formed by mixing copper and zinc. The art of coppersmithing gained increasing momentum during the periods of the Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman Empires when important technical and artistic developments took place. During the Seljuk period, brass, produced from copper, was widely used. During the Ottoman period, Gaziantep became one of the main centres for coppersmithing, while Adıyaman and Kilis produced and sold copperware to meet the requirements of the local people.

In the 1557 book Ayntab Vakıf Defteri (Antep Foundation Register), the section entitled Vakf-ı Ali Neccar Der Nefs-i Ayntab contains an entry for the foundation income of the Ali Neccar Mosque. It states an annual income of 192 akçe (silver coins) from a shop described as ‘Dükkan der suk-ı kazganciyan’ which indicates the presence of a coppersmiths’ market and an organised coppersmiths’ guild at that time in Gaziantep.

In the past, the master coppersmiths of each town worked using different styles, adding value to their work. Coppersmithing has undergone some important changes, in particular since the second half of the 19th century. The style and decorative work of the traditional copper pieces that had been produced in workshops for centuries began to change, and new copper items appeared. Decorative techniques such as engraving and punching began to be used. At this time, there were nearly 60 copper workshops in Gaziantep, with each shop employing 4-10 coppersmiths.

During the 1950s, coppersmiths started to use steel chisels for decorative work, and as a result their copper products increased in aesthetic value. Gaziantep  is the only city to produce copperware which has been decorated entirely by hand, and today these works of art are admired by the whole world. The rich cuisine of Gaziantep, Kilis and Adıyaman has given rise to the production of a variety of different vessels and pots in the region, and to the increased use of copper in the kitchen.

The contents of this publication, which has been funded through the 2010 Economic Development Financial Support Programme of the Silk Road Development Agency, does not represent the views of the Silk Road Development Agency and/or the Ministry of Development. The Gaziantep Chamber of Commerce is the sole bearer of responsibility for the contents.