The Photography of John Henry Haynes

Travel in the Ottoman Empire

Elvan Cobb; Halpern-Rogath Curatorial Seminar

Until the twentieth century and the discovery of flight, most long-distance travel depended on seafaring. Sea voyages became more dependable with the invention of the steam engine, as it reduced reliance on capricious winds that could turn a few days’ journey into weeks. Interior lands became more accessible through the expansion of railroad networks that linked the fertile agricultural areas to port cities.  Railroads could also quickly convey soldiers to troubled locations. In the late Ottoman Empire, modern transportation modes over sea and land depended on Western expertise and financing, and thus generated greater foreign involvement in the Ottoman economy. While the Ottoman Empire desired modernization, its reliance on the Western powers for technology was a sign of the difficulty of this task.

Sea voyages continued to be the main mode of travel in the Ottoman Empire since railroads were slow to develop. While the steamers of the nineteenth century were more reliable than the sailing vessels of a hundred years prior, they still held risks for the traveler. On the first journey to Nippur, John Punnett Peters reported the following mishap: “Haynes, Field, Harper and Hilprecht met at Smyrna Saturday, September 29 and set out the same day in the steamer Sindth for Alexandretta. Sunday morning, at 1:10 am, the night being clear and the sea calm, they ran, head on, upon the island of Samos, which rises some 6000 feet out of the sea....There was at no time any danger, and the accident itself seems to have been due entirely to criminal carelessness” (Peters, Nippur, x). This small incident was reported widely in the American press, even appearing in the Dallas Morning News in Texas. 

By the late nineteenth century, an expanded railroad network began to provide access to interior lands of the empire. Although the first Ottoman rail lines were constructed by 1860s, the network was not yet extensive enough to make it a prominent mode of travel. Considering that by the 1850s the United States had 1,357 kilometers of railroad, while Great Britain possessed 9,800 kilometers, the Ottoman Empire was indeed very far behind (Inalcik and Quataert, Economic and Social History, 804). Thus, Haynes’s travels in Anatolia had to be undertaken by the other means.

Proper macadam roads only existed in limited areas. In 1904, the Ottoman Empire had only 24,000 kilometers of roads; all were inferior in quality and not well maintained, owing to the government’s insufficient resources.  In Ward's account of the Wolfe Expedition, he briefly mentions the limited nature of roads: “From Mersin we rode one day, by carriage, through Tarsus to Adana, where carriage roads cease. There we bought one horse, and with other hired animals went to Marash, attracted thither by its being an important seat of Hittite civilization.” (Ward, Wolfe Expedition, 9) The availability of a carriage road from Mersin to Adana is not surprising considering that Mersin was one of more active and prosperous ports of the Ottoman Empire and the lands around Adana were very fertile. Proper roads, thus,  accommodated the transportation of goods to the port. However, travel to Marash for archaeological investigations necessitated horses and pack animals as the archaeologists left behind the populated coastal regions.

Travel in the interior of the Ottoman Empire depended on animals. This could be exhausting for the archaeologists, and it perhaps strengthened their perception of isolation from the “civilized” world. Haynes notes in his journal on 27 November 1884 that “Breakfast was ready at five or earlier... We left at 7:27 traveled until 5:30 pm having stopped 33 minutes for lunch … distance 11 hours. A hard day both for men and animals! Road sticky. Weather fair sun warm ...Thanksgiving day at Home.”  (unpublished journal, UPM Archives) The allusion to Thanksgiving in this passage suggests how deeply the archaeologists felt their separation from familiar environments.

In addition to the daily trials of travel, archaeologists sometimes encountered difficult passages where street lamps and even clearly marked roads did not exist. For example on 28 November 1884, about 18 hours out of Diyarbakir, the travelers lost the road in darkness and had to spend the night out of doors:

Dr. Ward suggested that I take Daniel and zaptieh and hasten on to Kara Baghche three hours distant and engage quarters and prepare for the rest. It seemed a wise plan. We started on with fair speed. We looked for the village on the road. But did not find it. At 2:10 it was plain we had passed it by a long distance. If we retraced our steps there was no hope of finding it.  It was too cold, wet and windy to camp out and wait for morning light. If we left the road we might be lost. There was nothing but to continue our way until some village should give us shelter. Occasionally it rained a little. Passed some Kourdish tents but hardly felt like putting ourselves in their hands and thought best to go on to Diarbekir. Though the moon did not appear, it gave some feeble light through the dark clouds.  When within an hour of Diarbekir it set and left us in Egyptian darkness. We lost the road and could not find it...We sat down in the mud by its door and dosed away a couple of hours or so. As day was beginning to dawn we rose,...and at dawn of day set of in the supposed direction of the city and soon found we were right. (unpublished journal, UPM Archives) 

Perhaps more than any other part of Haynes' diaries, this recollection provides the most poignant evocation of the challenges of travel in a strange land.