In late 2014, a tombstone of so far unrecorded shape at the territory of BiH was found in the park At Mejdan in Sarajevo. The unordinary tombstone has intrigued archaeologists and Orientologists, thus a four-member team of expert was formed with the aim of revealing its origin. Two years have passed since, and the problem remained unsolved.
What makes this tombstone unordinary is its shape. It was stated in one newspaper article written by the architect and an expert in the history of Sarajevo Mufid Garibija after the discovery of the tombstone that it has a cap which “does not represent a hat nor a French cap, but something third which is yet to be discovered. There are no such tombstones in expert literature”.
The elementary mistake that led the scientists to a wrong path is the belief that the tombstone marks a grave of a man. However, it turns out that the tombstone is not male.
Hotoz or boğtak is a traditional Turkish women cap, made of leather or fabric. It originates from China. During the Ottoman conquests, the Ottomans spread the tradition of wearing this cap throughout the Ottoman Empire. Being decorated with gold, silver and gemstones, it became a recognizable and prestigious feature of most distinguished and richest Ottoman ladies. It has been replaced with tarboosh during the rule of Sultan Mahmut the Second, but thousands of tombstones with these caps are preserved at the territory of Asia Minor.
Hotoz caps are first mentioned in Sarajevo in 16th century. In the legacy of craftsmen who made these caps, studied by Hamdija Kreševljaković, there are no hotoz caps, neither are they mentioned in the Chronicle by Mula Mustafa Bašeskija, who mentions a great diversity of caps and turbans that were used in 19th century. This means that the mentioned cap was not widespread in BiH, surely because it had a status character and it belonged to the wealthiest female members of the highest Ottoman class, whose caps differed from those worn by ordinary women.
Although the graveyard next to Bakr-babina Mosque dates back to 16th century, it lacks the typical Bosnian tombstones developed from the ancient Bosnian tombstones, with epitaphs in Bosnian Cyrillic etc. the female tombstone of hotoz type, however, indicates that Ottomans left their mark at the graveyard at At Mejdan.
Apart from Bosniaks, the Ottomans who served in Bosnia and who died there were also buried at this graveyard. It can be assumed with great certainty that the tombstone belongs to a wife of an unknown Turkish dignitary. Given that it has no epitaphs, and tombstones in the first two centuries of the Ottoman rule in BiH had no epitaphs, the tombstone can be loosely said to date back to the first half of the 16th century. It was probably made by domestic stonecutters who needed time to master the skill of writing epitaphs in Arabic and Turkish letter, which could not be learned overnight.
The absence of the female cap hoton on the graveyards in BiH is in accordance with the absence of the same word in turcisms in Bosnian language and historical sources which indicate that there were very few real Turks in Bosnia during the Ottoman rule.
Unlike the sumptuous Ottoman tombstones of hotoz type, the tombstone in the harem at At Mejdan is a modest creation of domestic, Bosnian masters who were not yet skilled in cutting this kind of tombstones.