Because of its strategic situation on a naturally protected rock 100 meters above the Tigris Valley, Hasankeyf – long known simply as “The Rock” – served as a defensive outpost for the Romans and became a fortified city during the reign of Constantine The Great.  The region became part of Islamdom in 640 CE, reaching its heyday in the 12th – 15th centuries when it became an important center of manufacturing, trade and scholarship as capital city of the Artukids and Ayyubids.

As an archaeological site, Hasankeyf provides a rare example of a medieval city frozen in time.  Because its strategic value fell precipitously after the Ottomans secured the boundaries to the east, Ottoman establishments in Hasankeyf are limited to a mint and hamam.  The pre-Ottoman contours of the city are clearly discernable among the crumbling remains of Artukid and Ayyubid monuments, making Hasankeyf an extraordinary venue for understanding urban life in the middle centuries of Islamic civilization – the period during which power shifted gradually from Baghdad and Cairo to Istanbul, Isfahan and Delhi.

Major periods in the Hasankeyf timeline:
  • Byzantine
  • Arab
  • Artukid
  • Ayyubid
  • Akkoyunlu
  • Ottoman
  • Republican

c. 350 CEConstantinius II builds fort and palace at Kephas (Hasankeyf)
451The bishop of Kephas participates in Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon
611al-Hijra – Emigration of the Prophet to Medina
639-40Umayyad Government in Damascus assumes control of Upper Mesopotamia, including Amid (major city of Diyar Bakr) and Mosul (major city of Diyar Rabi’a), and settles Arab tribes in unoccupied rural areas
750Beginning of the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad
1055Seljuk Turks become defenders of the Abbasid Caliph
947-67Sayf al-Dawla, at the height of Hamdanid power, rules Northern Syria and Upper Mesopotamia from Aleppo and Mayyafarikin (Silvan), including Hisn Kayfa (Hasankeyf)
983Diyar Bakr (including Hisn Kayfa) passes from the Hamdanids to the semi-autonomous Marwanid dynasty, forming a buffer zone between the Seljuks and the Byzantines until the arrival of the Artukids
1071Seljuk victory over the Byzantines at Manzikert (north of Lake Van)
1102-1232Artukids (Sökmen branch) rule from Hisn Kayfa (and from Amid starting in 1183)
1106-1409Artukids (İlgazi branch) rule from Mardin
1116Construction of the bridge at Hisn Kayfa.   “I have not seen a bigger [bridge] in any of the lands I have traveled” (13th c. Arab geographer Yaqut, Mu’jam al-buldan)  
1144-1174Artukids of Hisn Kayfa gradually become vassals of the Zengids as Kara Arslan joins Nur al-Din (Zengid prince of Aleppo) in battle against the Franks
1164Warrior and man of letters Usama ibn Munqidh, exiled from his homeland in Northern Syria, enters into Artukid service in Hisn Kayfa at the invitation of Kara Arslan
1185Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi, founder of the Ayyubid dynasty, establishes his authority over the region of Diyar Bakr with the conquest of Mayyafarikin
1187Salah al-Din defeats the Franks at Hattin, Jerusalem returns to Muslim hands
1200Al-Malik al-‘Adil, son of Salah al-Din, proclaimed sultan in Cairo, assigns his sons to governorships in Damascus and Upper Mesopotamia
1204-61Latin occupation of Constantinople
1206Isma`il ibn ar-Razzaz al-Jaziri, an engineer who began serving Nur al-Din Muhammad in 1181, presents his The Book of Ingenious Mechanical Devices (Kitab fi Ma’rifat al-Hiyal al-Handasiyya), to the Artukid prince al-Salih Nasir al-Din in Amid
1232Ayyubids take control of Hisn Kayfa
1240Al-Malik al-Salih, having served his father al-Kamil as governor of Hisn Kayfa, becomes the Ayyubid sultan in Cairo, undertaking numerous building projects, including the Salihiyya District.  Today the Salihiyya Gardens of Hasankeyf also evoke his memory.  (The Salihiyya neighborhood of Damascus, however, is associated with Abu Salih al-Hanbali, founder of the Hanbali school of legal interpretation.)
1258-59Hulagu leads Mongol invasion of Baghdad, marking the end of the Abbasid Caliphate (1258); Mongols take Mayafarrikin and Mardin (1259)
1260Mongols occupy Hisn Kayfa
1378-1432Reign of Ayyubid Sulayman in Hisn Kayfa
14th – 15th c.Period of prolific building and restoration by the Ayyubids in Hisn Kayfa (Castle restored in 1309, Palace in 1317, Great Mosque in 1327, 1394-96; Sulayman Mosque built in 1356, Rizk Mosque in 1409)
late 14th c.Rise of the Alevi Karakoyunlu (Black Sheep) tribal confederation
late 14th c.Plague sweeps through Amid and Hisn Kayfa
1402Battle of Ankara: Timur defeats Beyazıt I, who dies in captivity
1402-11Interregnum: Ottoman Empire in disarray during wars among the four sons of Beyazıt I; Mehmet I prevails and begins to rebuild the empire
1402The Akkoyunlu granted control of Diyar Bakr by Timur for their support in the Battle of Ankara
15th c.Hisn Kayfa in decline, but retains status as a center of Arab culture during the last remnants of the Ayyubid dynasty 
1451Accession of Mehmet II in Edirne
1453Mehmet II leads Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, in effect marking the end of the Byzantine Empire
1457-78During the rule of Uzun Hasan, the Akkoyunlu (allied with the Pope, Venice and the Byzantine emperor of Trebizond) represent the main obstacle to Ottoman power and prestige
1472Construction of Timurid style Tiled Kiosk at Topkapı Palace
1473Battle of Otluk Beli (near Erzincan): The Ottomans defeat the Akkoyunlu, killing Uzun Hasan’s son Zeynel Bey (subsequently buried at Hisn Kayfa) and significantly diminishing the prestige of the Akkoyunlu leader
1478Restoration of the Imam `Abdallah Tomb in Hisn Kayfa (by `Ali, son of Uzun Hasan)
1501Shah Isma`il I (Uzun Hasan’s grandson) establishes the Safavid state in Iran and institutes Twelver Shi`ism as the official religion
1508Shah Isma`il wrests control of Baghdad and Iraq from Akkoyunlu control and proceeds to occupy Diyar Bakr
1514Yavuz Selim defeats Ismail at Çaldıran (Azerbaijan)
1516Yavuz Selim takes control of Diyar Bakr, Diyar Rabi`a and Diyar Mudar (Southeastern Anatolia, Northern Iraq and Northern Syria)
1516Yavuz Selim establishes a mint at Hisn Kayfa
1923Republic of Turkey founded
1936Research begins on waterways in southeast
1954DSI formed
1982Advanced Plan for Ilisu Dam approved
2011Construction of Ilisu Dam and New Hasankeyf begins