Ottoman mortar is the long-established binding material used for centuries and there are many historical buildings as evidence of its use by Ottomans in Erzurum (Eastern Turkey). The physico-chemical and microscopic properties of the Ottoman mortars in Erzurum have been studied in detail as part of an investigation of the mineral raw materials present in the territory of Turkey. For this purpose, SEM, XRD and EDS analyses of six main types of mortars were carried out showing the presence of organic fibers and calcite, quartz and muscovite minerals. The chemical analyses of the specimens showed that higher SiO(2) + Al(2)O(3) + Fe(2)O(3) contents yielded in higher values of hydraulicity and cementation indices. A significant result of this investigation was that mortars with higher hydraulicity and cementation indices had higher compressive strengths. Most probably this is the main reason why historical Ottoman buildings were resistant against serious earthquakes. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.