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Nexus Network Journal

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 251–273 | Cite as

The Decagonal Tomb Tower at Maragha and Its Architectural Context: Lines of Mathematical Thought

  • Carol BierEmail author
Research

Abstract

Of several brick tomb towers constructed at Maragha in western Iran before the Mongol conquests, one in particular, Gonbad-e Qabud (593 H. / 1196-97 C.E.), has generated significant recent attention for its unique patterns with pentagons and decagons. Gonbad-e Qabud is also unusual in having a decagonal plan. While both plan and decoration distinguish it from earlier and later towers at Maragha and elsewhere on the Iranian plateau, the ornamental patterns follow a long line of experimentation with geometric expressions that grace many pre-Mongol buildings in Iran. This article examines in particular the overlapping polygons and radial symmetries of the tympanum of the cubic Gonbad-e Sork (542 H. / 1148 C.E.) at Maragha, and the pentagons and squares of the tympanum of the later octagonal tomb tower (486 H. / 1093 C.E.) nearby at Kharraqan. Drawing from archival sources (plans, elevations, photographs), analysis of plane patterns, and comparative architectural data, this article reevaluates the cultural significance of Gonbad-e Qabud, seeking to situate it within the histories of mathematics, architecture, and the arts.

Keywords

algorithm architecture art decagon dodecagon geometry grid history of mathematics interlocking intersecting Iran iteration Mongol Myron Bement Smith Nasir al-Din Tusi nonagon ornament overlapping pattern pentagon plane polygon prism Seljuk symmetry tomb tower 

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Copyright information

© Kim Williams Books, Turin 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Islamic StudiesGraduate Theological UnionBerkeleyUSA

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