Stereotomy and the Mediterranean: Notes Toward an Architectural History

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Stereotomy, the art of cutting stones into particular shapes for the construction of vaulted structures, is an ancient art that has been practiced over a wide chronological and geographical span, from Hellenistic Greece to contemporary Apulia and across the Mediterranean Basin. Yet the history of ancient and medieval stereotomy is little understood, and nineteenth- century theories about the art’s Syrian origins, its introduction into Europe via France and the crusaders, and the intrinsic Frenchness of medieval stereotomy are still largely accepted. In this essay, I question these theories with the help of a work-in-progress database and database-driven maps that consolidate evidence of stereotomic practice from the third century BCE through the eleventh century CE and across the Mediterranean region. I argue that the history of stereotomy is far more complex than what historians have assumed so far and that, for the most part, it has yet to be written.

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