Joseph Poracsky

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Geography



Physical Description

1 online resource. Digitized computer-produced typeface, illustrations (some color), maps (some color)


Islamic art, Islamic architecture, Symbolism in architecture -- Islamic countries, Geographic information systems -- Islamic countries




This study explores how the use of complex decorative geometric patterns in Islamic architecture spatially relates to advances in the fields of science and philosophy in the Islamic world between the ninth and fourteenth centuries. This project examines hypotheses developed by vario~s scholars on the forces that shaped the use of these patterns (known as the geometric mode) in Islamic architecture. The prevailing assumption that advances in mathematics contributed to the use of the geometric mode is used as a starting point for subsequent analysis.

For this study, two spatial databases were created. One contains over two hundred and twenty monuments of Islamic architecture exhibiting the geometric mode, while the other contains over one hundred records of activity in the sciences and philosophy. From these databases, decorative geometric pattern types were classified and ranked, and scholarly activities were classified. Density maps were developed from these classes and ranks for each century, and were compared in a series of analytical overlay maps. Each map depicts the spatial relationships of the activities in question over a span of three centuries, enabling a spatio-temporal analysis of the connections between disciplines within the context of the broader cultural elements at work.

These maps allow for examination of these disciplines in a new way; there has never been a spatial analysis testing the existing hypotheses until now. The density overlay maps show that some of the prevailing hypotheses are partially supported by the data, but the primary hypothesized relationship-that activity in mathematics prompted use of the geometric mode-is not applicable to all regions of the Islamic world during this time period. The spatial analysis exposes the previously overlooked possibility that the geometric mode could have influenced activity in the sciences and philosophy.

This study provides tools to better understand the complex relationships among art, science, and philosophy: two spatial databases, a geographic information systems (GIS) model, and resulting analytical overlay maps. The maps produced in this project reveal examples where the quality of contact among disciplines in these very specific times and places is worth examining in greater detail.

Persistent Identifier