Spiral Fluted Columns and the Mechanical Screw: The History of a Mathematical Idea in Ancient Architecture and Mechanical Technology




Henderson, Georgina Jane

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This thesis examines the stone-carved architectural spiral fluted column from second-millennium B.C. Mesopotamia to the fourth-century A.D. Roman Empire, and establishes its relationship to technological devices such as water screws, screw presses, and other machines. Evidence from literary sources and archaeological records shows the increasing architectural use of the helical spiral during that time, particularly in structures such as theatres, nymphaea, colonnades and decorative gateways. The use of spiral designs on coins, sarcophagi, pottery and wall paintings is also discussed. The thesis presents: the mathematics of the spiral as applied in Mesopotamian architecture; spiral use in the Aegean Bronze and Iron Ages and the Greek and Roman worlds; and its use in technology and mechanical devices, specifically those of Archimedes and Hero. The conclusion summarises the evidence, demonstrating that the construction of the spiral fluted column evolved from that of the Archimedean water screw.



Architecture, Archaeology, Rome, Greece, Columns, Spirals, Fluting, History, Ancient, Technology, Ancient, Mechanics, Ancient, Mathematics, Ancient, Screw press, Water screw, Archimedes, Hero, Mesopotamia