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Construction en pierre et taille rupestre monumentale antiques au Moyen-Orient: les différences

Abstract : Bonded construction and monumental rupestrian cutting during Antiquity: the differences Rupestrian monuments are commonly studied with particular regard to their stylistic and architectural aspects, in comparing them with the bonded constructions. The aim of the present paper is to put a special emphasis on the technical and economical differences between these two methods of production, which are seldom taken into account. In bonded constructions, stones are extracted and chosen one by one, mainly for their mechanical and attractive qualities. Those qualities determine the positions of the stones in the buildings : the stiff ones are used in the bases and the soft ones in upper or interior elements of the buildings. Decorative stones could be partially or entirely shaped in very remote quarries, prior to their importation. Extraction and cut of stones are realized using various tools appropriate to each type of rock (stiff limestone, soft tuff, marble or granite easy to polish...). On the site, varying construction engines are also used: wagons, winches, cranes, scaffoldings, bending materials for archs and vaults. In this type of constructions, tools and materials must be appropriate to architectural projects and stylistic concepts. The expert carver can easily access to every side of each block and turn it round to work more comfortably. The artistic work is rather free but its cost remains high. Geological context is the first stress on rupestrian constructions – Petra or Persian tombs for example. The mechanical properties of the rock must allow it to bare the whole structure, its shape, style and ornementation. A rock too soft, too stiff, too fragmented or too heterogeneous is not convenient. This causes a limitation in the choice of the architectural project which must be appropriate to the natural constitution of the site. Another limitation must be taken into account: the frontal position of the craftsman and the stability of the rock during the work. Some places are not very accessible and don't allow some patterns to be finely carved. Cutting mistakes can be very serious: each component of the architectural structure belongs to the same huge monolith and cannot be replaced. On the other hand, the rupestrian constructions don't need the transportation of material. What is more, dressed stones are frequently produced during the freeing or the digging of the construction. Transportation and crane engines, bending materials and sometimes scaffoldings are of no use in rupestrial construction sites. Due to the absence of butt-jointed partitions, architectural components are carved on a single side, the facing. The time needed to realize a rupestrial monument can be up to 3 times shorter than the one needed for a bonded monument of similar fashion. However, rupestrian cutting requires highly qualified craftsmen. These technical and economical differences lead to architectural differences. We propose to study these distinctions.
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Contributor : Jean-Claude Bessac <>
Submitted on : Thursday, July 2, 2009 - 12:09:21 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 11, 2018 - 6:22:19 AM


  • HAL Id : hal-00401021, version 1



Jean-Claude Bessac. Construction en pierre et taille rupestre monumentale antiques au Moyen-Orient: les différences. Construction en pierre et taille rupestre monumentale antiques au Moyen-Orient: les différences, Jun 2006, Aix-en-Provence, France. pp.565-582. ⟨hal-00401021⟩



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