Introduction | Figures | Writing | Geometry | Vegetation | Hybrids

Artisans in the Islamic lands expanded the pre-Islamic repertory of geometric designs to create stunning compositions based on strapwork and tile patterns of triangles, squares, polygons, stars, and other regular forms. Many designs start from 45° or 60° grids that yield patterns of 8-pointed stars and hexagons, while others, such as this panel from a pair of seventeenth-century Iranian doors, are based on an extremely complex arrangement of pentagons and ten-pointed stars. Each individual element is made up of hundreds of minute rods of wood, bone, and metal that were glued together in other geometric patterns and then sliced to form tiles. Mathematicians in the Islamic lands were extremely sophisticated (algebra and algorithms, for example, were brought to the West by Muslim scientists), but artisans seem to have worked out most of these designs—even the most complex examples like this one—using traditional "tricks of the trade" without recourse to higher mathematics.