1.1. Aims of Study
The following essay aims to explore and investigate the main influences of architecture across Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas during the time period 600 AD. It will highlight significant events, analyse the relationship between these spaces with reference to mainly religion, power and trade, as well as climate and human activity while also making reference to one public and one private building in each continent comparing similarities and differences. This is done to see whether the spread of architecture in different parts of the world can be linked
In the early 600’s, large parts of Northern Africa
were conquered from the Byzantine by Muslim
Arabs and thus began the Rise of the Islamic
Empire in Africa bringing with it religion and law.
The Islamic Empire spread throughout Africa by
means of trade. Swahili emerged as an
Arab/Bantu-African hybrid language.
North Africa was fundamentally shaped by the
coming of Islam and the migration of large
numbers of Arab people, therefore the
architecture was significantly influenced by Islam.
Islamic architecture comprises of a wide range of
religious and secular styles from the foundation of
Islam to the present day. These styles influence
the design and construction of buildings and
structures in Islamic culture. Recognizable Islamic
architectural styles emerged soon after Prophet
Muhammad’s time. These buildings were inspired
by Islam with the addition of localized adaptations
and inspiration of the former Sassanid and
Byzantine models, the Germanic Visigoths in
Spain also made a big contribution to Islamic
Architecture. Often in English, the vocabulary used to describe public baths, fountains and domestic architecture are derived from Arabic phrases.
2.1. Public Building
Great Mosque of Kairouan
The Great Mosque of Kairouan also known as the
Figure 1 Cross Section of the Great Mosque of Khairouan
Masjid (Mosque) of Uqba was built in the year 670
by the Sahabi (friend of the Prophet Muhammad)
Uqba-bin-Nafe who was a military general. He
began the Islamic conquest of present-day Algeria
and Morocco. Kairouan was used as his base to
mount operations. The Masjid became a
Madressah (centre of learning) for Islamic and
Quranic learning. It attracted Muslims from all
around the world. The Masjid has a surface area
of 9000 square meters and is considered as a
model for Masjids in the western Islamic World.
2.2. Private Building
Figure 2 Adobe Multi-storey townhouse
Adobe Brick Compounds
The compounds were a mix of Sudano-Sahelian
architecture. They were built using mudbricks and
adobe plaster, thus the name Adobe Brick.
Wooden-log beams that jut out the face of the
buildings were used as supports for larger
buildings such as Mosques and Palaces. These
beams also acted as scaffolding for reworking
which was done regularly and involved the entire
Sudanese compounds were characterised by the
several cone roofs. This was a primarily urban
The time period 600AD is also knows as the Dark
Ages or the Middle Ages. It refers to the time
period between the Fall of the Roman Empire, the
Italian Renaissance and the Age of Discovery.
The Byzantine Empire was the continuation of the
Roman Empire in the eastern parts of the
Mediterranean where Greek was the vernacular.
During the Dark Ages, the Ancient Greek and
Roman civilizations (Byzantium) were remarkably
advanced and contributed immensely to human
progress, notably in the areas of science,
government, philosophy and Architecture.
The emperor Constantine who was the ruler of the
Byzantine Empire declared Constantinople
(modern day Istanbul) the new Rome and placed
in the major trade routes for Europe and Asia.
Christianity as a religion was the dominant influence of architectural style and
Byzantine architects constructed numerous
religious buildings. (Visual-arts-cork.com, 2019)
Figure 3 Hagia Sophia before Islamic Conquer
The Hagia Sophia is a former Greek orthodox
church (Construction of the 3rd church began in
537). It served as a cathedral and seat of the
Patriarchate of Constantinople. It was later
converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under
the Latin Empire.
With the Rise of the Islamic Empire, Byzantine
was eventually conquered by the Ottoman Turks
and the Church was converted to a Masjid. With
Sketch of a Minaret, Auhors own work
the conversion of the church into a Masjid,
Minarets (turret from which people are called to
prayer) were added to the original building,
Christian relics were removed and a minbar
(pulpit from which a sermon is delivered) and
mihrab (niche in a wall to indicate the direction in
which prayers should be performed) were
constructed. These additions significantly changed
the use of the building and its identity.
3.2. Private Building
The Great Palace of Constantinople
The Palace is also known as The Sacred Palace
and is the Byzantium equivalent to the Palatine in
Rome. The Great Palace of Constantinople was the
primary residence for Emperors and the centre of
imperial administration for over 800 years.
The Palace is located in Constantine (Old
Istanbul/Modern Turkey). It overlooks the Sea of
Marmara to the south-east. It is a complex of
buildings and gardens situated on a 600x500m
Later on in History, specifically the year 1453
when Mehmed II entered Constantine, he found
the palace abandoned and in ruins. Mehmed
allegedly whispered, “The spider spins his web in
Figure 4 Arial View of The Great Palace
the Palace of the Caesars, An owl hoots in the
towers of Afrasiyab.” (Ferdowsi)
During the Ottoman era, much of the palace was
demolished and was initially turned into housing
and a number of small Masjids.
“Between the fall of the Han dynasty in 220 CE and
the year 600, more than thirty dynasties,
kingdoms, and states rose and fell on the eastern
side of the Asian continent. The founders and
rulers of those dynasties represented the
spectrum of people in North, East, and Central
Asia. Nearly all of them built palaces, altars,
temples, tombs, and cities, and almost without
exception, the architecture was grounded in the
building tradition of China.” (Steinhardt, 2014)
China used the silk road as the inventors of silk in
the early ages, they became extremely wealthy
transporting luxury goods along the silk road.
4.1. Public Building
The Great Wall of China
The Great wall of China was rebuilt in the early
600’s which was funded through the trade of silk
via the silk route. The Great Wall of China was
constructed along an east to west line. The
structure is a series of fortifications built using
Figure 5 The great Wall of China
stone, brick, tamped earth, and wood.
The main purpose behind the Great Wall was to
protect Chinese states and empires against raids
and invasions. Other purposes of the Great Wall
included border control, encouraging trade and the
control of immigration/emigration.
4.2. Private Building
Sketch of a Pergoda, authors own work
In early China, most of the people who could not afford to live in fancy houses lived in small houses made out of mudbrick, with only a room and a dirt floor (the the way most people in the Roman Empire, West
Asia and Africa lived). Wealthier people could
afford fancier homes and built temples and
Ancient Chinese architecture was built according to
strict rules of design that made Chinese buildings
follow the ideas of Taoism (philosophy and belief
that is deeply rooted in Chinese customs and world
view) and other Chinese philosophies. The first
design idea was that buildings should be long and
low. The roof would be held up by columns and
should seem to be floating. The second design idea
was influenced by symmetry and balance just as
the fundamentals of Taoism.
A drastic change in Chinese architecture was
influenced by religion when Buddhism first came to
China from India. Buddhists began building
pagodas (tiered tower with multiple eaves) to keep
sacred things. These pagodas were inspired by
Indian buildings called stupas (hemispherical
structure containing religious relics).
In the early 600’s, under the Sui Dynasty, the
ideas of symmetry and balance once again became
important in Architecture and the principle of
Taoism was brought back. (Ruiz, 2013)
5. North America
The time period 600AD falls under the Pre-
Columbian Era in North American history. The Pre-
Columbian era is classified under five stages;
namely, Archaic period, Climate Stabilized,
Woodland period, Formative period and the Classic
The Woodland period (1000BC – 800AD) refers to
the large sites between the Archaic period and the
Mississippian cultures, this periods involved
development such as tools made of bone and
stone, making of textiles and shelters.
The specialization of crafts and metallurgy also
took place around 600AD and is known as the
Figure 6 Cahokia
Cahokia was the most important centre for the
people known today as Mississippians. Their
settlements ranged across the Midwest, Eastern
and Southern United States. In its peak, Cahokia
was the largest urban centre and was
subsequently larger than any American city until
Cahokia was situated in a strategic trade position
near the confluence of the Mississippi, Missouri
and Illinois river. It maintained trade links with
communities near the Great Lakes to the North
and the Gulf Coast to the South. They traded in
exotic items such as copper, Mill Creek chert and
whelk shells. (Crystalinks.com, n.d.)
5.2. Public Building
Monks Mound at Cahokia
Monks mound is the largest pre-Columbian
earthwork in America. (Crystalinks.com, n.d.) Its size averages 30m high,
291m long and 236m wide. The base of Monks
mound is roughly the same size as the Great
Pyramid at Giza.
The platform mound was constructed almost
entirely of basket transported soil and clay. The
flattened top and construction method caused it to
retain rainwater within the structure and over the
years, this has caused slumping.
The Grand Plaza is a large open area that spreads
out beyond Monks mound, this was a public area
used by residences of Cahokia. Beyond Monks
mound as many as 120 private mounds stood at
varying distances from the city centre.
5.3. Private Building
Sketch of Mound Structures, authors own work
Cahokia consisted of approximately 120 private
mounds. Private mounds were constructed in the
same way as Monks mound but at a much smaller
Earthen mounds were constructed for residential,
ceremonial and burial purposes.
The basic structure of a mound was that it was either flat-topped
pyramids, cones with flat or rounded tops or
elongated ridges but in some cases, mounds took
on unusual shapes, such as the outline of
significant animals. (Crystalinks.com, n.d.)
6. South America
South America has been inhabited for
approximately 20 000 years by hunters and
gatherers who began developing agriculture
around 4000BC. The first permanent agricultural
settlements appeared about 3500BC in coastal
Inhabitants of South America during 600AD
included the Moche, Nazca, Tiahuanaco, Huari and
The Huari people excelled both agriculturally and
with trade between the other small villages in Peru
at the time. On the coast of South America, the
Tiahuanaco people started to rise with its war
parties and tactics. Nazca and Moche were
coexisting civilizations in the Andes Mountain area
of the Americas. The civilization of Moche was
limited in communicating with the Ica-Nazca
areas. Both of these civilizations collapsed in the
year of 700.
The Peru state became known as ‘Moche’ due to
the civilization which founded it. It lies
at the foot of the Cerro Blanco mountain and
once covered an area of 300 hectares. It has
urban housing, plazas, storehouses, and
workshop buildings, as well as an impressive
monuments which include two massive adobe
brick pyramid-like mounds. The multiple levels,
access ramps, and slanted roofing are typical
traits featured in Moche architecture and this monument
is impressive as it is in its original state. (Cartwright, 2014)
6.2. Public Building
Huaca del Sol
The Huaca del Sol temple is an adobe brick temple
built by the Moche civilization on the North Coast
The Huaca del Sol was built using approximately
130 million adobe bricks and was the largest pre-
Columbian structures built in the Americas. It was
composed of four main levels and was expanded
and rebuilt by different rulers over time. Markings
on the brickwork suggest that over 100 different
communities contributed to the building of the
6.3. Private Building
Figure 7 Huaca del Sol
Moche Adobe Brick Compounds
“Monumental Moche architecture is characterized
by large adobe (mud brick) pyramids with
platforms. They often decorated the pyramids and
temples with friezes depicting Moche deities.
Tombs of the rulers were placed inside the
pyramids with elaborate ceremonies which are
depicted on the Moche pottery.
Residential areas were located adjacent to the major
pyramids and in the smaller towns up and down
the river valleys.” (Ojibwa, 2011)
7. Cross Analysis and Conclusion
The history of architecture traces the changes and
influences through various religions, traditions,
regions and styles.
From the above research, one can say that the
influence of architecture was spread mainly
through trade and power.
The Silk Road is a network of trade and cultural
transmission routes connecting Asia, Europe and
Africa. It linked traders, merchants, pilgrims,
monks, soldiers, nomads, and urban dwellers from
China and India to the Mediterranean Sea during
various periods of time.
Trade was a significant factor in the developing of
civilizations along the silk route. Through this,
architecture developed and adapted.
Architecture was largely influenced by the spread
of religion which was spread through trade. With
the exchange along the silk route, religions were
Figure 8 Map of the Silk Route
introduced into different parts of the world where
they once did not exist. Islam, Christianity and
Buddhism were among the religions which were
spread vastly and made significant impacts on the
architectural styles in each region.
One can see the Islamic influence of Architecture
from the Middle East adapted in the Adobe Brick
Masjids as well as in the Hagia Sophia in Turkey.
Further along in history, the Taj Mahal in India was
built and once again, one can see the adaptation
of Islamic architecture in India. Moving from India
into China, with the spread of Buddhism, one can
see the influence of Indian architecture in the
pagodas that were built as Buddhist shrines.
Power also played a huge role in adaptations and
styles of architecture. The Hagia Sophia is an
excellent example of a building that was adapted
Much like the inhabitants of Africa, we see that
tribes in South America also used the adobe brick
method of construction. Adobe is the world’s oldest
manufactured building materials. Its use spans all
parts of the globe and crosses many cultures. In
an architectural context, the word adobe means,
sun-dried mud brick or a structure built from such
bricks. More generally, “adobe” is used as a term
for the mud used to make these bricks. The word
derives through the Spanish language from several
Arabic terms meaning “mix” or “smooth.”
The derivation of the word adobe hints at the
influence of Arab/Islamic architecture in the Middle
East and its spread to Africa.
During the period 600AD, contact between Africa
and the Americas had not yet been made, yet we
see similar construction methods developed in
these different parts of the world. This can suggest
that development of Architecture is universally
known guideline and civilizations made use of what
they had to construct their buildings.
In conclusion, religion, power and trade played
important roles in the development, adaptation
and spread of architecture. The Islamic empire
was a dominating force within this time and
brought forward law, philosophy, theology and
architecture. Although, the Byzantine empire was
conquered, they also played a large part in the
development of early architecture.
Architecture in the Americas was fairly similar. The
communities were large and thrived.
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