On the Origins of the Dome

Gennaro Tampone

University of Florence
Collegio degli Ingegneri della Toscana

The earliest use of the dome is to be found mainly in funerary constructions, i.e. megalithic structures built from the V to the IV millennia in western and northern Europe. A few of these constructions can be considered as proto architectures; conceivably the use of the dome marked the birth of architecture. One possible source of inspiration is certainly the cavern and its natural structural organization; rudimental types of domical graves were in fact excavated in soft soil. The most widespread building technique is that of the corbelled domes, a type found everywhere, from prehistoric times to today, without any apparent shared influences between existing examples. Ribbed domes made with branches fixed in the soil and fastened at the top can be acknowledged as another fertile prototype that still survives.
The dome has often been used as a symbol of the underground world, the celestial vault, the sanctuary, the womb and others.
The most important criterion for restoration of a dome is to preserve its structural configuration along with its shape.

Dome, Funerary constructions, Corbelled domes, Ribbed domes, Pendentives, Structural configuration.