Moors - Muslim Religion in Europe

Week 3: We made geometric designs similar to those found in mosques and Moorish structures.

Perhaps one of the greatest fabricated eras of modern history books covers the period when the Moors lived in Spain. Commonly left out of school texts, it's sad that this culture has been misunderstood and forgotten.

I first learned of the Moors during a trip to Spain followed by a trip to Gibraltar. The Moors entered Spain from Africa through the Straits of Gibraltar during a time when the area was in turmoil. The Roman Empire had fallen and the economy along with it. Along with their Muslim religion, the Moors brought water technology, new fruits and social structure which enabled the region to recover. Under Moorish rule, while the rest of Europe was in the dark ages, civilization in Spain thrived.

Paper had been invented long before by the Ancient Chinese, but the Europeans were still writing on parchment. The Moors brought paper technology into Europe. Before entering Spain, the Moors, which came from Turkey and areas further to the east had migrated across northern Africa. When they came across the library in Alexandria, Egypt they learned about the Ancient Greeks and Romans and began translating documents. The new knowledge allowed the Moors to continue the work of the Ancient Greek philosophers and scientists.

Their preservation of the ancient texts continued for almost one thousand years. Then, during the middle ages the information reached Europeans via Moorish Spain. In the Spanish city of Toledo ancient texts were translated from Arabic into Latin and Germanic languages the Europeans could understand. Scholars from Brittan, France and Germany traveled to Toledo to study the ancient information. In addition to the documents, perhaps the greatest innovation the Moors brought to Europe was their understanding of mathematics along with a complete set of new numerals.

When the Moors Ruled Europe is a documentary which provides a perspective on the Moorish occupation of Spain quite different than what is taught in most textbooks. I highly recommend adults and older children studying the middle ages make some time for this video. Although the majority of the video is suitable for much younger children, the length can put a strain on their attention spans.

After learning about the Moors, we created Moorish geometric designs. Actually, several math art patterns were completed in preparation for this project.

Finding Shapes in Circles
Creating Geometric Designs in Seven Circle Grids
Finding Shapes in Five Circle Grids

All the project ideas were inspired by Islamic Art and Geometric Design from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Repeating the process for creating geometric designs using seven circle grids, new designs were created. The process was exactly the same. The only difference was that by repeating the exercise, we were able to see many more shapes and patterns in the grids resulting in more sophisticated designs.

My design was created by connecting specific points within the circles to create a continuous line rather than repeated individual shapes.

The pattern seen in my 12 year old daughter's design can be found many places in Muslim art. She was thrilled to find she created a Muslim design that had been used before.

 My son created five rows each containing a unique pattern.

Jemma colored the flowers in her seven circle grid. There is a distinct pattern in the center of the design where two red triangles in the center are followed by two purples on both sides, then greens and light blues.

She created another pattern using large triangles.

Creating the grids was a valuable learning activity, but to repeat the project grid creation becomes a chore. So I created some basic grids. Please feel free to download them for personal or classroom use.

7 Circle Grid for Finding Shapes
7 Circle Grid
5 Circle Grid for Finding Shapes
5 Circle Grid

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  1. Have you thought about doing mosaics with this study? There are all sorts of options, from sticky back foam squares to tiles in plaster to simple paper squares. :)

  2. Yes, we have done mosaics

    Ancient Greece -
    Ancient Rome -
    Byzantine Empire -
    Just for Fun -

  3. I am loving all of these circle grid art projects you have put together! Thanks for showing us how to progressively get more out of them.

  4. Those are amazing projects. Wonderful!!


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