Architecture and Math of the so-called "primitive" Africans?
Tanzanian village when a strangely familiar pattern caught his eye.
The thatched-roof huts were organized in a geometric pattern of
circular clusters within circular clusters, an arrangement Eglash
recognized from his former days as a Silicon Valley computer engineer.
Stunned, Eglash digitized the images and fed the information into a
computer. The computer's calculations agreed with his intuition: He was
Since then, Eglash has documented the use of fractal geometry-the
geometry of similar shapes repeated on ever-shrinking scales-in
everything from hairstyles and architecture to artwork and religious
practices in African culture.
In some cases Eglash found that fractal designs were based purely on
aesthetics-they simply looked good to the people who used them. In many
cases, however, Eglash found that step-by-step mathematical procedures
were producing these designs, many of them surprisingly sophisticated.
While visiting the Mangbetu society in central Africa, he studied
the tradition of using multiples of 45-degree angles in the native
artwork. The concept is similar to the shapes that American geometry
students produce using only a compass and a straight edge, he said. In
the Mangbetu society, the uniform rules allowed the artisans to compete for the best design."