Deir-ul-Zaferan ceiling

At the Syriac monastery of Deir-ul-Zaferan (just outside Mardin, in Turkish Kurdistan) there is a basement room that was once a pagan solar temple - there's a small window in one side that lights up an altar across the other side at dawn in midsummer. I think it's about 2500 years old.
The mindboggling thing about it is the ceiling. The room is about 50 by 30 feet, and the ceiling is dead flat *stone blocks*. No transverse beams, arches or any discernible support. Somehow or other the interlocking arrangement of those blocks holds hundreds of tons of rock absolutely stable above your head.
How on earth was it done? I've seen nothing like it anywhere else from any period. You can't see anything from above, as the mediaeval monastery structures get in the way.
============== j-c ====== @ ====== purr . demon . co . uk =============Jack Campin: 11 Third St, Newtongrange EH22 4PU, Scotland | tel 0131 660 4760 <http://www.purr.demon.co.uk/jack/ for CD-ROMs and free | fax 0870 0554 975stuff: Scottish music, food intolerance, & Mac logic fonts | mob 07800 739 557
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Jack Campin - bogus address wrote:

political. One of my progeny who stayed at a monastery nearby, could only remember the size of the stone blocks.
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I'd love to see images of it.

Ever seen a "flat arch"? E.g.: http://www.stratfordhall.org/architect/flatarch.html
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Found some images: http://tulpart.com/pic.asp?cmd=7&search Þir&submit1=Search&num0

This it? http://tulpart.com/pic.asp?cmd=6&cid “4
If so, a little disappointing visually.
Check out this architrave: http://tulpart.com/pic.asp?cmd=6&cid “7
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The photo doesn't convey the scale and the massive feel of the thing. It was 45C when I was there but cool and comfortable inside. Enough thermal mass for interseasonal heat (or cold) storage. You might as well have been in a cave.
Supposedly they used to do human sacrifices there, from behind the point where the photo was taken. At some times and places all major building works had a human sacrifice scheduled in the critical path analysis. Don't knock it if it works. A few dead virgins buys you a couple of millenia's-worth of earthquake resistance.

That's a chapel in one of the upper mediaeval parts. You get to the former solar temple down a flight of steps. I haven't seen a reconstruction of what it looked like in pagan times and I doubt the monastery would encourage archaeologists to find out.
: Ever seen a "flat arch"? E.g.: : http://www.stratfordhall.org/architect/flatarch.html
Flat dome in this instance, I guess. You can see how to extrapolate that by a dimension.
+ I'd hardly call the area "Turkish Kurdistan" unless you are incredibly + political.
Well, a bit political. The Kurds are the largest ethnic group in the area, Arabs second and Turks third. (The Syriac Christians who run the monastery are Arabs, sort of - at least they nearly all use Arabic as their daily language, though the religious texts are in Aramaic). Just saying which state owns it doesn't really convey the feel of the place.
============== j-c ====== @ ====== purr . demon . co . uk =============Jack Campin: 11 Third St, Newtongrange EH22 4PU, Scotland | tel 0131 660 4760 <http://www.purr.demon.co.uk/jack/ for CD-ROMs and free | fax 0870 0554 975stuff: Scottish music, food intolerance, & Mac logic fonts | mob 07800 739 557
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Jack Campin - bogus address wrote:

When I was looking at the picture of the basement I was thinking of exactly this thing, an arch with infinite radius. If the stones are thick enough then perhaps the non-normal facets would produce enough horizontal force from the weight of the rock to keep the ceiling up.
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