Inca wall at Machu Picchu, constructed in ashlar masonry

Ashlar is prepared (or "dressed") stone work of any type of stone. Stone masonry utilizing dressed stones is known as ashlar masonry, whereas masonry using irregularly shaped stones is known as rubble masonry. Ashlar blocks are large rectangular cuboid blocks of masonry sculpted to have square edges and smooth faces. The blocks are generally about 35 centimeters in height. When shorter than 30 centimeters, they are usually called “small ashlar”.

Ashlar blocks were used in the construction of many old buildings as an alternative to brick. Generally the external face is smooth or polished; occasionally it can be decorated by small grooves achieved by the application of a metal comb. (This process is usually used only on a softer stone ashlar block. The decoration is known as mason's drag.)[1]


Middle English : from Old French aisselier, from Latin axilla, diminutive of axis ‘plank.’


In Classical architecture, ashlar wall surfaces are contrasted with rustication.

The term is frequently used to describe the dressed stone work of prehistoric Greece and Crete, although the dressed blocks are usually much larger than the 13 to 15 inches mentioned above. For example, the tholos tombs of Bronze Age Mycenae use ashlar masonry in the construction of the so-called “bee-hive” dome. This dome consists of finely cut ashlar blocks that decrease in size and terminate in a central “capstone”.[2] These domes are not true domes, but are constructed using the Corbel arch.

Ashlar masonry is also heavily used in the construction of palace facades on Crete, including Knossos and Phaistos. These constructions date to the MM III-LM Ib period, ca. 1700-1450 BCE.

Freemasonry Edit

In some Masonic jurisdictions, ashlars are used as a symbolic metaphor for progress. A rough ashlar is a stone as taken directly from the quarry, and allegorically represents the Freemason prior to his initiation; a smooth ashlar (or "perfect ashlar") is a stone that has been smoothed and dressed by the experienced stonemason, and allegorically represents the Freemason who, through education and diligence, has learned the lessons of Freemasonry and who lives an upstanding life.

References Edit

  1. "The Conservation Glossary". University of Dundee. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  2. Preziosi, D.; Hitchcock, L.A. (1999). Aegean Art and Architecture. Oxford History of Art. pp. 175–6. 
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ca:Carreu da:Kvadersten de:Werkstein es:Sillar eu:Harlandu fr:Pierre de taille ja:切石積み nl:Parement pt:Silhar ru:Белый камень sv:Kvadersten