The Al-Andalus Knowledge Revolution

By Parque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

Parque de las Ciencias de Granada

As early as the 8th century, the Arabs brought new knowledge to the Iberian peninsula. Discover their wisdom and early inventions that triggered major advances in disciplines such as astronomy, mathematics, and medicine.

Catalan Atlas of 1375Parque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

Science in Muslim Spain

The arrival of Muslims from North Africa in the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century, and their settlement in the region for over 700 years, led it to become a focal point for cultural and technological enrichment in the heart of medieval Europe.

Treatise on the realization of solar quadrants of Ibn al-RaqqamParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

Exact Sciences and Astronomy

The world of mathematics in Al-Andalus would become particularly well known for calculus and geometry. It introduced the decimal number system to the Western world: the 9 numerals were used in Muslim Spain (Al-Andalus) from the 10th century. Astronomy also underwent significant development as it was required for a variety of everyday uses.

Muhammad V's candle clock by Described by Ibn al-JatibParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

The candle clock

The candle clock described by Andalusian historian Ibn al-Khatib was in the shape of a dodecagon or 12-sided polygon. On each side was a 'mihrab' niche with a window closed with a latch.

On the top was a candle divided into 12 parts that correspond to the hours.

Each section had a linen thread, the other end of which was attached to one of the window latches.

Under each window was a metal tray.

When the candle burned down to one of the 12 parts marking the hours, it burned the linen thread, causing the latch to move and a pellet to fall into the tray.

This sound indicated that another hour had passed.

Celestial globeParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

Armillary sphere

This globe was made in 1081 by Ibrahm ibn Sa'id al-Sahli, an Andalusian astronomer who worked for the court of Toledo and Valencia.

The position of the stars can be seen in relation to the ecliptic orbit.

Approximately 1,004 stars are shown grouped into 47 constellations, according to Claudius Ptolemy's Almagest system.

Evolutionary diagram of Arabic numerationParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

The Arabs introduced a position numbering system to Europe that used 9 digits and a symbol (generally a dot) which represented zero.

Treatise on the realization of solar quadrants of Ibn al-RaqqamParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

'Risala fi'ilm al-zilal' manuscript (Treatise on the science of shadows)

This manuscript was written by the astronomer Ibn al-Raqqam from Murcia, who died in 1315.

The manuscript, the only remaining copy of which is kept in the library at El Escorial near Madrid, contains 16 pages and deals with gnomonics: the art of making sundials.

Books of the Knowledge of Astronomy, of Alfonso X the WiseParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

Astronomy books

Reproduction of books produced on the request of King Alfonso X the Wise of Castile between 1276 and 1277.

They contain 16 scientific treatises on Arab tradition, most describing astronomical instruments.

Horizontal quadrant with compassParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

Portable horizontal quadrant with compass

The hyperbola curves represent the shadow of the sun during the solstices and the straight line represents its path during the equinoxes.

The quadrant was suspended by 3 equidistant wires on its base.

In it was a circle into which magnetite was placed, and the quadrant pointed towards magnetic north.

Treatise of al-Zahrawi medicineParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

Medicine, pharmacology and botany

In Al-Andalus, the field of medicine was not its own distinct practice. Besides being physicians, doctors were also pharmacologists and botanists.

Al-Zahrawi's surgical treatise

Al-Zahrawi was one of the key figures in medieval medicine.

His manual refers to physiology, pathology, therapeutics, and pharmacology, among other things.

His work was translated into Latin in Toledo during in 12th century and was the main text used by medieval and Renaissance surgeons.

al-Zahrawi medical equipmentParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

Al-Zahrawi's surgical instruments

These instruments (cautery, saw, forceps, and scissors) have been reproduced according to the models described in Al-Zahrawi's treatise.

The cautery was used to convert tissue into scar tissue, the saw could cut through bone, the forceps were used to pull out teeth, and the scissors were used for circumcision.

Medical matter of Dioscorides. Arabic versionParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

Dioscorides' "De Materia Medica" (On Medical Materials)

This is one of the most important ancient pharmacology treatises written in the 1st century.

It reached the Iberian Peninsula in the 10th century and contributed to the development of Andalusian pharmacology.

It was originally written in Greek but was studied, revised, and translated into Arabic by a group of doctors in the Caliphate of Córdoba.

Bronze mortarParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

Bronze pestle and mortar

The study of medicinal compounds developed significantly in Muslim Spain, with the rich flora and fauna of the Iberian Peninsula contributing to key pharmacological advances.

Stills, flasks, jars, and pestles and mortars were commonplace in pharmacies for making medicines.

Pestles and mortars were widely used to crush up the ingredients required to produce remedies.

Blood wheelParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

Water and agriculture

In Muslim Spain, a range of hydraulic systems were developed including waterwheels, qanats, irrigation channels, mines, and reservoirs. At the same time, new crops were introduced to the West, such as sugarcane, cotton, Asian rice, citrus fruits, bananas, date palms, and certain vegetables.

Ibn Luyun's treatise of agricultureParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

Ibn Luyn's agriculture treatise

Ibn Luyun (1282–1349) was a poet and agronomist from Almería who wrote a work covering the basics of the art of agriculture.

The 'Uryza', as it was also known, analyzes the 4 key aspects of agriculture: land, water, fertilizer, and work.

Blood wheelParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

Animal-powered waterwheel

This was the most popular water-supply system in Muslim Spain.

It consisted of a mechanism with 2 wheels, one of which was horizontal and driven by an animal pulling a wooden arm.

The other vertical wheel inside the well had buckets attached to it, which were submerged to collect water before emptying their contents into a channel.

Story of Bayad and Riyad (garden scene with water wheel)Parque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

The Tale of Bayad and Riyad (Garden Scene with Hydraulic Waterwheel)

This visionary manuscript tells of the love between a merchant, Bayad, and a maid, Riyad.

It may have been written in Seville in the early 13th century.

It contains 14 miniatures depicting different scenes, in which gardens and water have a prominent role.

Andalusian mill or RahaParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

Mill or 'Raha' from Muslim Spain

This type of manually-controlled mill was first used on the peninsula in Iberian times.

It was used to grind cereals: the basic food in Muslim Spain.

Weeder hoeParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

Weeder or Hoe

This agricultural tool was widely used in Muslim Spain during the 10th and 11th centuries to clear weeds and move small plants.

Geographical work of al-IdrisiParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

Geography: navigation and mapmaking

The inhabitants of Muslim Spain made a range of contributions to nautical developments that lead to the expansion of Muslim territories. Among these were the triangular lateen sail, which allowed wider navigation routes to be explored, and the sternpost rudder, which made vessels more maneuverable.

Nautical qadrantParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

Nautical quadrant

This was used by those on-board a ship to locate their position.

It determined the meridian altitude of the sun or a star to obtain the latitude of the location.

9th-century Arab vesselParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

9th-century Arab boat

Spain's peninsular location coupled with the initiative of Islamic society led to developments in navigation that were of great importance for religion, economy, and trade.

Among the innovations that the Arabs introduced to ships were the triangular sail, which could hold the wind on either side, and the sternpost rudder, which replaced side oars.

AstrolabeParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada


Most of the surviving 11th-century Arab-Islamic astrolabes come from Muslim Spain.

Their designs included modifications that influenced the entire Islamic world and the West.

The astrolabe could be used to gather lots of different information, such as the length of the day and night, latitudes, the position of the sun and stars, and more.

Marine compassParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

Compass with float or lodestone

This is the oldest known compass from Muslim Spain, dating from the 11th century.

A magnetized needle placed on top of a piece of wood would float in the water and point to magnetic north.

HourglassParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada


This hourglass, dating from the 10th century, has 2 containers joined at the center.

Time is measured by the amount of sand that falls from one into the other.

Treatise of the tides (of the ebbs and flows)Parque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

Treatise on the Tides (on ebbs and flows)

The 'Treatise on the Tides' is the most comprehensive work on tides and water movements written before the 16th century.

Geographical work of al-IdrisiParque de las Ciencias Andalucía-Granada

Treatise on the Tides

Al-Bakri was an 11th-century author in Muslim Spain who excelled at geography.

His work divides the earth into 7 climates and each of these into 10 sections, according to classical tradition.

In the treatise, he describes all the places known at the time, from India and China to Western Europe.

Credits: Story

Andalusian Legacy Foundation
Parque de las Ciencias

Ramón L. Pérez
Miguel Ángel Molina

Parque de las Ciencias

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Google apps