Technique of Corbelling in Architecture

“The corbel arch and corbel vault use the technique [of corbelling] to make openings in walls and to form ceilings”. A corbelled (false) roof or vault and a corbelled arch are prototypes of their structural counterparts in the history of architecture.

Corbelling dome and a false arch based on a lintel inside Atreus Tholos Tomb, Mycenae. Photo by Sharon Mollerus (2009). CC BY 2.0. Photo source: “Skarbiec Atreusza” (2020). Wikipedia. Wolna Encyklopedia.

The corbelled vault usually occurs in a form of an elevated roof constructed using horizontal and successive layers of stone slabs or bricks that gradually overlap each other, inwards. As a result of such a process, a false vault or dome is created. The top of the corbelled roof is closed with a single capstone which spans the remaining space or void between the overhung stone slabs. “[In the] technique of corbelling, […] rows of corbels deeply keyed inside a wall support a projecting wall or parapet” (“Corbel” 2021).

In turn, corbelled arches, like structural (true) arches, are also made of stone but do not use “a wedge-shaped voussoirs converging towards” (“Corbel arch” 2021). They are cut in one beam or stone slab, or several horizontal layers of stone. Accordingly, “a corbel arch is an arch-like construction method that uses the architectural technique of corbelling to span a space or void in a structure. […] Although an improvement in load-bearing efficiency over the post and lintel design, [corbelled] arches are not entirely self-supporting structures, and the [corbelled] arch is sometimes termed a false arch for this reason” (Ibid.)

Featured image: A corbelled (false) arch in the Royal Palace of Ugarit, Bronze Age Syria. Photo by Disdero (2005). CC BY 3.0. Photo and caption source: “Corbel arch” (2021). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.


“Corbel” (2021). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at <>. [Accessed 7th June, 2021].

“Corbel arch” (2021). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at <>. [Accessed 7th June, 2021].

“Skarbiec Atreusza” (2020). Wikipedia. Wolna Encyklopedia. Available at <>. [Accessed 7th June, 2021].

PWN (2007). Słownik terminologiczny sztuk pięknych, pp. 241,380. Kubalska-Sulkiewicz K., Bielska-Łach M., Manteuffel-Szarota A. eds. Wydanie piąte. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN.

Darvill T. (2009). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology (2 ed.). Oxford University Press. Available at <>. [Accessed 7th June, 2021].

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