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mosaic

Ancient Mosaics

In Egypt and Mesopotamia, furniture, small architectural features, and jewelry were occasionally adorned with inset bits of enamel, glass, and colored stone. Early Greek mosaics (5th–4th cent. B.C.) uncovered at Olynthus were worked in small natural pebbles. The use of cut cubes or tesserae was introduced from the East after the Alexandrian conquest. Roman floor mosaics were probably based upon Greek examples, and glass mosaics applied to columns, niches, and fountains can be seen at Pompeii. In Italy and the Roman colonies the floor patterns were produced both by large slabs of marble in contrasting colors ( opus sectile ) and by small marble tesserae ( opus tessellatum ). The tessera designs varied from simple geometrical patterns in black and white to huge pictorial arrangements of figures and animals; examples were found in Rome, Pompeii, Antioch and Zeugma (S Turkey), and N Africa.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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