Maths Museum Museum
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Mosaics
© Islington Artefact Library
Click Here for Interactive Exhibit Mosaics first became popular in the 1st century AD. They were used by the Romans to decorate their walls, floors, clocks and fountains. They were pictures (often depicting gods or stories from the Bible) or patterns made from small pieces of coloured glass or stone called tesserae. Mosaics were made by spreading wet mortar over a small area of a floor or wall and then quickly pressing the tesserae into the plaster while it was still damp. The tesserae were arranged in a variety of ways, including simple geometric patterns, patterns of curved lines, including pictures of objects, and patterns composed of larger stones of varied shapes. When the mosaic was complete it was smoothed and polished. Often for larger mosaics, sections were made up in a workshop and carried to the building in trays to be fixed into place. Mosaics were used extensively to pave public buildings, but only the rich could afford them in their villas.
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