The history of civilization and the beginning of man are in ruins and relics around the globe. Ancient tile from the walls of churches and homes, and written languages hidden in tombs filled with long lost belongings. These are all things that give us a glimpse of life thousands of years ago. From region to region, life was very different around the world, as was the style of tile from each area.
Ancient Tile and Where it Prevailed
Around the 14th Century BC, ancient man began to create ceramic tiles for their living quarters. Examples in Mesopotamia and India include baked clay tablets with cuneiform. These tablets are our first glimpse at human written language. Without them, we would be a lot more in the dark on the history of our ancestors!
We head east, where ancient tile began to take a more decorative turn. Patterns and textures were used to create more artistic murals. We can see mosaics, which began in Mesopotamia with pebbles and eventually graduate to ceramics and glass. Tile is also used more prevalently in floors, walls, and the roof of homes and dwellings.
Speaking of mosaics, as we turn West and head back into Europe, its plain to see that time and experience have fine-tuned tile creation and design. The ornate facades of homes in Portugal, cathedrals in Spain and Greece, and other places of worship boast beautiful murals and mosaics. These mosaics depict stories of religion, war, and life in those times. Tile reflected the change of power, empires (such as the Roman Empire) rise and fall. The evolution of tile helps tell the story of how the various regions and trials of man affect design, creation, and inspiration.
As we come full circle, and pass through the Mediterranean, and back to the North Coast of Africa, we see hand painted tile of bright color and pattern. “Zellige” is the given name of this colorful style of enamel-covered terra cotta tile. Its influence moved up to Spain in the 8th century and contributed to the styles of mosaic and other ceramics as designs evolved.
What is your favorite example of ancient tile?