What Goes Around Comes Back Around: Egyptians Mosaic Art

The export of glass tile making from Egypt to the Mediterranean world, allowed the Egyptians themselves to create a stunning mosaic art tradition, examples of which you can buy from Artemission.

Explaining mosaics

Mosaic making is the art of using small pieces of coloured glass, stone and other materials  to create colourful images – most often on floors, walls and doors. They were used to decorate the homes of society’s wealthiest people; glass making was expensive, so they were the only ones who could afford to commission mosaics. The art form has been found in a number of ancient cultures, but most often we associate it with the Romans.

Nero used mosaics to decorate some walls and ceilings of the Domus Aurea in mosaics when it was built in 64 A.D. Remainders of the art form have also been discovered in the ruins of Pompeii.  Experts believe that figural wall mosaics, of the type at the Roman Church of Santa Constanza, didn’t become a serious form of artistic expression until the Empire’s Christian era, around the 4th Century A.D.

Fused glass

Of course mosaic making far pre-dates the Romans; archaeological findings suggest that it goes as far back as the 3rd Millennium B.C. The earliest example of mosaic art was found in in a temple building in the South-Mesopotamian settlement of Abra, and later examples have been found throughout the lands of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.

At this point it seems as though mosaics were made with coloured terracotta cones which were embedded into the columns and walls of buildings, and arranged in geometric shapes. Everything changed with the invention of ‘fused glass,’ which enabled the creation of the glass mosaic styles we’re more familiar with today. This is glass that has been fired in a kiln at 593 °C to 816 °C, allowing artists the versatility they needed to create glass tiles and jewellery, most notably beads.


Egyptian glass tile art

Evidence suggests that fused glass was invented by the ancient Egyptians, as it was clearly in use throughout their society by around 2000 B.C. With the material the Egyptians crafted stunning glass-tile images of gods, pharaohs and animals to adorn the walls, floors and ceilings of their grandest structures including palaces, temples, and even ships.

The art of glass tile making was eventually exported to Greece and Rome, as they increasingly came into contact with ancient Egyptian culture. Their domination of the land of the Pharaohs brought the robust tradition of mosaic art these societies developed to Egypt, allowing it to flourish and advance during the country’s Hellenistic and Roman periods. This produced an array of stunning glass-mosaic artefacts that have survived to the modern era, examples of which you can purchase from the Egyptian antiquities section of artemission.com.


Artemission.com (Atticart Ltd.) is the leading antiquities gallery online. Starting the very first internet site dealing with authentic antiquities, Artemission specialise in ancient art from Egypt, the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia, as well as Islamic Art and Ancient Coins.

Spread the love