Dispatches

Ancient Mosaics

 These perfectly preserved mosaics offer visitors a rare opportunity to glimpse back in time to an ancient empire.

Mosaic art is one of the oldest and most intricate methods of human expression and storytelling. It’s legacy as a method to both document important historical events and as a system for decoration and expression stirs the imagination of both historians and artists alike.

The earliest example of mosaic art, discovered in an ancient Mesopotamian temple at Ubaid, is dated to the 2nd millennium BC. The piece is simple and consists of various coloured stones that have been juxtaposed with decorative shell and ivory to create intricate geometric patterns. The piece is commonly cited as the origin of tile art.

The creation process for mosaic art is both simple and unforgiving. The artist generally begins by assembling tiny pieces of stone or glass, known as tesserae, into a carefully planed pattern or image. The process, depending on the size of the image, can take an incredible amount of time and patience—and even the smallest of miscalculations in position can render an entire image distorted.

Imagine for a moment the frustration of realizing—after hours of work—that a single misplaced tesserae has caused your image to be warped. Certainly there is a lesson here about the importance of attention to detail, and the patience and focus of these ancient artists deserves the highest praise.

Nestled deep within the heart of Jordan is the archeological site of Umm Ar-Rasas which is home to some of the best preserved mosaics on earth. One of the most incredible archeological discoveries of this site is the mosaic floor of the Church of St Stephen. The perfectly preserved mosaic depicts various daily activities as well as some of the most important ancient cities of the region. These perfectly preserved mosaics offer visitors a rare opportunity to glimpse back in time to an ancient empire. And this is surely an opportunity that should not be missed by anyone who appreciates this incredible and unforgiving art form.

For more from Outpost Magazine’s time in Jordan check out our photo and video galleries.

Update by Daniel Puiatti Photo by Routard05

May 6, 2013, 2:43 p.m.