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Mosiacs prove again and again that Syria is the cradle of civilizations and cultural dialogue among nations.

The word mosaic is originally a Greek word: museion which was used to denote the art of decoration in which small pieces or cubes of stone, enamel, glass or ceramic is used combined by means of an adhesive or mortar to form patterns, human figures or animal images, and later complete scenes of life. In Latin, the word is musiuum Opus which was changed into mussiuum, and in a later stage, Mosaque. Mosaics are distinctive marks of Mediterranean civilization.

 They spread in Mesopotamia, then all over the Roman Empire; Italy, France, Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Bilad alCham (the Levant), al Maghrib and Andalusia. Mosaics were extensively used during the Greek and Roman periods to decorate temples and houses of the nobility. During the Byzantine period they continued so, but their subjects were different. In the Middle Ages their use expanded to cover churches, mosques, palaces, schools and khans.

Now the art of making mosaics has developed technically, it is widely used nowadays in many fields. Mosaics of the past: The oldest mosaic discoveries in Mesopotamia are Sumerian panels dating back to 2500BC, which were made of mother of pearl and ornamented with azure stones. These mosaics were used in decorating chariots and carriages. And were made of three colors: black, red and white. Later mosaics spread in Gordion of Asia Minor, and from there to Greece, in the sixth century BC, samples of which were found in Delphi. Other Greek mosaics were found in Sicily, Egypt and Eritrea. When the Romans copied this art they were mostly influenced by Greek civilization. They used mosaic panels in decorating the floors of their palaces, exactly like we use carpets today. Their mosaics depicted their mythologies like the Greek ones. They represented gods or heroes, and conveyed to us different stories, wisdoms, and sagas incarnating gods and heroes of Greek mythology. The most important mosaic panels were discovered in Pompeii, Palermo and in Malta. They were mostly found in palaces of princes and noble men, like the panels discovered in the house of Shahba's governor. After the emergence and spread of Christianity, mosaic art reached its golden age at the hands of the Byzantines who used it in iconograiconography and in decorating walls and floors of churches. They diversified the materials of mosaics as well their subjects to depict their beliefs and memorize their saints and biblical stories. At the eighth century AD Moslems acquired the art of mosaic, and used it in their Islamic architecture in Bilad alCham, Andalusia, Iran and alMaghrib. Moslem artists left to us magnificent mosaic panels with patterns and designs that reflect life on earth and in heaven as they have imagined it without making human images or animal pictures.

Making mosaics: Mosaics can be made in several ways using small cubes, "tesserae", of different materials and fixing them on a flat surface. Roman and Byzantine mosaics depended mostly on using stone, marble or smooth pebbles, while Islamic mosaics were made of colored transparent glass, ceramic or marble cubes. They are sometimes backed with reflective silver or gold leaf. The fixing material is mortar, made of fine sand particles and glue. This is a cheap material and can acclimatize with the changes of temperature. For making a mosaic a metal mesh is fixed on a flat surface then covered with a 13mm layer of mortar to prevent breaking of the mosaic. Sometimes a wooden board is used to protect the panel. Lime or gypsum is used also to delay drying of mortar. Work methods: Direct method: is the fastest and simplest. We first draw the scene on the board, add a layer of mortar and start fixing the tesserae, the lager then the smaller, staring from the center outwards. Again we spread a layer of mortar to fix the tesserae. Indirect Method: We fix the tesserae in a reversed position on a temporal board, then we turn the panel up down on the permanent board, and fix it with mortar.

Syria Times met Mr. Fouad Khazaqa, a mosaic dealer in Bab Sharqi and told us about the history of mosaics in Syria. He said :

The art of mosaics is one of the oldest arts in Syria. Mural panels made along various periods of history still attract people and artists who express their admiration of this wonderful art. Shahba city, south of Syria is one of the most famous places in Syria where many rare panels were discovered in the rooms of the 3rd century AD houses. Syria now has several museums of mosaics of the Roman and Byzantine periods; in Shahba, in Ma'arret alNu'man, in Idleb and in Aphamea and in Tayebet alImam in Hama, in addition to tens of mosaics displayed in the museums of Damascus, Aleppo, al Swaidaa and Hama. Hundreds of mosaic panels were discovered in Syria that belong to Roman, Byzantine and Islamic origins. Every year Archaeological missions discover tens of these mosaics and display them in Syrian museums.

They find them mainly in old churches. An example is the largest panel ever discovered in the church of Hama. This panel is 50m long. Islamic panels are found in mosques, bimaristans and in khans of Damascus and Aleppo.

Roman mosaics depict Greek mythologies of the creation, life cycle, treasures of the earth with heroes and daily life stories. Byzantine mosaics concentrated mostly on Christian life, and biblical stories where we can see peacocks, trees, birds etc. In some mosaics we see glasses of wine and vine trees representing the blood of Jesus Christ as well as stories about eternity, peace and human love, forest animals leaving together in peace. Islamic mosaics have no figures but they are rich with geometric designs and floral patterns. Fouad Khazaqa, added.

Many of these panels are borrowed to be displayed in international museums like the museum of Ravenna in Italy. Ravenna, the capital of Roman and Byzantine mosaics, has turned its hand to a fresh clutch of works, restoring a number of priceless designs on loan from Syrian museums.

Of the East. Tiles on the Road to Damascus) will showcase a selection of precious artworks from this era.

Most of the mosaics were designed for the floor and feature a variety of animals – symbolic.

Mosiacs prove again and again that Syria is the cradle of civilizations and cultural dialogue among nations.


Haifaa Mafalani