10 Amazing Historical Facts About Tile!

It’s strange to think about these days, but the art of tile-making has been with us for a very, very long time! Here are a few fascinating historical facts about tiles and how they came to be one of our favorite floor coverings.

  1. Ceramic tiles were first made in China, around the time of the Chinese invention of pottery, circa 20,000 BC. The earliest Chinese tiles were made from white porcelain, and had stunning images hand-painted on them.
  2. The ancient Egyptians used tiles in their architecture, including in the pyramids!
  3. Of course, one of the original purposes for baked clay tiles was to use as roof coverings. Terracotta tiles are still used for this purpose today.
  4. The art-form of tile mosaic was developed in ancient Greece. Mosaics are made with small pieces and slivers of broken or cut tile, often placed in such a way that they form elaborate patterns. Ancient Greek mosaics often created images of gods or other scenes, and Greek tile artisans incorporated stones and shells into their mosaics.
  5. The Ishtar Gate, a magnificent brick-tile structure in ancient Babylon, was commissioned around 575 BC by Nebuchadnezzar in his bid to beautify his city. Tile imagery on the gate depicted lions, dragons, and bulls. The Ishtar Gate was once included in the Seven Wonders of the World.
  6. Over thousands of years, Persian traders brought pottery and tile-making knowledge from China to faraway points in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Eventually, kiln-fired pottery was an old-world staple, and basic clay tiles became commonplace nearly everywhere, though the fancier glazed and hand-painted tiles were reserved for the wealthy.
  7. A tile making method was developed independently in the Americas by Aztec peoples.
  8. Decorative tiles journeyed to the New World aboard Spanish ships, and were used in the beautification of mission churches.
  9. Tiles were first mass-produced for flooring by British factories in the 19th Now, for the first time, customers could order a shipment of more-or-less identical tiles with which to floor their homes.
  10. A 2,000-year-old Roman mosaic has recently been discovered. The owner apparently did not know what she had—the artwork had been used in her Manhattan apartment for over fifty years, as a coffee table!