A mosaic is a pattern or image made of small regular or irregular pieces of colored stone, glass or ceramic, held in place by plaster/mortar, and covering a surface. Mosaics are often used as floor and wall decoration, and were particularly popular in the Ancient Roman world.
Mosaic today includes not just murals and pavements, but also artwork, hobby crafts, and industrial and construction forms.
Mosaics have a long history, starting in Mesopotamia in the 3rd millennium BC. Pebble mosaics were made in Tiryns in Mycenean Greece; mosaics with patterns and pictures became widespread in classical times, both in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. Early Christian basilicas from the 4th century onwards were decorated with wall and ceiling mosaics. Mosaic art flourished in the Byzantine Empire from the 6th to the 15th centuries; that tradition was adopted by the Norman Kingdom of Sicily in the 12th century, by the eastern-influenced Republic of Venice, and among the Rus in Ukraine. Mosaic fell out of fashion in the Renaissance, though artists like Raphael continued to practise the old technique. Roman and Byzantine influence led Jewish artists to decorate 5th and 6th century synagogues in the Middle East with floor mosaics.
Figurative mosaic, but mostly without human figures, was widely used on religious buildings and palaces in early Islamic art, including Islam's first great religious building, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, and the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. Such mosaics went out of fashion in the Islamic world after the 8th century, except for geometrical patterns in techniques such as zellij, which remain popular in many areas.
Modern mosaics are made by artists and craftspeople around the world. Many materials other than traditional stone, ceramic tesserae, enameled and stained glass may be employed, including shells, beads, charms, chains, gears, coins, and pieces of costume jewelry.