National Geographic : 1957 Feb
224 Luis Marden, National Geographic Staff Stone by Stone, Priceless Roman Mosaics Regain Their Ancient Glory Primitive man foreshadowed the mosaic when he arranged pebbles on the floor of his cave. Ancient Sumerians expanded the technique, cementing bright stones to a base. Egyptians by 1000 B.C . were fashion ing mosaics in the form of glass jewelry. Roman mosaicists, especially in the Christian era, transformed a pastime into an art with their stone or glass painting. Evidence suggests gangs of artisans labored side by side over the tessellated pavements at Piazza Armerina. Stones of various colors came from Africa and Sicily. Craftsmen laid a rough base of mortar, added several coats of lime, and traced designs on the surface. Hew- ing cubes of stone one-third inch thick, they tapped them lightly into the pattern. Duplicating traditional methods, this man replaces missing pieces with stone taken from the villa's ruins. He watered the foreground to bring out colors and aid the matching of stones. Only a craftsman can repair stone carpets like the masterpiece opposite. The horse's red ribbon and tongue, the dark bridle, the highlighted neck, and the needle-point reflection in the eye call, not for a paint brush, but for naturally colored stones, all painstakingly fitted like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.