A mosaic is a pattern or picture formed using small pieces of material, usually marble or stone. The oldest examples found, of patterns made from ivory, shells and colored stones, are at Ubaid in Mesopotamia (Iraq) dated around 1500 BCE. Many early mosaics produced during Pagan times were defaced by iconoclasts when Xtians came into control.


The most important mosaic, which shows the oldest map of the Holy Land, was made by the Byzantines around 550 CE on the floor of St George’s church at Madaba. Madaba remained a major mosaic centre from the 5th to 8th century.


Other major mosaics found in Jordan include the floor of the church at Tell Mar Elias (the birthplace of Elijah) near Ajlun, the church and monastery floors at Bethany Beyond Jordan, five panels in the monastery above Lots Cave adjacent to the Dead Sea, one of the earliest examples of Byzantine mosaics at Mount Nebo, and in Byzantine churches in Petra, where despite the golden glass wall coverings being destroyed, the floor mosaics depicting exotic and mythical animals remain.


Many mosaics discovered around Jiyyeh in Lebanon, then part of ancient Syria, are now housed in the collection at the Beiteddine Palace Museum, and the Church of St John the Baptist in Byblos has a large geometric patterned floor.


When the Arabs conquered the Middle East in the 7th century they continued the art of mosaics, but following the fall of the Umayyad dynasty, around 750 CE, the practice declined, and after the end of the 8th century no more great mosaics were produced.



The Mosaic Map at Madaba


Part of the Mount Nebo Floor


Mosaic at Delphi Greece