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Exploring Tessellations

This version was saved 13 years, 8 months ago View current version     Page history
Saved by Patti McFeely
on September 22, 2009 at 11:55:27 pm

    Shaped by History


     A tessellation is a pattern of one or more two-dimensional shapes that fit together with no gaps or overlaps. The word tessellation comes from the Latin tessella, which was a small stone or tile used in Roman mosaics. However, tessellations date back thousands of years to the time of the Sumerians (4000 B.C.). The early Sumerians constructed their tessellations out of clay and used them to decorate homes and temples. These tessellations eventually became part of the structure of their architecture.


     Since that time, tessellations have spread to many cultures including Egyptian, Arabian, Indian, Chinese, Roman, and Greek. To view examples of various cultural tessellations, check out these links. Feel free to add any further links of examples you may find during your exploration.


Egyptian Tilings and Patterns

Patterns from the Alhambra

Chinese Patterns

Greek Tilings

A Tiling from Pompeii



ornate wall on Alhambra Palace, Granada


     Note the repeating pattern on this wall of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. This was a common decorative detail in Moorish architecture.




Shaping Your Own

Today, artists such as M.C. Escher have taken tessellations to a new level. To create a tessellation, you must focus on two elements: shape and color. By sliding, flipping, and/or turning the shape, you can create a tessellation. But, lines and shapes aren't the only ways to cause optical illusions. Tessellations can look very different depending on how you color them.  Take some time to experiment with shape and color at Interactivate: Tessellate .


How would you like to create tessellations that look like these?



Introduction to Tessellations
"Totally Tessellated" Retrieved on September 22, 2009 from http://library.thinkquest.org/16661/history/uses.html
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