A tessellation is a repeating pattern that fills a space without overlapping. In Latin, the word “tessera” means a “small, stone cube.” The mosaics that formed floors and tiles in Roman homes and buildings were often laid out in tessellated patterns. Tessellating patterns and floral designs in complex geometrical arrangements, usually in tiles, are also common motifs in Islamic art.
In Islam, tessellated decorative arts, such as tiles, textiles, pottery and architecture, are often called “zillij,” which is an art with a foundation in “learning, discipline and faith.” Islam teaches that life is based on a universal, cosmic intelligence, so ancient and modern zillij artists try to inspire their viewers into an appreciation of the laws that govern the universe. You can view representations of zillij art in Morocco and in other predominantly Islamic countries and cities, on the walls and floors of mosques, homes, public water fountains, tombs and architecture.