“Telling lies is a bit like tiling bathrooms – if you don’t know how to do it properly, it’s best not to try.” Tom Holt
Tiles have been in use for thousands of years. Those early ones were made of clay dug from riverbanks, formed into blocks and baked dry in the sun.
The earliest examples of decorative tiles are from Egypt from 4,000 BC, where examples of beautiful tiled surfaces can be found in pyramids.
Greeks and Romans used tiles in their mosaic floors, though these are different from decorative tilework since mosaic floors are made of many tiny tiles of a single color made of glass or ceramic. Floor tiles were made of ceramic or stone with a glazed upper surface.
The earliest evidence of those glazed bricks date back to the 13th century BC and can be found in a temple in Chogha Zanbil in Iran.
Around the 12th century, Persian potters, inspired by Chinese porcelain, invented an under glaze painting technique which was significant for the history of ceramics and ceramic tiles. The peak of Persian tilework started during the reign of the Timurid Empire in the 14th and 15th century. Brick and tile mosaics were made on both flat and domed surfaces, as can be seen in the Jāmeh Mosque of Yazd and the Gohashad Mosque in Iran.
During the Ottoman Empire, a town in Turkey, İznik, became the main production center of under glaze painted tiles in the 16th century. Since the use of human images is prohibited in Islamic religion, artisans created ornate and intertwined patterns as well as floral motifs and calligraphy.
Introduced by the Moors, a tradition of azulejos developed in the Iberian Peninsula. They are found inside and outside of palaces, churches, houses and stations. Azulejos were not only used as ornaments, but also to control temperatures in homes. Examples of azulejos can be found in the Reales Alcazares in Sevilla, Spain, and the Sintra National Palace in Sintra, Portugal.
In the 17th century the Dutch created ceramics inspired by Chinese porcelain with its blue and white patterns and drawings and became known as Delfts Blauw (Delftware).
As of the Victorian Era (19th century) wall tiles revived, mainly thanks to the rise of the bathroom. Tiles became a sanitary and hygienic product in both the US and Europe and were applied not only in bathrooms, but also in kitchens. Since tiles were implemented in homes everywhere, there was a substantial growth in the demand for tiles. In the past few years, innovations like digital ink-jet technology for authentic stone appearances, implementation of refined designs and custom-tile printing have revolutionized the industry.
1. a usually flat piece of hard clay, stone, or other material that is used for covering walls, floors, etc.
2. a curved piece of hard clay that is used for covering roofs
3. a small, flat piece that is used in some board games (source: Merriam Webster).
The English tile derives from Old English tigele, roofing shingle, from Proto-Germanic *tigulōn, from Latin tegula, tile, from tegere, roof/to cover.
Dutch tegel has the same origin.
Spanish azulejo finds its roots in Arabic. It comes from the word الزليج (az-zulayj), meaning polished stone.
The Italian piastrella is the diminutive of piastra (plate) that comes from Latin emplastrum, plaster.
Tile in other languages:
Spanish: el azulejo
Italian: la piastrella