Mosaics such as those found in Pafos were expensive to make, and therefore were confined to public buildings and the houses of the rich. Even in the great villas of important men, mosaics were installed only in the public rooms where they could be seen and admired (and envied) by visitors. In bedrooms floors were far more likely to be of simple pebbles set in mortar, while kitchens and workshops would have to manage with beaten earth floors. Most mosaic customers chose from a library of set patterns while the super-rich commissioned their own designs.

The artworks were painstakingly created by dozens of men using small cubes of pottery or glass called tesserae. First, relatively unskilled apprentices hacked out and levelled the ground before filling it with crushed stone, gravel and/or pottery shards mixed with lime mortar. After this a layer of fine plaster was laid, into which the tesserae were set. More skilled workmen created geometric patterns, while compositions involving figurative representations of humans and animals would be left to the master craftsman. Finally, marble dust, sand and lime were rubbed over the finished surface to fill in the joints and any cracks, and a drainage hole was created so that the mosaic could be periodically washed with water.

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