The Tessellated Pavement

The Latin word tesserae originally meant “dice,” but it came in time to refer to the cube-shaped stones the ancient Romans used to create mosaics on floors, courtyards, pools, baths, and other places a really durable, water-proof, and yet highly decorative surface might be desirable. Some of these mosaics were simple geometric patterns, but some were fabulous works of art. Because they used the dice-shaped stones, these mosaic-paved surfaces became known as tessellated pavements.

Over the millennia, the term “tessellation” became attached to anything that created a mosaic-like pattern, from actual mosaics to quilt patterns to mathematical constructs to some of M.C. Escher’s artwork.

The term “tessellation” is also applied to the geological phenomenon of rocks that are fractured by tectonic movements along regular, geometric lines, forming what look like quarried columns or building blocks. If that tessellation happens to take place close to the ocean, a natural tessellated pavement can occur, as the tide sweeps in and out, wearing down those columns into what looks like a carefully constructed pavement. However, this is a rare phenomenon.

If you do an Internet search of “tessellated pavement,” the place you will be shown most often was our next destination, as we continued down onto the Tasman Peninsula. The peninsula narrows sharply at a place called Eaglehawk Neck, and here, sea and sand have worn away the ancient rock, forming the Tessellated Pavement. The image below shows the cliff-edge marker that identifies the spot for visitors and explains the natural forces that created the Tessellated Pavement below.

Tasmania's Tessellated Pavement

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4 Comments

Filed under Australia, Book, Geography, History, Nature, Science, Travel

4 responses to “The Tessellated Pavement

  1. That’s amazing. I never would have thought rock fracturing could be so even.

  2. Another trip down memory lane – I so enjoy seeing your photos and thinking about mine! (My parents are off to Tasmania for their annual trip in two weeks. Wish I was going too).

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