Terrazzo—chips of marble, glass or other aggregates embedded in tinted cement, ground smooth and polished to a silky sheen—may have been yet another of mankind’s accidental discoveries. In the 15th century, mosaic artisans in northen Italy swept waste marble chips out onto their terraces, terrazzi, and smoothed the surface simply by walking over it. When workers learned to press the chips into a more permanent clay base, then grind and polish them with heavy stones, terrazzo caught on. Michelangelo used it in St. Peter’s Basilica. George Washington strode over it in his cherished Mount Vernon.
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