Despite the fact that individual mosaics formed the object of studies ever since interest in Antiquity began, their scientific study, as an art form with its own particular characteristics, is something relatively new. The AIEMA (Association Internationale pour l’Etude de la Mosaïque Antique) was founded in 1963, and its first Bulletin appeared as recently as 1967. Up until then, it was commonly held that geometric and generally non-figurative mosaics were of little importance and only the best of the figurative mosaics needed to be looked after. This was usually done by lifting them onto concrete slabs and taking them, in the best of cases, to a museum or a store. It was the AIEMA and its activities that first changed this attitude by pointing out the importance of studying all the different types of mosaics, something that put the hitherto neglected non-figural mosaics into relief. AIEMA’s concern, however, is the study and understanding of mosaics, not their conservation.
Thus, although the constant deterioration and loss of mosaics, through lack of conservation and protection, was something apparent to most archaeologists and art historians, little was done to change the situation. In fact, few were alarmed by this phenomenon since it was tacitly assumed that the number of ancient mosaics was practically inexhaustible – an attitude with disastrous effects in the Mediterranean region where mosaics are indeed numerous.
It is not surprising then that mosaic conservators were few and worked in isolation, finding solutions to their problems by trial and error, and having no official body from which to seek advice. The situation was aggravated by the fact that no cultural heritage organization included sectors concerned with the safeguard of mosaics, and little was published on the conservation problems regarding mosaics and their possible solutions.