The prevalence of terra-cotta as a medium of artistic expression since the earliest periods of history is indicated by statuettes and vases from predynastic Egypt, polychrome tiles from Assyria and Persia, vases and figures from various Central American pre-Columbian sites, and Chinese vases dating probably from 3000 B.C. Terra-cotta first gained importance as an architectural material in classical Greece, where, beginning about the 7th cent. B.C., temples and other structures were often enriched with roof tiles, metopes, acroteria, and various other modeled and painted ornamental features of terra-cotta. Similar roof tiles and ornaments are found in Etruscan and Roman work.
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