What are Frieze Patterns?

Instructor: Tiffany Price

Tiffany has many years of classroom teaching experience and has a masters degree in Educational Leadership.

In this lesson, we will discuss frieze patterns and how they are employed in the real world. We will break down the seven types of frieze patterns and practice identifying them.

Frieze patterns are quite fascinating and are found in unique places. Frieze patterns are patterns that repeat in a straight vertical or horizontal line. Frieze patterns are found in architecture, fabrics, and wallpaper borders, just to name a few. There are seven types of frieze patterns and we will discuss each type and how to identify them. Archaeologists often use their knowledge of frieze patterns to classify the artifacts that they find.

Let's look at the seven types of frieze patterns. For the sake of simplicity, we will refer to them using numbers only, one through seven. Depending on where you find the information, the types of frieze patterns have different names, so if you do research elsewhere, don't let the non-uniform names throw you off. As we talk about each type of frieze pattern, we'll discuss the types of symmetry as well, such as glide rotational, translational, and mirror reflectional.


Pattern 1: This frieze pattern has translational symmetry only. Translational symmetry occurs when a shape moves a certain distance equally, over and over, creating a pattern. This is another example of translational symmetry.


Pattern 2: This frieze pattern is a bit more complex. It has glide reflectional symmetry. Glide reflection occurs when a shape mirrors itself over a horizontal line and then translates (or moves) a certain distance over. This is a visual of glide reflection.


Pattern 3: Pattern 3 has horizontal mirror symmetry, meaning it appears as though a mirror is placed below a string of identical shapes, or you can slice through the center of the pattern to get two identical patterns. This is a simple example.


Pattern 4: Pattern 4 has vertical mirror symmetry. This type of symmetry appears as though there is a mirror placed between each shape, or you can make vertical slices between each shape. Imagine being able to slice down the middle of each 'Y' shape. This is how vertical mirror reflection works.


Pattern 5: This frieze pattern has 180-degree rotational symmetry, meaning you can turn the pattern 180 degrees and it will look the same as if it were never turned at all.


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