Toynbee Tiles are an enigma, a decades-old mystery that seems to be the work of one anonymous artist whose original goal was to start a human colony on Jupiter. No, really.
What are they? They are colorful and intricate tiles placed in streets all over Philadelphia. How did they get installed? Not really sure.
They carry the artist’s ideas about humanity’s possible future where humans can be reborn on Jupiter in a heavenly sort of afterlife. I think.
I started noticing these tiles around Philly when I was a kid in the ’80s and ’90s. I’d cross an intersection and find a tile beneath my feet. A few blocks away – another one. Then years later, I noticed them in New York City. Apparently they are all over the Eastern US. Many of the tiles are still around today for you to discover.
Philly is the epicenter of Toynbee tiles, and one photographer and researcher has gone through the painstaking effort of mapping them all out. Visit his website to see the map!
You may also be interested in the documentary film called Resurrect Dead about the Toynbee tiles.
To see some for yourself, take a walk on Chestnut Street starting at 16th, ending at 12th. There’s a tile in most intersections.