A large section of a stunning mosaic floor showing a chariot in motion has been unearthed in the burial mound complex at Amphipolis in northern Greece, the Culture Ministry announced on Sunday.
Made from small white, black, gray, blue, red and yellow pebbles, the mosaic emerged as archaeologists led by Katerina Peristeri removed dirt and soil filling the tomb's second chamber behind two colossal female statues known as Caryatids.
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The colorful mosaic dates back to the last quarter of the 4th century BC. It covers the whole floor of the chamber - a 14.7-foot wide by 9.8-foot long area - and depicts a chariot in motion famed by a 23-inch-wide border with a double meander, squares and spiral shapes.
"The chariot is pulled by two white horses and driven by a bearded man wearing a laurel wreath on his head," the ministry said in a statement.
In the front of the chariot is the god Hermes, the psychopompos (literally meaning the "guide of souls"), who leads souls from the bodies of the dead to the banks of the river Styx. He wears a petasos on his head, a cloak, winged sandals and holds a caduceus, a winged staff with two snakes wrapped around it. The movement is from east to west.
"The figure is clearly Hermes, and that is clear from his insignia which are standard iconography and seen in a number of Macedonian tombs," Dorothy King, a classical archaeologist not involved in the excavation, wrote in her blog.
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"But who is the bearded man in the chariot being led by Hermes? The profile depiction to me suggests that it is Philip II," she said.
The bearded man with a laurel wreath on his head is shown in profile, hiding the right side of his face.
Philip lost his right eye, but also won a wreath at the Olympic games, King noted.
"This is probably Philip II and his horses, adding to the idea that this was a tomb or shrine glorifying Alexander. Philip II died so that Alexander might become Great," King said.
Pictures released by the Culture Minister show the middle part of the mosaic is missing, however, archaeologists have found many pieces of the damaged portion and will try to piece the floor back together.
Credit: Greece Ministry of Culture