Huge 4th Century BC Mosaic Uncovered in Greece
While working on an ancient burial site dating back to the 4th century in Amphipolis in Greece, archaeologists came upon a vast mosaic, spanning the whole floor of one of the rooms inside the site.
The mosaic is 3m wide (10ft) and 4.5m long (15ft). It is made up of pebbles in red, yellow, blue, black, white and grey, and depicts a horse-drawn chariot driven by a man wearing a laurel wreath. Beside the chariot-rider is the goddess Persephone, and the god Hermes is depicted in front of the chariot, appearing as if to lead the horses.
In Greek mythology, Hermes guides the dead to the underworld and Persephone is the queen of the underworld. It is the depictions of these gods in the mosaic that has added to the belief that the site is either a tomb, or an cenotaph, which is a monument built in honour of a person whose remains lay somewhere else.
And because of the grandeur of the site, this tomb (or cenotaph) was built for someone of great importance. It is also believed that, because of when the site dates back to, it is linked to Alexander the Great.
While Alexander himself died in Babylon (modern-day Iraq) and buried in Egypt in 323BC, his tomb has never been found. But obviously Greece isn’t Babylon or Egypt, and it is thought that the Amphipolis burial site could belong to either his wife, Roxana, or his mother, Olympias.
But just two days prior to the discovery of the mosaic, another team of researchers confirmed that some bones that were found in a royal tomb in the late 1970s only 100 miles away actually belonged to Alexander’s father, King Philip II.
“The chariot [in the mosaic] is pulled by two white horses and driven by a bearded man wearing a laurel wreath on his head,” read a statement from Greece’s Ministry of Culture.
And it is possible that the man riding the chariot is in fact King Philip. From busts of the king, it is shown that he sported a beard. He also lost his right eye during a siege, and the right side of the mosaic-man’s face is hidden. The chariot driver is also wearing a laurel wreath; King Philip II won a laurel wreath at the Olympic games.
Archaeologists have been digging at the site since August and being considered as the largest of its kind in Greece – even dwarfing King Philip’s actual burial tomb – the team still has a lot of work to do. The mosaic made up the floor of a room called an antechamber, which leads to the main room of the tomb. Perhaps some more information about the site’s purpose will be unveiled when more work has been carried out.
For now, though, speculation is all we have to go on. “The tomb is definitely dated to the period following the death of Alexander the Great,” said lead archaeologist Dr Katerina Peristeri, “but we cannot say who it belonged to.”