Horse-themed floor mosaic dating back 2300 years found in tomb

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The horse-themed floor mosaic, with Hermes, left, and an unidentified male at right, possible Phillip II, the father of Alexander the Great. Photos: Greek Culture Ministry
The horse-themed floor mosaic, with Hermes, left, and an unidentified male at right, possible Phillip II, the father of Alexander the Great. Photos: Greek Culture Ministry

A stunning horse-themed floor mosaic has been found by Greek archaeologists exploring the massive Amphipolis burial complex discovered in northern Greece in August.

The mosiac depicts two horses drawing a chariot, apparently being led by an individual identified as Hermes, the messenger of the gods. Hermes is depicted as conductor of souls to the afterlife in the mosaic.

Hermes appears to be leading the horses.
Hermes appears to be leading the horses.

The unidentified man occupying the chariot is wearing a laurel wreath. Experts suspect it may be Philip II, who was Alexander the Great’s father, who won such a wreath during the Olympic Games.

The mosaic covers three metres by four metres – the entire floor area of the chamber in which it was found. The archaeologists believe it may be the final room before the main burial chamber, which researchers hope will lead to the identity of the individual buried there.

The mosaic is made up of pebbles of white, black, gray, blue, red and yellow.

Greece’s Culture Ministry released images of the floor mosaic on Sunday.

A circular portion of the mosaic near the middle is missing, but authorities hope enough fragments have been found to reconstruct a substantial part of it. The missing section measures about 0.8 metres across.

The ministry said archaeologists dated the mosaic to the last quarter of fourth century BC (325-300 BC).

The date, it said, was consistent with their belief the grave contained the remains of a contemporary of Alexander the Great, the ancient Greek King of Macedonia.

Archaeologists speculate the grave may hold the body of a close relative or general within Alexander’s army. There is speculation it may hold Roxana, Alexandra’s Persian wife, or Olympias, his mother.

However, despite speculation the man depicted in the chariot may be Alexander’s father, his body is understood to have been laid to rest in a tomb at Vergina, 160 kilometres from Amphipolis.

Alexander himself died at the age of 32 in 323 BC in Babylon, in what is now Iraq.

He is believed to have been buried in Egypt, but his tomb has not been found.

Below is a three-dimensional model of the Amphipolis tomb, based on information to date.

 

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