Archaeologists digging through a vast ancient tomb in Amphipolis in northern Greece have uncovered a floor mosaic that covers the whole area of a room known as the antechamber to the main burial chamber. The mosaic, 10 feet long and 15 feet wide, depicts a horseman with a laurel wreath driving a chariot drawn by two horses and preceded by the god Hermes. According to the Greek Ministry of Culture announcement made Sunday, Hermes is depicted here as the conductor of souls to the afterlife.
The mosaic is made up of pebbles in many colors: white, black, gray, blue, red and yellow. A circular part, near the center of the mosaic, is missing, but authorities say enough fragments have been found to reconstruct a large part.
Speculation has been running wild in recent weeks over who might be buried in the massive tomb complex currently being excavated at Amphipolis. In a breakthrough discovery last weekcarytaid, archeologists excavating the site have exposed two 7-foot-tall marble statues inside the tomb, guarding the entrance to its main chamber. According to some scholars, the presence of these sculpted female figures, known as caryatids, strongly suggests that the tomb may belong to Olympias, the mother of the great warrior-king Alexander the Great.
According to Andrew Chugg, author of “The Quest for the Tomb of Alexander the Great,” the figures may not depict ordinary women, but Klodones, priestesses of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine.
Apart from Olympias, the most likely candidate to have been buried in the massive tomb at Amphipolis appears to be Roxana, Alexander the Great’s wife. The Macedonian general Cassander murdered Roxana in 311 B.C., along with her son Alexander IV, his father’s rightful heir to the throne. Other possible candidates include Alexander’s admirals Androsthenes, Laomedon and Nearchus; his generals Hephaestion and Antigonus Monophthalmus; and even Cassander himself. Chugg disagrees with these latter possibilities, arguing that the presence of the caryatids as guardians of the tomb means the occupant could not be male.
A team of archeologists led by Katerina Peristeri began work at the site in 2012. Last month, they announced that they had unearthed a 1,600-foot-long marble wall encircling the tomb complex, a size that dwarfs the burial site of Philip II, Alexander’s father, in Vergina. Along with a long vaulted corridor leading to the tomb, the archeologists discovered two headless, wingless sphinxes guarding its entrance. They believe the tomb was originally crowned by a 16-foot-tall marble statue known as the Lion of Amphipolis, which was discovered a few miles away in the bed of the Strymonas River in 1912.