Greek archaeologists excavating a massive Alexander the Great-era burial mound complex at Kasta Hill, in the northern Greek region of Serres, have found more Greek gods while excavating a large elegant blue and gold mosaic floor found over the weekend.
Initially all that could be seen of the floor was the Greek god Hermes, in front of a chariot drawn by two white horses bearing an unknown bearded man wearing a laurel wreath on his head.
After more excavation this week, the archaeologists have realised the floor tells the mythical tale of Zeus' daughter Persephone being abducted by Pluto, the god of the underworld (who used to be known as Hades).
It was customary in these traditional representations of the tale for Hermes, who among other things was a guide to the underworld to be present in the depictions.
In the mosaic, Persephone wears a white robe bordered in red and has long red curling hair. She wears jewellery on her left wrist and her neck.
According to the Greek Ministry of Culture, this mosaic bears a striking resemblance to the "Rape of Persephone" wall mural in Tomb I, the supposed Macedonian Tomb of Persephone at the royal cemetery in Vergina (Aigai). This is the first time that a mosaic made from pebbles has been found in a funerary monument.
The mosaic floor measures 4.5m x 3m and is made from small pebbles in shades of white, black, grey, blue, red and yellow.
It shows Pluto wearing a laurel wreath on his head in a chariot drawn by two white horses, while Hermes, the Greek god of trade, travel, and a guide to the underworld (among other things) is depicted at the front of the cavalry, dressed in his signature winged cap, winged sandals, cape and kerykeion (herald's staff).
The floor was found in the chamber behind a stone sealing wall guarded by two exquisitely carved caryatid marble statues (sculpted female figures serving as an architectural support).
The Greek government formally announced to the world that the tomb had been discovered in Amphipolis in August, a Greek city that was founded by the Athenians in eastern Macedonia on the Strymon River in 438-437 BC.
Archaeologists took two years to excavate the burial mound on Kasta Hill to discover the entrance of the tomb, which is guarded by two sphinxes who lost their heads and wings in antiquity.
It is believed the tomb houses a very important figure from 320-300 BC, as the burial complex is ten times larger than the tomb of Alexander's father, Philip II of Macedon (read: Ancient Bones of Alexander the Great's Father King Philip II of Macedon Discovered in Northern Greece).
Greek media have repeatedly hypothesised that the tomb could belong to Alexander the Great but that is unlikely as the tomb was built after his death and his tomb is believed to be somewhere in Egypt, so current bets are on the general Laomedon, Alexander the Great's mother Olympias, or his wife Roxana.
Behind the sealing wall, an antechamber and three other chambers have been discovered, and it appears the tomb was sealed by pouring sandy soil into the tomb through gaps at the top of the diaphragmatic walls of the chambers.
The archaeologists spent three weeks uncovering the caryatid statues, which stand over 7.5ft tall (see more photos), from the sandy soil, and they have had to do the same in the second chamber behind the statues.
There is a hole in the middle of the mosaic floor in the shape of a circle, with a diameter measuring 0.8m, but several pieces of the damaged part of the floor have been found in the sandy soil and can hopefully be restored in time.
Now that the second chamber has been uncovered, the archaeologists have discovered the marble threshold of the third chamber, which is decorated with iconic moulding and is sealed by marble door panels.
The walls of the Kasta Hill tomb are made from limestone and the archaeologists believe the walls were once painted red. The tomb's chambers are all shaped like beehives with domes at the top, a style known as "tholos".
In the antechamber, another mosaic floor made from pieces of white marble on a red background was uncovered just behind the tomb entrance at the end of August.
The burial mound measures 497m across, with a wall that is 3m high. Although it is almost a complete circle carved in marble, it is built in levels similar to the way an Egyptian pyramid is built.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras paid an official visit to the site in August, along with his wife and the Greek Culture Minister Constantinos Tassoulas, where the archaeologists explained their findings from a two-year excavation (see more photos).
Since the visit, Greek media has accused Samaras of using the discovery as a distraction to the political troubles facing the rather shaky new coalition government, likening Amphipolis to an "archaeological Disneyland" attracting streams of tourists.
The famous Lion of Amphipolis, one of the best preserved monuments from 4th century BC, was found in 1912 by the Greek army in the river bed of the Strymónas.
Acclaimed architect Michael Lefantzis believes it once stood at the highest and most central point of the Kasta Hill mound. It now stands next to the old bridge over Strymónas river, on the street Amphipolis-Serraiki Akti.