Surprise! Amphipolis Mosaic Shows a Goddess Going to Hell

Image: Persephone mosaic
Archaeologists say a floor mosaic in an ancient tomb under excavation at Amphipolis in northern Greece depicts the myth of the abduction of Persephone by Hades, with the messenger god Hermes leading the chariot as a psychopomp, a guide to the underworld. A central section of the mosaic is missing, but the excavation team says it may be possible to reconstruct it from pebbles found amid nearby soil.Greek Culture Ministry via Reuters

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/ Source: Live Science

A newly revealed mosaic on the floor of a vast Greek tomb shows Hades hauling his reluctant bride Persephone to the underworld, archaeologists announced Thursday.

When the artwork was first uncovered a few days ago, excavators could only see part of the scene. The mosaic seemed to show Hermes, the Greek messenger God and son of Zeus, in a broad-brimmed hat, leading a horsedrawn chariot with a bearded man in tow.

But when more dirt was removed, a third figure came into view: a woman stretching her arm out in distress. Archaeologists with the Greek Ministry of Culture say it's now clear the mosaic depicts a famous scene from Greek mythology: the abduction of Persephone, sometimes called the rape of Persephone.

Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and the harvest goddess Demeter, was carried off to the underworld by Hades to reign as his queen. She eventually worked out a deal to split her time between her mother on Earth and her husband in the underworld. The story was used to explain the changing seasons.

The room-size mosaic, which is made up of brightly colored pebbles, lies in an antechamber in the huge Kasta Hill burial mound at Amphipolis, an ancient city about 65 miles (104 kilometers) east of Thessaloniki. Greeks and armchair archaeologists have been watching the excavation with great excitement. [See Photos of the Tomb's Excavation and Mosaic]

Greek archaeologist Katerina Peristeri, who is leading the project, says the tomb dates back to the fourth century B.C., during the era of Alexander the Great. Peristeri has been tight-lipped about who she thinks might have been buried in the tomb, but on Thursday she told reporters that the person must have been "extremely important."

— Megan Gannon, LiveScience

This is a condensed version of a report from LiveScience. Read the full report. Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter and Google+. Follow LiveScience on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.