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Underworld Queen Persephone Uncovered in Greek Myth Mosaic

THESSAALONIKI, GREECE:  An imposing mosaic uncovered in the largest antique tomb ever discovered in Greece depicts the myth of the abduction of Persephone, Zeus's daughter who became goddess of the underworld, the Greek culture ministry said on Thursday.

The 4.5 metre by three metre (15 foot by 10 foot) floor mosaic was discovered in a huge tomb that was discovered in August in Amphipolis, a northern Greek town. It dates back to the fourth century BC.

Other parts of the picture, made of tiny pieces of white, black, blue, red, yellow and grey, show a chariot driven by a bearded man and the Greek god Hermes on foot, looking back at the man.

The rest of the mosaic, uncovered only this week, shows a woman on the chariot, holding out one arm with a sorrowful expression on her face.

The figure "is that of a young woman with red tresses, wearing a white dress and jewels on her left wrist. It's obviously the abduction of Persephone by Pluto," the ministry said in a statement.

According to Greek mythology, Persephone was abducted by Hades, also known as Pluto, the god of the underworld, to be his wife.

Zeus, pressed by Persephone's grief-stricken mother Demeter, sent Hermes to bring her back. But Hades had her first taste red pomegranate seeds -- the fruit of life -- and thus secured her return to be with him for part of every year.

Katerina Peristeri, the chief archeologist at the dig, told a news conference on Thursday that the mosaic's theme was "purely to do with death".

"But the scene represented in the form of a mosaic is unique in Greece," stressed the secretary general of the culture ministry, Lina Mendoni.

There is widespread speculation over who was buried at the site: from Roxana, the Persian wife of Alexander the Great, to Olympias, the king's mother, to one of his generals.

"It's too early to say if this is a royal tomb," Peristeri said.

The burial site contains three chambers, two of which have been uncovered. The archeologists are to begin on the third chamber on Saturday.

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