Last week i glimpsed some story about some ceramics found at the Sanctuary of Zeus at Mount Lykaion in Greece, but i didn’t expect much. Now it seems that the site was used 1,000 years prior to the introduction of the worship of Zeus to Greece.
Zeus’s famed alter at Mt. Lykaion may not have always been his, according to recent archaeological findings from Greece.
A team of Greek-American archaeologists working the famed Sanctuary of Zeus have discovered pottery remains that indicate the site was a place of worship long before the early Greeks began offering sacrifices to their most celebrated god.
Instead, archaeologists now believe the site was used for ancient dedication ceremonies as early as 5,000 years ago – at least 1,000 years before the known worship of Zeus began.
At Zeus’s Altar
Situated at 4,500 feet above sea level on Mt. Lykaion, the site offers one of the most famous Zeus shrines in ancient Greece. It features an ancient hippodrome (an open-air stadium with an oval course for horse and chariot races), and buildings related to the ancient athletic festival that rivalled the neighbouring sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia.
The site provides a picturesque view of Arcadia, thought to be Zeus’s domain, and is known to have served as an important Pan Arcadian as well as Pan Hellenic sanctuary that attracted pilgrims, athletes and dignitaries from all over the Greek world between 700 to 200 BCE.
“Mt. Lykaion, Arcadia is known from ancient literature as one of the mythological birthplaces of Zeus, the other being on Crete,” says Dr David Gilman Romano, a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and a co-director of the Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project.
“The fact that the ash altar to Zeus includes early material dating back to 3000 BCE suggests that the tradition of devotion to some divinity on that spot is very ancient. The altar is long standing and may in fact pre-date the introduction of Zeus in the Greek world. We don’t yet know how the altar was first used, and whether it was used in connection with natural phenomena such as wind, rain, light or earthquakes, possibly to worship some kind of divinity male or female or a personification representing forces of nature.”
These finding creates a vastly different account of the history at the Altar and the site.
It’s childish, but i hope that it’s discovered that there was indeed a personified god attached to the site prior to Zeus, specifically Cronos. It’s the mythology obsessed six year old in me that craves that.