I don’t know how I missed this, but National Geographic has an interesting article concerning archaeological excavations at Mt. Lykaion – one of the birthplaces of Zeus (the other being Mt. Ida in Crete, but we know what Epimenides thought of the Cretans). According to the article, excavations reveal that sacrifices took place at Mt. Lykaion a full 1,000 years before Zeus made an appearance:
Now pottery unearthed by the Greek-American Mount Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project shows the mountaintop’s conical ash altar was used for sacrifices and other rites centuries before Greeks began to worship their most powerful god.
The article continues:
“So if, as we suppose, the Greeks arrive in Greece at the beginning of the second millennium B.C., it is no surprise to see that their cult site goes back to the third millennium B.C.,” Dowden said in email.
“The cult sites of earlier inhabitants are still regarded as valid,” he said, “and when the language spoken eventually changes to Greek, so may the name of the god.
Which makes me think of the Pelasgians who do have some connection to Crete and, theoretically, pre-Greek inhabitants of Greece.
The excavations also have something to say about the later history:
Some Writers–including the second-century A.D. geographer Pausanias–have hinted that human sacrifices took place at the site.
So far, digging has turned up only numerous goat and sheep remains.
But an ancient hippodrome, stadium, and other buildings grace a lower-mountain meadow–remains of ancient athletic contests that once drew competitors from across Greece and rivaled the games at neighboring Olympia.
“In some ways Olympia might have been modeled after this site, which may have been–according to Pliny–an earlier site,” Romano said, referring to the first-century A.D. Roman scientist and historian.
The team has also unearthed an intriguing find from this later era–a rock crystal seal with an image of a bull that identifies it as Minoan, from around 1500-1400 B.C.
Filed under: Ancient Greece