Returning Parthenon Marbles and News about Mt. Lykaion

As I mentioned in my previous post, there are a couple of interesting stories concerning ancient Greece in the news.

The first concerns the return of marble fragments from the Parthenon. From CBC News:

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano arrived in the Greek capital on Tuesday for an official visit.
Part of his busy itinerary revolves around returning a fragment of the Parthenon frieze that had been in the collection of the Salinas Archaeological Museum in Palermo.
The fragment features the foot and part of the dress of Greek hunting goddess Artemis and is part of a larger scene depicting the gods of Olympis. The fragment was removed from the ancient Greek monument by Lord Elgin, the 19th century British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, who later gave it to a British official in Sicily.

Kudos to Italy!
The second piece of nes concerns the continuing excavations at Mt. Lykaion, which has yielded a surprise (to me at least). From PhysOrg.Com (this is the surprising part):

The team has unearthed large amounts of Final Neolithic and Early Bronze Age ceramics that date back to at least 3000 B.C, and probably earlier – which is unusual for such a location.
“Some of the material we have found is significantly older than what what was uncovered in the santuary at Olympia,” she said, adding that the site of the original Olympic Games is about 20 miles away. The earliest evidence of religious activity at Olympia is 11th century B.C., Voyatzis added.
“So we’re wondering which way the influence was in fact going,” she said.

That is an interesting question, at least for me, because I have always thought of Olympia as one of the centers of “all things Greek” and assumed that the influence flowed from Olympia rather than to it. At any rate the article goes on to say that a number of pieces of Mycenaean pottery have been found as well. From PhysOrg:
Excavators of the altar have uncovered a great deal of material, including pottery evidence ranging in date from the 14th century through the 3rd century B.C. They also have found silver coins, a bronze hand figure holding a silver lightening bolt, Hellenic fineware and – a curious find – petrified lightning.
“It kind of glistens in the sun and is porous like slag,” Voyatzis said.
“When (George) Davis saw it, he said it was exciting that we found a decent-sized piece,” she added. “It makes you wonder what the ancients understood about this natural phenomenon and why Zeus was worshipped on mountaintops.”

6 Responses

  1. Petrified lightning is fulgurite.

  2. Yes, I know…

  3. The excavations on Mt. Lykaion are fascinating–I had heard of them from a Greek friend who had taken part in them a year or so ago, and I reported on some of the findings here:
    The stuff they are finding predates the popular Hellenic Pantheon–that is, although this mountain is the birthplace of Zeus (ok, one of many), what they are digging up now precedes Zeus… which is just amazing.
    A few months after writing my piece, I actually went to Greece–I am terribly sad that we did not get to Lykaion, but… a resource for you of a different source. Pedro Olalla has written “A Mythological Atlas Of Greece”, which attempts (quite admirably and mostly successfully) to place Greek Mythology in the geographical locations that gave rise to those myths. Some are easy, of course, like Mt. Olympus or Delphi, where the physical characteristics of the place are clearly connected to their mythological status. Others are more difficult, and Olalla has his work cut out for him to find the potential source for this or that cave, this or that river, this or that mountain, when only fragments of reports remain, and there is no necessity for such a place to exist in reality in the first place.
    I spoke with Olalla, and asked him if he thought the philosophical contributions, the inventions of the political concept of freedom, etc., could have come from any other landscape than Greece’s. Yeah, a loaded question to ask him, and of course the answer was “no”. There is, for the segment of your readers in the (broadly defined) “Western world”, a continuing influence of Lykaion, of Athens, of Delphi, in our current lives. Culture evolves like organisms do, building upon the past, and these places are our cultural genetic past.
    From my earlier post:
    In Arcadia, Greece, high atop Mount Lykaion,
    The weather is rough, but the view is quite nice;
    It’s not a location for children to play on,
    But rather, an altar for burnt sacrifice.
    Mythologists tell us, before written history
    Lykaion was seen as the birthplace of Zeus.
    Archaeologists now have uncovered a mystery–
    Clues, which have thus far been used to deduce
    That a culture was here that predated the Greeks
    And which worshipped, not Zeus, but an earlier god.
    That god is forgotten, and now only speaks
    Through the fragments of artifacts under the sod.
    The earliest pieces are pottery shards
    That date back to 3000 years BCE.
    Which pushes the date back that history regards
    As the date the beginning’s beginnings must be.
    High atop “Wolf Mountain’s” rocky side
    A culture’s history comes into view;
    Where one god was born, another died–
    Reminding us: gods are mortal too.

  4. “Petrified lightning” for fulgurite is something I’ve never seen, but apparently that’s straight from the U of AZ release. It does had a poetic dose of woo. Maybe Zeus will make a comeback. Well, it’s “beddy bye time” now.

  5. Not about ancient Greece but interesting none the less:
    Mysterious Neolithic People Made Optical Art

  6. Marija Gimbutas probably would not like this, but there are those who think that the people who preceded the Greeks in Greece were other Indo-Europeans. Hubert LaMarle has demonstrated that Linear A, written in Crete before Mycenaean Linear B (which was Greek) was Indo-Iranian, related to Avestan (early Persian) and Sanskrit. If the people whom the classical Greeks referred to as Pelasgians spoke a related language, the deity worshipped at Wolf Mountain may have been an earlier incarnation of Zeus himself. After all, his name goes back to the Proto-Indo-European *Diwos, according to Calvert Watkins, a reference to the bright daytime sky. The Illyrians were certainly Indo-European, as were the Thracians, though we cannot say much about their languages. So were the Hittites and Luwians in Anatolia, who worshipped another incarnation of this same god, calling him Tiwaz or Ziwaz. In fact, all the way across Central Asia, the Tocharians (whose name may have come from that of the thunder god, probably thakkura in Bronze Age Sanskrit, Tarhun in Hittite), may well have given the Mongols their name for the sky god, Tengger, and even the ancient Chinese of the Shang dynasty, t’ien (Karlgren) or t’en (Pulleyblank).

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