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3,000-Year Old Skeleton Might Confirm Human Sacrifice in Greek Religion

Aug 12, 2016 02:50 AM EDT
Mt. Lykaion
A 3,000 year old skeleton was discovered at an altar dedicated to Greek god Zeus, suggesting possible occurence of human sacrifice in the past.
(Photo : By Danno1 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

Archeologists have discovered the remains of a 3,000-year old skeleton at a man-made altar atop Mount Lykaion in Arcadia, Greece, suggesting the occurrence of human sacrifice to appease the Greek's supreme God, Zeus.

Seeker reported that the discovered skeleton was most likely to be an adolescent male. It was found at the heart of the 100-foot broad ash altar close to a man-made platform of stone. The researchers were surprised when they saw a very unusual detail in the skeleton and where it was buried. The upper part of its skull is missing. Furthermore, the remains are oriented east-west with 5-foot long border of field stones in both sides, while stone slabs covered the pelvis area.

The team of archeologists is still not sure the exact cause of the teenager's death. But the discovery of the remains in a sacrificial altar, which is not used as cemetery, strengthens their assumption that the man was sacrificed.

"Whether it's a sacrifice or not, this is a sacrificial altar ... so it's not a place where you would bury an individual. It's not a cemetery," excavator David Gilman Romano, professor of Greek archaeology at the University of Arizona told Washington Post.

According to some legends, there are times when a young boy is sacrificed together with animals. Meats from the young boy and animal were mixed and cooked together. Whoever ate the human part would become wolf for nine years.

Mount Lykaion is often referred as the birthplace of Zeus. It is known to be the earliest known site where the god of thunder and weather was worshipped. Numerous animals, mostly sheep and goats, were slaughtered in the area as sacrifice for Zeus. This mass slaughtering resulted in the creation of the mountain top altar made out of mounds of animal ashes.

The excavation at Mount Lykaion began in 2007 until 2010. It was resumed again this year with only seven percent of the altar excavated. The excavation of the sanctuary will continue until 2020.

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