Archaeologists working on top of a Greek mountain have made a sinister discovery: they found the skeleton of a teenager, amid several other bones and a mound of ashes. This was likely a sacrifice for the god Zeus and could confirm one of the most gruesome Greek legends.
The headless skeleton was uncovered with the bones laying on the East-West, a position thought to have a ritual significance. The skeleton was laid on top of a pile of ash made from centuries of burnt animal remains. The gruesome site was estimated to be 3,000 years old, and the sacrifices were made at a temple of Zeus, the most significant god in the Greek pantheon.
The teenager was in the supine position and buried with ceramic pottery, located on a panoramic position of the Lykaion Mountain.
Archaeologists working at the site confirmed that this is the first time human remains had been found in the area:
“Several ancient literary sources mention rumors that human sacrifice took place at the altar, but up until a few weeks ago, there has been no trace whatsoever of human bones discovered at the site,” excavation leader David Gilman Romano, a professor of Greek archaeology at the University of Arizona, told the Associated Press.
A sinister legend
The finding seems to fit with a legend written by the ancient writer Pausanias (A.D. 110-180). Pausanias wrote of a king, Lycaon, who was turned into a wolf after sacrificing a young boy. It was a common belief at the time that cannibalism would turn people into wolves.
“Lycaon brought a human baby to the altar of (Zeus) and sacrificed it, pouring out its blood upon the altar, and according to the legend, immediately after the sacrifice, he was changed from a man to a wolf,” Pausanias wrote in a book on the geography of Greece (translation from a “Description of Greece with an English Translation” by W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D., and H.A. Ormerod, Harvard University Press, 1918).
Mount Lykaion was for centuries associated with the most nefarious of Greek cults, Plato himself writing about the human sacrifices made in the name of Zeus. There may be some facts behind this myth, but it’s still too early to draw any conclusions.
“Scientific study of the skeleton is in progress and despite the fact that it is still too early to draw conclusions about the circumstances of the death, the prominence of the orientation of the oceans and the altar demonstrates the importance of the burial,” they said in their announcement.