A 3,000-Year-Old Teen Skeleton Unearthed On Greek Mountain: Human Sacrifice To God Zeus?

A human skeleton believed to be that of a teen has been recovered at a site where sacrifices were made to the the chief Greek god, Zeus, archaeologists have announced. It is believed that the remains found on Mount Lykaion could be confirmation of human sacrifice at the rituals, a practice that had heretofore only lived on in folklore and in a few references in Greek literature.

The Associated Press reported on August 11 that Greece's Culture Ministry announced the preceding day that a skeleton of what was believed to have been a teen human (perhaps an adolescent boy) had been recovered in the midst of a mound of ashes and of animal bones on Mount Lykaion, long revered in Greek mythology as the birthplace of the god Zeus. The skeleton was discovered in the middle of an ancient ash altar stretching 100 feet wide (30 meters) that abutted a constructed stone platform.

Archaeologists say the ashes were an accumulation of thousands of animal sacrifices over a thousand-year period. The human bones are estimated to be roughly 3,000 years old.

Although the findings are preliminary, investigators note that the human skeleton is significant in that they could very well confirm that the religious cults associated with Mount Lykaion did indeed practice human sacrifice. Prior to the discovery of the skeleton, the only "proof" of the ceremonial killings had come through the works of ancient Greek writers such as Plato, who wrote of the practice to the god Zeus. Evidence of human sacrifice to the gods has been rare and, according to archaeologists, never before confirmed to have taken place on the Greek mainland.


David Gilman Romano, one of the excavators and professor of Greek archaeology at the University of Arizona, said that "up until a few weeks ago there has been no trace whatsoever of human bones discovered at the site." The site is thus far the oldest known place of worship of Zeus and pottery shards there have been dated to the 11th century BCE, which ended the Mycenaean era (written about by Homer and inspiration for many of Greece's mythic heroes). Human habitation atop Mount Lykaion, though, stretches back 5,000 years.

The actual sacrificing of animals atop the mountain started prior to around 1,500 BCE and continued until sometime into the 3rd century ACE. During that time, scientists estimate that tens of thousands of animals were sacrificed to Zeus. And, now, there may be evidence that human sacrifice may have been included in the rituals.

According to legend, animals were sacrificed alongside a human boy. The meat of those sacrificed was cooked together and eaten. Legend had it that those who ate of the human part would transform into a wolf for nine years.

When the teen skeleton was unearthed, investigators found that the upper part of the skull was missing. The remains were placed among two rows of stones on an east-west axis. Stone slabs covered the pelvis. (A photo of the skeleton's placement can be seen at Archaeology magazine's website.)

Romano admitted to the Associated Press that the altar was an odd place to bury someone...

"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."


The find on Mount Lykaion adds to the growing knowledge concerning ancient Greek civilization. Back in June, the Inquisitr reported that scientists revealed that they had been able to discern much of the highly corroded text on the Antikythera Mechanism, a mysterious contraption that seems to have been part astronomical calculator and part manual, a philosopher's guide to the galaxy. The device has been dated as being about 2,100 years old.

The recently unearthed skeleton is part of a site where, archaeologists say, only about seven percent of the altar has been revealed.

[Image via Shutterstock]