Evidence indicates Greek cult sacrificed animals on mountaintop altar 3,200 yrs ago

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Washington, Jan 27 (ANI): A team of archaeologists has found evidence which suggests that a Greek cult worshipped Zeus, the "king of Gods", and sacrificed animals as part of rituals, atop Mount Lykaion in Arcadia 3,200 years ago.

According to a report in Discovery News, the archaeological team, from the University of Pennsylvania Museum, discovered burnt animal bones, petrified lightning and a bronze male hand grasping a silver lightning bolt at the mountaintop site of a Mycenaean Greek cult, whose members gathered around an "open fire altar".

"Zeus was a sky god, and the lightning bolt was one of his important emblems," project field director David Gilman Romano told Discovery News.

Romano and his team dug a trench at the high-altitude site and uncovered a trove of artifacts, including burnt bones - mostly from goats and sheep - human and animal figurines, drinking vessels, miniature bronze tripods, silver coins and a small double-headed axe known as a labrys, a motif incorporated into labyrinths found elsewhere in Greece and around the world.

The bronze male hand holding the silver lightning bolt likely represents Zeus, according to the archaeologists.

It was found near a sample of glass-like fulgurite, otherwise known as petrified lightning, which is formed when lightning strikes sandy soil.

It is not clear if the fulgurite was formed on the mountain or elsewhere.

"The altar would have been situated on top of the hill and may have been represented by a ring of stones," Romano said, adding that it was flanked by a nearby sacred area known as a temenos, which appeared to have no temple or other structure.

Early writings suggest that Mycenaean cult members sacrificed animals - and possibly even humans - before feasting.

Romano and his colleagues haven't found any human bones at the site, but indicated they would not be surprised if they did.

The recent discoveries support the writings of Pausanias, a second century B.C. Greek historian who described "the birthplace of Zeus" at Arcadia in his multi-volume Description of Greece.

In addition to searching for human remains on the mountaintop, the archaeologists continue to look for a shrine to Pan - god of mountain wilds - that historical texts suggest might be nearby. (ANI)

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