Washington, Jan 24 : New evidence from excavations made by archaeologists at the ash altar of Zeus in Arcadia, Greece, has indicated that the place of worship was in use as early as 5,000 years ago, which is at least 1,000 years before the early Greeks began to worship the god Zeus.
According to a report in Science Daily, the Greek-American, interdisciplinary team of the Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project made the excavations.
High in the Arcadian mountains, the sanctuary at Mt. Lykaion was well known in antiquity as one of the most famous Zeus shrines in ancient Greece, as well as a site of early athletics in honor of the Greek's greatest god.
As for the ash altar of Zeus, it is a cone of earth where dedications and sacrifices were made in ancient times.
The excavations, carried out at the altar last summer, yielded Early, Middle and Late Helladic, ca. 3000-1200 BCE pottery sherds, indicating activity in this region from as early as 3000 BCE.
Apart from the discovery of the ancient pottery in the area, a rock crystal seal, bearing an image of a bull, of probable Late Minoan times (1500-1400 BCE) were also found on the altar. his finding suggests an intriguing early cultural connection between the Minoan isle of Crete and Arcadia.
Overall, the new material creates a vastly different account of the history of the altar and the site.
The fact that the ash altar of Zeus includes early material dating back to 3000 BCE, suggests that the tradition of devotion to some divinity on that spot is very ancient. The altar is long standing and may in fact pre-date the introduction of Zeus in the Greek world.
"We don't yet know how the altar was first used, and whether it was used in connection with natural phenomena such as wind, rain, light or earthquakes, possibly to worship some kind of divinity male or female or a personification representing forces of nature," said David Gilman Romano, a co-director of the Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project.
The project will continue excavations at the altar, and other areas of the sanctuary, in 2008, with plans to continue work through 2010.