A team of US and Greek archaeologists has found a 3,100-year-old human burial at a sacrificial altar dedicated to Zeus, the supreme deity in Greek religion. The find was atop Mount Lykaion in the region of Greece known as Arcadia.
The skeleton probably belongs to a male adolescent and dates back to the 11th century B.C., at the the end of the Mycenaean era, whose heroes were immortalized in Homer's epics.
The finding may confirm one of the most gruesome legends of antiquity, which tells of a young boy sacrificed with animals. According to the grim tale, the human and animal meat was mixed and cooked together. Whoever ate the human meat would become a wolf for nine years. (SEE PHOTOS BELOW)
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Referred to in classical literature as Zeus's birthplace, Mount Lykaion is the earliest known site where the omnipotent god was worshiped. Tens of thousands of animals, mainly sheep and goats, were slaughtered in his honor.
In fact, the mountaintop altar is basically a mound made of the animals' ashes.
"A cult activity continued there uninterrupted for more than a thousand years, from the Mycenaean period down through the Hellenistic period," David Gilman Romano, of the University of Arizona, said.
Romano has been excavating the site since 2004 with a Greek-American archaeological team, the Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project.
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The human burial was unearthed from a trench close to a man-made platform of stones towards the center of the sacrificial altar.
Missing the skull, but conserving the jaw, the skeleton lay face-up, with an east-west orientation. A 5 foot-long border of field stones was found at each side of the burial, while stone slabs covered the pelvis area.
"Several ancient authors discuss human sacrifice at the ash altar of Zeus at Mt. Lykaion. But up until a few weeks ago there has been no trace whatsoever of human bones discovered at the site," Romano told Discovery News.
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