Lykaion: Cannibalistic Despot or Tourist Destination? Both!

Lykaion may be best known to students of myth as the cruel king of Arcadia, who liked to indulge in human sacrifice and cannibalism, and who so offended the gods that he provoked the near extermination of humanity.

But Mt. Lykaion is also one of the places where Zeus may have been born (Crete and Naxos are other candidates). And recent excavations by David Romano of the University of Pennsylvania have revealed Mt. Lykaion to be one of the oldest cult centers in ancient Greece.

What would surprise Pausanias—as it is surprising archaeologists—is how early that “beginning” actually may be. New pottery evidence from excavations by the Greek-American, interdisciplinary team of the Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project indicates that the ash altar—a cone of earth located atop the southern peak of Mt Lykaion where dedications were made in antiquity— was in use as early as 5,000 years ago—at least 1,000 years before the early Greeks began to worship the god Zeus.

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