Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Deity before Zeus? NYTimes Reports Archeologists Stumped

It's hard to know whether the story has been garbled by the reporter, or whether these archeologists truly aren't acquainted with the information that would un-stump them, but in an article in the Feb. 5 New York Times, "An Altar Beyond Olympus for a Deity Predating Zeus" (if that link doesn't work, try ), John Noble Wilford reports that archeologists seemed to be confounded by evidence of worship of a "pre-Zeus deity. Wilford writes:
... archaeologists say they have now found the ashes, bones and other evidence of animal sacrifices to some pre-Zeus deity on the summit of Mount Lykaion, in the region of Greece known as Arcadia. The remains were uncovered last summer at an altar later devoted to Zeus. Fragments of a coarse, undecorated pottery in the debris indicated that the sacrifices might have been made as early as 3000 B.C., the archaeologists concluded. That was about 900 years before Greek-speaking people arrived, probably from the north in the Balkans, and brought their religion with them.The excavators were astonished.
Gollygeewhillikers, they were worshipping someone else here before Zeus? Now who do you suppose that coulda been? Danged if i know...

Hmmm, well, within the Greek culture itself was Gaea, mother of all the gods, who is said to have nursed Zeus (and therefore, predated him), whose worship is said to have begun in Crete, and who was considered a "mountain mother." (See, for starters, these secondary web sources:

Or if you want to go to something more primary, try Homer: Illiad (8-7th cent. BCE) .

Wilford writes that Dr. Jack Davis, director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, under whose auspices this dig was undertaken, wrote to him in an email:
“We certainly know that Zeus and a female version of Zeus were worshiped in prehistoric times.... The trick will be in defining the precise nature of the site itself before historical times."
You want pre-history? The Neolithic? Could try reading The Language of the Goddess by Marija Gimbutas (oh, I forgot, you guys don't like to source her) or Riane Eisler's The Chalice and Blade, especially pp. 106-117 (1988 paper edition).

Zeus worshiped "in prehistoric" times is a bit of a stretch, although some sources trace his worship back to earlier gods in other cultures, which can be said of many deities. And Dr. Davis, about that phrasing "a female version of Zeus," since his name wasn't Zeus in the prehistoric and since Zeus came after Her, isn't it more appropriate (if a comparison is appropriate at all) to call Zeus a male version of the female deity(ies)?

To top it all off, there's a pic with this article with the caption: "Mystery Religion." Oh yes, it was a mystery religion all right. But the religion is no mystery.


Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

 Subscribe in a reader

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

Judith Laura

More blogs about /goddess/feminist theology/spiritual feminism/pagan/feminist spirituality/.