Greek writers, Plato and Pausanias, mention human sacrifice occurring on Mt. Lykaion (which translates to Wolf Mountain) in Greece. An archeological team who had been working on the site for over a decade had found no evidence of this. This changed in 2016 when human bones were found among thousands of animal bones.
Mt. Lykaion is purported to be the birthplace of Zeus, the leader of the Greek pantheon of gods. The Mt. Lykaion Survey and Excavation Project has been excavating at what is known as the Sanctuary of Zeus for over a decade.
As befits a sacrificial location an altar was found at the mountain's summit made of ash and measuring 100 feet in diameter. Unsurprisingly the team had found thousands of sheep and goat bones that had been sacrificed to Zeus, even though it's believed this altar was used previous to the belief in Zeus.
During an excavation in 2016, the bones belonging to an adolescent, missing the top of his skull was found. His entire skeleton was carefully laid out in a stone-lined grave that dates back 3,000 years.
Dark rumors of human sacrifice had surrounded this area, but until this discovery it was only an unsubstantiated story.
Pausanias visited this mound which was guarded by Doric columns with golden eagles atop, wrote. “I was reluctant to pry into the details of the sacrifice; let them be as they are and were from the beginning.” Despite his distaste for the bloodletting that had occurred at this site, he did record an ancient story passed down, which told of a king who had sacrificed a human baby and poured its blood upon the altar. This king then transformed into a wolf. Pausanias was not the only one to claim that both animals and human were sacrificed to Zeus.
Another legend told the story of Lycaon a king who ruled Arcadia and who the nearby mountain was named for. It was told that he challenged Zeus, claiming that he was not an all powerful god. In order to prove his claim, King Lycaon killed his own son Nyctimus, and served the cooked meat to Zeus, hoping he would break the taboo set down against eating human flesh. Zeus was not fooled and in retribution against the arrogant kind, brought his son back to life, and made Lycaon into a wolf. Was this the first werewolf?
This fate of Lycaon created an ancient cult which met at the mountain every decade on the mountain to conduct secret rites. Ceremonies supposedly involved human sacrifice, in which all the members would be served a meal, but only one plate was actual human flesh. This cannibal would be fated to be a wolf, unless he could refrain from eating more human flesh until the next gathering.
Buried at the foot of a sacrificial altar, was this boy a gruesome attempt to gain the favors of the gods?
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by Marlene Pardo Pellicer