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Zeus' altar drew early visitors

Long after his heyday as the head god of ancient Greece, Zeus has thrown a curveball rather than a lightning bolt at scientists. New excavations of the Sanctuary of Zeus at Greece's Mount Lykaion indicate that religious activity occurred there as early as 5,000 years ago, at least a millennium before the Greeks began to worship Zeus.

Last year, a team led by David G. Romano of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia excavated 5,000- to 3,200-year-old pottery fragments from the site's ash altar, a cone of earth situated atop Mount Lykaion's southern peak. Ancient Greeks conducted ceremonies at Zeus' ash altar, but until now evidence of such activity dated to no more than about 2,700 years ago.

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