Dating gods: Radiocarbon dates from the sanctuary of Zeus on Mt. Lykaion (Arcadia, Greece)

Britt M. Starkovich, Gregory W.L. Hodgins, Mary E. Voyatzis, David Gilman Romano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


This paper reports the results of the application of a calcined bone dating protocol to samples collected from the Sanctuary of Zeus on Mt. Lykaion in southern Greece. The site is a mountaintop ash altar rich in anthropogenic sediments, burned bone, and artifacts offered to the god Zeus. Experiments involving time series hydrolysis measurements were conducted on calcined bones from stratified layers throughout the sequence to determine if any of the samples underwent surface contamination from carbonate exchange with the surrounding sedimentary matrix. It was determined that such exchange was unlikely, but samples were acid-etched before pretreatment as a precautionary measure. Paired samples of seeds, charcoal, and calcined animal bone collected from a sediment column in the altar demonstrate the effectiveness of the calcined bone dating technique in this context. The results of dating indicate that the altar was in use from the Mycenaean period through the late Classical period, though samples were not collected from the upper levels of the site due to possible mixing of surface sediments. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) measurements were taken and crystallinity index values calculated, confirming that the bone samples are indeed calcined. The results presented here correspond with literary accounts of ritual animal sacrifice from historical texts from the 8th century BCE, including the Homeric epics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)501-513
Number of pages13
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2013


  • Ash altar
  • Bronze age Greece
  • Calcined bone dating
  • FTIR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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