Since 2004 we have been working at the site of the Sanctuary of Zeus. Excavations were carried out in the lower sanctuary, 2006-2010 and at the altar and temenos at the southern peak of the mountain, 2007-2010. Following five years of study between 2011-2015, excavations resumed in both the upper and lower sanctuaries from 2016-2019, paused two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and finished in 2022. A study season is planned for the summer of 2023.
Originally a joint University of Pennsylvania Museum and University of Arizona project, the research is now sponsored by the University of Arizona together with the Greek Archaeological Service under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the Ministry of Culture and Sports. Our project is a synergasia meaning that we work together with our Greek colleagues in all aspects of our work. We have finished almost 20 very productive years in the field and have learned important information and details about the altar, temenos and the lower mountain meadow with its Sanctuary of Pan, the site of the Lykaion Games and the only visible hippodrome in the ancient Greek world.
Earlier excavations from the late 19th and early 20th centuries under the auspices of the Archaeological Society of Athens provided the first evidence of dedications from the mountain-top shrine. We are greatly indebted to the early work of K. Kontopoulos and K. Kourouniotis for their endeavors and early publications. From these early excavations it was learned that the ash altar area was used to burn the dedications of animals and several ancient authors including Plato, Theophrastus and Pausanias mention human sacrifice at the site. Questions that were important in our early thinking in 2004 related to how did these dedications begin and where did the cult of Zeus come from? How early were athletic contests (well known from the Classical period) associated with the cult? How does the Sanctuary of Zeus at Mt. Lykaion and its athletic program relate to the nearby cult of Zeus at Olympia?