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Conservators clean up the bronze bull idol uncovered in Olympia.	Source: Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports

Beautiful Bronze Bull Idol Revealed By Rains In Olympia

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A 2,700-year-old bronze bull idol has ‘come to light’ during excavations at the ancient site of Olympia in Greece. The stunning and perfectly preserved artifact is thought to have been a votive offering to the god Zeus.

‘Came to light in the Sun’

The Greek Ministry of Culture announced Friday that the intact bronze figurine of a bull has been brought to the surface by water eroding the soil during heavy rains. One of the bull’s impressive horns was seen protruding from the ground by Mrs. Zacharoula Leventouris, an archaeologist working in the area.

According to  Ephorate of Antiquities of Ilia , the experts at the scene of the discovery immediately extracted the idol from its resting place and it was ‘tended to’ by the onsite conservators. The initial examination of the object shows that it is likely one of thousands of votive offerings that were presented to  Zeus at Olympia around the geometric period (1050 - 700 BC). Now the artifact will be studied to ascertain its precise age and origins.

The bronze bull figurine in situ near the Temple of Zeus, Olympia, Greece. (Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports)

The bronze bull figurine in situ near the Temple of Zeus, Olympia, Greece. ( Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports )

A Matter of Survival

Many offerings were made during this time and often included idols of horses or bulls, which were incredibly important for survival at this time. The release on  Ilia-olympia explains the importance of the bull gave it a ‘special role in the  worship of the gods of antiquity’, and so to find an offering here, at the great sanctuary of Zeus, the king of all  the gods , is to be expected. But to find such a pristine example is astonishing.

Aerial drone photo of the enthralling ruins of ancient Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games. ( aerial-drone / Adobe Stock )

Aerial drone photo of the enthralling ruins of ancient Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games. (  aerial-drone / Adobe Stock  )

Olympia and the Sanctuary of Zeus

Zeus was the king of the gods and nowhere is this status more in evidence than at the city of  Olympia, which was a major religious sanctuary open to all Greeks, regardless of their home city-state.

The sanctuary was primarily dedicated to Zeus, and was the location not only of the playing of the  Olympic Games  but one of the  Wonders of the Ancient World , the  Statue of Zeus.  The statue no longer exists and the temple in which it stood are now ruins, but in its day tis giant figure was probably the most famous statue in existence, standing the height of a modern four story building and considered to be the incarnate of the Zeus himself.

Conservators clean the rare object. (Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports)

Conservators clean the rare object. ( Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports )

Incredibly Bullish Bronze Bull

The bull idol, in contrast, although it certainly has an incredibly impressive set of horns, is much smaller in stature, around 8cm long by 6cm tall (3.2 by 2.4 inches). It is thought to have been an offering as the sediment in which it was discovered had evidence of burn marks, and many other such figurines had been found in a thick layer of ash by the altar of Zeus.

The bronze bull idol has one impressive set of horns! (Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports)
The bronze bull idol has one impressive set of horns! (Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports)

The bronze bull idol has one impressive set of horns! ( Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports )

The ongoing research at this famous and impressive site is often making fantastic discoveries like this. In 2018, Ancient Origins reported on a clay tablet found at the site which is thought to be  the earliest example of an exert from Homer’s Odessey .

Now that the figure has been cleaned up it will be studied in detail before joining the other examples of idols on display at the Archaeological museum at the site.

Top image: Conservators clean up the bronze bull idol uncovered in Olympia.       Source:  Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports

By Gary Manners

Comments

Thanks for the write-up, Gary.

What an amazing, beautiful find, the woman who found it must have been so thrilled.   I like the fact that Mrs. Leventouris was named, and credited.  In the past, sometimes the “big egos” of the lead archeologist overshadowed all, so it’s nice to see a bit of “democratisation”…...well, after all, this is Greece!

 

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