A bronze figurine of a bull believed to be at least 2,500 years old has been unearthed in Greece following heavy rain near the ancient site of Olympia.
Burn marks on the statuette suggest it may have been one of thousands of offerings to the Greek god Zeus.
The discovery of the small, intact item was made by archaeologists near a temple, Greece’s culture ministry said.
An archaeologist spotted one of the bull’s horns sticking out of the mud after a downpour, it added.
The item was immediately transferred to a laboratory for examination.
Initial testing has indicated that the bull idol, which was found last month, dates from the Geometric period – about 1050BC to 700BC – of Greek art, the culture ministry said in a statement on Friday.
Animals such as bulls and horses are believed to have been worshipped over that period because of their importance for human survival.
Like other animal and human figurines, the bull discovered near the temple of Zeus was likely to have been offered by believers during a sacrifice, which would explain the burn marks and “sediments removed during its purification”, the ministry added.
The site of Olympia in Greece is the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games.