Greek temples honored specific gods and goddesses, and now new research suggests that even the dirt under such buildings held spiritual significance.
The discovery could help explain why writers like Homer and Plato wrote of "divine soil" and soil that can affect a person's soul. It may also explain how the ancients selected locations for their sacred buildings.
"Temple sites were chosen to honor the personality and aspirations of gods and goddesses, which, in turn, were shaped by the economic basis for their cults," author Gregory Retallack told Discovery News.
Retallack, a professor of geological sciences at the University of Oregon, took soil samples from 84 Greek temple sites dating to the Classical Age from 480 to 338 B.C. Based on analysis of each sample, he created a profile for the soils naming their characteristics and how they might have been used at the time.
His findings are published in the latest issue of Antiquity.