Odysseus Unbound - The Search for Homer’s Ithaca

Press Coverage 2007

Dec 30 2007

Interview with Kelly Sokou in VIMagazino

ATHENS - "Mr Bittlestone is neither a philologist nor an archaeologist. He is a businessman, the founder of a management consultancy company and he is based in Britain, but he has recently been travelling in Greece. From the moment he read the lines of the Odyssey that describe 'Ithaca as low-lying and farthest to the west' he was intrigued. ‘How could one ignore the chance of finding a radical new solution to a 3,000 year old enigma?’ he replied when we asked him why a businessman had decided to seek the lost homeland of an epic hero of antiquity."

Full text of interview (English). VIMagazino extract (Greek).

Oct 11 2007

Interview with Bill Buschel of Hellenic Public Radio, Graffiti 19:10 - 19:45 EST

NEW YORK - Graffiti is a bimonthly program dedicated to the arts. Over the years, Bill Buschel - a storyteller himself - has proven his talent in detecting and interviewing interesting musicians, composers, artists, film-makers, translators, poets, actors, playwrights, authors and storytellers. This interview with Robert Bittlestone and John Underhill was recorded by telephone on October 3 and by the kind permission of its parent organisation, the Greek American Educational Public Information System (GAEPIS), the interview soundtrack has now been provided on this website. Our thanks are due to Bill for conducting the interview and to sound engineer Panagiotis for providing this recording (41 minutes).

Listen to interview (38Mb MP3)

Sep 6 2007

The Mystery of Ithaca - BBC Radio 4 Material World, 16:30

Presenter Quentin Cooper interviews John Underhill to discover how the mystery of Odysseus's island home, Ithaca, may soon be solved by geologists setting out to drill into the modern Greek island of Cephalonia – which they suggest was once two separate islands before earthquakes and landslides filled in the gap.

Homer’s Odyssey is the story of its hero’s eleven year quest to find his home island of Ithaca. If it’s a true story, it happened about 500 years before Homer composed his poem. Ever since then people have argued where the real island is. Now one theory places it on a peninsula of modern Cephalonia – once separated, it’s supposed, by a narrow channel of water. In two weeks' time a team of geologists will be heading there to see how old the bridge of rock between the two parts is, and whether it could have been built by earthquake-induced landslides. The leader of that team, Edinburgh’s Professor John Underhill joins Quentin Cooper and Durham University classicist Dr Barbara Graziosi to describe the theory and how their explorations will test it.

Listen to interview (7Mb MP3)

May 8 2007

Secrets of a lost world - The Engineer

"Scientists in the UK are preparing to solve an ancient mystery: the location of Ithaca as described in Homer’s Odyssey. In 2003 a group of UK academics proposed that this confusion has occurred not because of geographical errors by the poet but because of geological changes in the landscape that have occurred in the last 3,000 years.

Last month, the team announced it had joined up with Dutch geophysical prospecting company Fugro. Now, led by Edinburgh University geologist Prof John Underhill, the group is preparing to visit Kefalonia to use Fugro's technology to search for a buried sea channel consistent with their hypothesis. Steve Thomson, Fugro's director of airborne survey, said that initial tests are likely to be carried out from the air."

Click here for the full article (scroll down below the Pyramid pictures).

April 30 2007

FUGRO and Odysseus Unbound coverage in Dutch newspapers (click on logos for full text)

AD/Haagsche Courant: "Leading project role for Fugro: Search for the kingdom of Odysseus."

Het Financieele Dagblad: "Engineers will search for Odysseus' home. After 2,000 years the search for the isle of Odysseus has been reopened - Fugro will help."

Trouw: "Drilling for the isle of Odysseus; Dutch company will help search for the 'real' Ithaca."

Cobouw: "Fugro on the search for the homeland of Odysseus. Fugro will focus seriously on the search for the isle where Odysseus, the hero of the epic Odyssey, would have lived."

April 26 2007

The Search For Homer’s Ithaca - Queens' College Record

Summary of a presentation given by James Diggle and Robert Bittlestone

"Around are many islands, close to each other, / Doulichion and Same and wooded Zacynthos. / Ithaca itself lies low, furthest to sea / Towards dusk; the rest, apart, face dawn and sun. But is Ithaki the island furthest west? No, it is furthest east. Is Ithaki low-lying? No, it is mountainous, with cliffs plunging sheer into the sea. So, we have a problem. Are we to suppose that Homer has invented an island that never existed? The alternative hypothesis is that in the Bronze Age, Cephalonia was not one island but two, with the western part (now known as Paliki) separated from the eastern part by a narrow channel.

Recently we drilled a 120 metre (400 foot) borehole at the southern end of 'Strabo’s Channel'. As John Underhill’s geological predictions had suggested, instead of meeting solid limestone bedrock, the drill bit encountered only loose material all the way down to below sea level. A subsequent analysis of the drill cuttings revealed the presence of a relatively recent marine microfossil called Emiliania huxleyi. Although this evidence does not yet prove the case, it provides strong support for the proposal that a narrow marine channel separated the western peninsula of Cephalonia (Paliki) from the rest of the island only a few thousand years ago, and that catastrophic rockfall and landslides triggered by earthquakes destabilised the adjacent mountainsides and caused part of them to detach and thunder down to the sea, obliterating the channel completely."

Click here for the full article.

Apr 8 2007

Perhaps Odysseus came from Paliki - NZZ Switzerland

The great Greek lived on Ithaka, wrote Homer. Only which island did he mean? A British researcher now wants to solve this ancient mystery. By Geneviève Lüscher.

"It was in February 2003 that the Bittlestone family from Kingston upon Thames decided to spend their summer holidays in Greece. They nearly chose Tuscany or Turkey instead, but they settled on the island of Kefalonia, a decision that became fraught with consequence for the father of the family. The Englishman is convinced that Ithaka - the homeland of the Odysseus - is to be found on Paliki, a peninsula of Kefalonia. For centuries scholars have asked themselves where the homeland of the victorious Trojan hero might lie, because today's island with the names of Ithaka does not match the location described by Homer."

Click here for the full article (in German).

Apr 5 2007

Fair wind for Odysseus - Geoscientist

Industry and government are joining forces with academe in an attempt to settle the question of Odysseus's true homeland.

Ted Nield writes: Global geoscientific and geotechnical engineers FUGRO are to team up with the Odysseus Unbound project and the Greek geological institute IGME to solve the age-old mystery over the true geographical location of Odysseus's homeland, Ithaca. FUGRO's sponsorship will bring industry-scale geophysical techniques to bear, enabling the team to perform a "full body-scan" of the six kilometre long isthmus that today links the main island of Kefallinia to the peninsula known as Paliki. "

Click here for the full article.

Apr 4 2007

Testing Homer - The Economist

The latest claimant to be Odysseus's home meets a geological survey.

"John Underhill of Edinburgh University has found evidence that the isthmus is full of landslide rubble, which could have tumbled into a narrow sea channel during an earthquake. He has located possible exits for such a channel, as well as tiny fossils of Mediterranean algal blooms formed in the past 10,000 years. It looks as if some boulders sit atop layers of ash spewed out by known eruptions of Mount Etna, meaning they fell after Troy did.

The task of establishing if the sea ever divided Paliki from Kefalonia is about to get easier. Fugro, a geophysical prospecting company, has lent machinery for a full subterranean scan. If the geologists conclude that Paliki was once an island, that will boost its claim to be ancient Ithaca."

Click here for the full article.

Mar 29 2007

Referee’s epic quest to solve ancient riddle - Edinburgh Evening News

"EASTER ROAD erupted as the man in black reached into his pocket to deliver his red card, sending Hearts’ Edgar Jankauskas to the dressing room and paving the way for a famous Hibs victory.

For SPL veteran referee John Underhill it was another fiery weekend at the centre of the football action, a chance to enjoy his sporting hobby in the red hot cauldron of an ill-tempered Edinburgh derby. It was October 2005, and it couldn’t have been further removed from the gentle sound of waves lapping against the unspoiled shore of a baked Ionian peninsula.

Yet the referee’s role in the game at Easter Road was nothing compared to the dramatic impact he is about to have on this sleepy Greek outcrop. And few … if indeed any … of those derby match football fans could possibly imagine that the man brandishing the red card at the Hearts favourite might really be some kind of modern day Indiana Jones, hunting for clues to ancient civilisation, unravelling centuries’ old riddles.

Today John is edging to within touching distance of solving a perplexing Greek mystery that has confounded scholars and sent archaeologists on a wild goose chase for two millennia. If the theory he is working on proves to be correct, the whistler and his two colleagues will be feted the world over for having made the greatest classical find since the discovery of the site of Troy 130 years ago. " Click here for the full article.

Click here for the newspaper page image (4.2 Mb PDF).

Mar 27 2007

Engineers to help find Homer’s Ithaca

By DEREK GATOPOULOS, Associated Press Writer

Tue Mar 27, 6:14 PM ET ATHENS, Greece

A geological engineering company said Monday it has agreed to help in an archaeological project to find the island of Ithaca, homeland of Homer’s legendary hero Odysseus.

It has long been thought that the island of Ithaki in the Ionian Sea was the island Homer used as a setting for the epic poem "The Odyssey," in which the king Odysseus makes a perilous 10-year journey home from the Trojan War.

Feb 25 2007

Click to enlargeLooking for Odysseus - Sunday Times Travel

The Greek hero’s final journey has been shrouded in mystery — but on a canoeing trip to Cephalonia, historical detective Robert Bittlestone found the pieces falling into place.

"It’s 1200 BC, and after 10 years of war the Trojans have been vanquished. Helen’s catastrophic flirtation with Paris has come to an abrupt end and she is now playing the dutiful housewife with her husband, Menelaus, back in Sparta. Meanwhile, Agamemnon, the Greek commander, has returned to Mycenae only to be murdered by his adulterous wife, Clytemnestra.

But what of Odysseus, master of plots and teller of tall tales? How is he to explain to his faithful wife, Penelope, that instead of spending just a week or two on the voyage home from Troy, it has taken him another 10 years to return to his palace on Ithaca?"

Right-click here to download the page image (3 Mb).

Jan 28 2007

Where was Homer’s Ithaca? - iris magazine - promoting classics in UK state schools

"It’s the oldest marine adventure in the world. It was already ancient history when Aristotle and Socrates were in the cradle. It has spawned a hundred spin-offs and inspired writers and artists, philosophers and poets, statesmen and soldiers for the last three thousand years. It’s the original Odyssey: a Bronze Age blockbuster and a cornerstone of Western civilisation. And not surprisingly, most people have presumed that Odysseus’ homeland of Ithaca is as imaginary as Ithilien in Lord of the Rings. Robert Bittlestone thinks they’re wrong. iris interviews the man who wants to put Odysseus’ homeland back on the map." Click here for the full article. Click here for the back cover. Click here to purchase the book from CUP.

Jan 12 2007

Drilling 'boosts Homeric theory' - BBC News

"The Mediterranean island of Kefalonia was probably once two separate islands, new geophysical studies suggest. A British-led team is amassing evidence that indicates Kefalonia's western peninsula, Paliki, was only recently joined to the main landmass. The team believes a huge in-fall of rock in the last 3,000 years may have built a land-bridge between the two. If correct, the researchers say, it would support their view that Paliki was the real site for Homer’s Ithaca. The location was supposedly home to Odysseus, whose mythical 10-year journey back from the Trojan War was chronicled in the Greek poet's epic tale The Odyssey. New results from a test borehole and other survey work in the region lend support to the Paliki hypothesis, the team claims. The Thinia isthmus is some 6km long and 180m at its highest "Unlike many historical speculations, our answer to the age-old mystery of Ithaca's location makes a specific prediction that can be scientifically tested by geological techniques," said Robert Bittlestone, the businessman who first made the contention in a book published in 2005." Click here for the BBC article

Jan 10 2007

Interview with Robin Lustig on BBC Radio 4 - The World Tonight

"If you’ve ever taken a holiday on the Greek island of Ithaca you may well have thought you were following in the steps of Odysseus, the ancient Greek hero immortalised by the poet Homer. Not so, according to a British businessman and amateur archaeologist Robert Bittlestone, who's convinced that Homer’s Ithaca was somewhere else entirely…”

Listen to interview (675Kb MP3).

Jan 10 2007

Interview with Audrey Carville on BBC World Service - Europe Today

"It's one of the founding stories of Western civilisation - the epic journey home to Ithaca by Odysseus following his victory in the Trojan War. It has long been argued whether Homer’s tale is pure myth. Well now a British businessman has set out to prove that the Greek hero's homeland does exist. He says that it does, but it's not where people thought it was. Robert Bittlestone is with me now (4 minutes).”

Listen to interview (2Mb MP3).

Jan 10 2007

Riddle of Homer’s Odyssey island solved? By Paul Majendie

LONDON (Reuters) - British history sleuths say they have uncovered new geological evidence to solve one of the great riddles of ancient Greece - pinpointing the ancient island of Ithaca, home of Homer’s legendary hero Odysseus. “We are one step closer to solving the age-old mystery,” said management consultant Robert Bittlestone who has worked with professors of classics and geology to piece together an intriguing archaeological jigsaw puzzle. “Finding Ithaca could rival the discovery of ancient Troy on the Turkish coast in the 1870s.”

Jan 10 2007

A scientific discovery on the trail of Homer. By Thomas H. Maugh II

"Using boreholes and seismic imaging to analyze subsurface geological features, British researchers have provided a key confirmation of their claim that Ithaca, the home of the legendary Greek warrior Odysseus, was located on a present-day peninsula of the island of Cephalonia. The jutting piece of land, the scientists say, was a small island separate from Cephalonia until rubble from landslides and earthquakes over the centuries filled the channel between them…A borehole drilled through the suspected site of the channel and underwater imaging of nearby bays have revealed rubble and marine fossils consistent with the researchers' theory, said John Underhill, a geologist at the University of Edinburgh "

Click here for the full article.

Jan 10 2007

History sleuth's odyssey to Homer’s island. By Nic Fleming

"An amateur historian produced evidence yesterday to back his claim to have found the island homeland of Homer’s legendary Greek king, Odysseus. Scholars have argued for centuries over the whereabouts of Ithaca, the lost kingdom of the hero of the Trojan war. But Robert Bittlestone, a management consultant from Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey, and two professors of classics and geology have suggested the location is not the Greek island of Ithaki, but Paliki — a peninsula of Kefalonia. If true, it would be the greatest classical discovery since Heinrich Schliemann found the site of Troy in Turkey in the 1870s, and would establish Odysseus as a figure from history as opposed to a figment of Homer’s imagination. "

Jan 10 2007

Heroic quest for home truth is over

By Stephen McGinty

"IT WAS the home of the hero of Troy. Odysseus, the Greek warrior who tricked the Trojans with a wooden horse, hailed from "bright Ithaca", according to the poet Homer. The identity of the fabled island emerged from the mists of time yesterday, when a geologist at Edinburgh University produced evidence to support the theory that Ithaca is part of the Greek island of Cephalonia and not, as was always believed, the neighbouring island of Ithaki."

Click here for the full article.

Jan 09 2007

Even closer to finding Ithaca. By Managing Editor Megan Sever

"Researchers are several steps closer to finding Homer’s Ithaca, thanks to new results released today from geologic tests that support the hypothesis that the ancient kingdom of Ithaca may in fact be on western Kefalonia, not the modern-day Greek island of Ithaki, as has been suggested for several centuries, and is reported this month in Geotimes.

The hypothesis — put forth by businessman Robert Bittlestone, classicist James Diggle and geologist John Underhill in their 2005 book Odysseus Unbound — suggests that a channel once separated Kefalonia from its western peninsula, called Paliki, creating two separate islands. Paliki is Ithaca, as described in the Bronze Age 3,200 years ago, according to the hypothesis."

Click here for: the rest of this news article; feature article Finding Ithaca; AGI press release.

Jan 09 2007

In search of Odysseus's Ithaca

By Julian Rush, Channel 4 News

“It's one of the founding stories of Western civilisation - the epic journey home to Ithaca by Odysseus following his victory in the Trojan War. It's long been argued whether Homer’s tale is pure myth. Now British businessman Robert Bittlestone has set out to prove that the Greek hero's homeland does exist. But his controversial hunch about Ithaca's actual location would only make sense by showing the region had been transformed, possibly by a massive earthquake. So in October, he set out to prove his theory by drilling a borehole on the Greek island of Kefalonia - with Channel Four News having exclusive access to the project. Our Science Correspondent Julian Rush reports on how the evidence found there may fundamentally change our view of the Ancient World.”

Click here to watch the Channel 4 News film (9min 13sec YouTube)