Odysseus Unbound - The Search for Homer’s Ithaca

Results 2010-14

August 2012

Locating Ithaca: Continuing the Search for Odysseus’s Island Kingdom

The Leading Edge, published by The Society of Exploration Geophysicists.

During 2008-2011, the project sponsors Fugro carried out extensive geophysical research on the Thinia isthmus of Kefalonia to unveil the underlying geology of this tectonically active area as part of the search for Ancient Ithaca. This report describes the techniques used and the surprising findings uncovered by this multi-faceted research effort.

STEVE POULTER, Fugro Seacore Ltd.
JOHN R. UNDERHILL, University of Edinburgh
DAVE KILCOYNE, Fugro Aperio Ltd.
GREG HODGES, Fugro Airborne Ltd.

Read the full text of the research report. (The link will take you to a page with three options to download the article - Text, PDF and PDF with links. Clicking on one of these will take you to a page that gives you the option to login if you are a member or pay $35 to purchase the article if you are not.)

Feb 13 2012

Onshore drilling in Kefalonia - 2011 Interim Research Summary

During 2011, the project sponsors Fugro acting upon the advice of Professor Underhill have performed land-based shallow (less than 100m) drilling using a small mobile rig. That drilling program has enabled continuous rock-cores to be obtained at a number of locations in Kefalonia, mainly in the Thinia valley. The core samples were transported to Fugro’s geospecialist labs in North Wales in late 2011 and are currently being logged, sampled and analysed.

Whilst it will take further time for the overall results to emerge, some of the preliminary indications are of particular interest, as follows:

  • Borehole cores from the Thinia valley indicate that some very large in-situ rock segments of Cretaceous and Paleogene age period overlay (i.e. have been thrust on top of) rock segments of the younger Plio-Pleistocene period. This confirms that the pre-existing sidewalls of the Thinia valley have themselves been translated westward as a result of relatively recent co-seismic activity. This result represents a “tectonic” disruption of the Thinia valley.
  • On the south-west flank of the Thinia valley in an area called Katachori, there is clear evidence that a major rockfall has originated from the eastern slopes of the valley, travelled across the valley floor and has come to rest (onlap) upon the upwards-sloping western hillside, infilling the valley itself in the process. This can be confirmed on site and via helicopter-based LIDAR scans, and it is also visible via Google Earth imagery.
  • The tail end of the rockfall has covered some pre-existing walls which end abruptly at the debris and their continuity can be identified underneath it. Upthrust combined with rockfall and valley fill set up a barrier for drainage that caused an ancient lake to form subsequently above it. The lake bed has now silted up and forms a low-agricultural plain in the centre of the valley.
  • Elsewhere in Thinia the drill-core samples indicate that rockfall debris covers former marine beach deposits (e.g. at Zola on the north-western end of the valley) and work is ongoing to determine the age of the buried sediments.

" Marine deposits have already been discovered at some locations along the Thinia isthmus, and at present the aerial tests, the land-based observations and the results of the core sampling to date support the tectonic infill proposal. If a tectonic infill can be demonstrated then this will also indicate that the former coastline was not a long and narrow marine channel, but may have been a significantly wider and more naturally shaped marine seaway that resembled the existing bays to the north and south.

Download full text of Interim Research Summary

For geological inquiries:

Professor John Underhill
Past-President - European Association of Geoscientists & Engineers (EAGE)
Chair of Stratigraphy and Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE)
Professor of Exploration Geoscience
Centre for Exploration Geoscience,
School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure & Society,
Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh Campus,
Riccarton, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH14 4AS;
Email: J.R.Underhill@hw.ac.uk

Dec 4 2010

Coring for Ithaca: Geoscientist article describes drilling progress

Adler deWind reports from the Greek island of Kefalonia on progress towards proving - or disproving - the theory that the Paliki Peninsula was once separated from the main island and was the true geographical location of Homer’s Ithaca.

Despite a clear reference in Homer to “rocky Ithaca” being the westernmost, low-lying Ionian Island, controversy has long surrounded the location of Odysseus’s Homeland.

Three years after their initial support of the geoscientific investigation and work program into testing whether the western peninsula of Kefalonia (Paliki) could have been that free-standing island three millennia ago (Fig.1), geotechnical company Fugro are continuing their support of the project by drilling and coring boreholes in 15 locations.

If successful, the coring program has the potential to settle the centuries-old classical Greek dispute.

Download published article

Geoscientist website

Mar 04 2010

Locating Ithaca: Research Priorities for 2010

With sponsorship from Fugro, consultant Robert Bittlestone, together with Professor John Underhill, and Professor James Diggle, formed the ‘Odysseus Unbound’ organisation, in an attempt to uncover the truth about the location of the historic island kingdom of Homer’s hero.

Geological mapping reveals that most of Thinia’s surface consists of loose rockfall material brought down by frequent earthquakes, some occurring within living memory.

Robert Bittlestone poses the key question: “Despite this clear evidence of extensive, ancient and modern landslips, can we be sure that there is not a bridge of solid bedrock underneath, joining the Paliki peninsula to the rest of the island, somewhere above sea level? If there is, then this could represent a serious objection to the proposition that Paliki is ancient Ithaca”.

To test for the existence of such a rock bridge, Fugro Airborne Surveys flew a helicopter, equipped with electromagnetic instruments, to map the resistivity and magnetic signature of the entire Thinia isthmus. If the yellow-coloured areas, mainly depicting loose rockfall material with low resistivity, are removed from the image, there is a very clear suggestion that there was formerly an open marine channel separating the Paliki peninsula from the rest of Cephalonia - an inlet narrowing towards its Southern end.

Download published article