Saturday, September 24, 2005

Archeologists make historic discovery

The tomb of Odysseus has been found, and the location of his legendary capital city of Ithaca discovered here on this large island across a one-mile channel from the bone-dry islet that modern maps call Ithaca. This could be the most important archeological discovery of the last 40 years, a find that may eventually equal the German archeologist Heinrich Schliemann’s 19th Century dig at Troy. But the quirky people and politics involved in this achievement have delayed by several years the process of reporting the find to the world. Yet visitors to Kefalonia, an octopus-shaped island off the west coast of Greece, can see the evidence for themselves at virtually no cost. The discovery of what is almost certainly his tomb reveals that crafty Odysseus, known as Ulysses in many English renditions of Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey,” was no mere myth, but a real person. Plus, passages in the “Odyssey” itself suggest that modern Ithaca and its main town of Vathi probably were not the city and island of which Homer wrote. Rather, this small village of Poros on the southeast coast of Kefalonia now occupies part of a site that most likely was the much larger city which served as capital of the multi-island kingdom ruled by Odysseus and his father Laertes. Archeologists have long and often times looked for evidence of Odysseus on modern Ithaca, but never found anything significant from the Bronze Age. This led many scholars to dismiss Homer’s version of Ionian island geography as strictly a literary creation. But two pieces of fairly recent evidence suggest archeologists were looking in the wrong place. In 1991, a tomb of the type used to bury ancient Greek royalty was found near the hamlet of Tzannata in the hills outside Poros. It is the largest such tomb in northeastern Greece, with remains of at least 72 persons found in its stone niches.


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