Is Homer’s Ithaca actually in Kefalonia? (2021 update )

Cosmic Ray Exposure dating samples collected

Rock samples from two separate locations in the Thinia Valley are now at a laboratory in France for Cosmic Ray Exposure (CRE) analysis in one of the most important geoscience investigations we’ve conducted.

This key part of our 2021 research plans was made possible by the generous response of our supporters to our recent appeal. Out grateful thanks go to everyone who contributed.

Determining a critical date

We know that a huge chunk of mountainside, some 4km long and up to 1km wide, collapsed in one or more massive landslides to fill the Thinia Valley between Kefalonia and its western peninsula, Paliki. We believe this transformed Paliki from an island to a peninsula.

Determining the date when that happened will be a huge clue to whether Paliki was an island in the Late Bronze Age – the time of Odysseus – and therefore a compelling candidate to be the location of his homeland of Ithaca.

What can Cosmic Ray Exposure dating tell us?

More accurately known as Cosmogenic Radionuclide Exposure, CRE dating measures the isotopic changes caused when previously buried rock is suddenly exposed to sunlight, as it is after a landslide. In effect, it tells us when the landslide happened.

Two locations

With the help of Asst. Professor Constantin Athanassas from the National Technical University of Athens we took multiple samples from two separate locations.

Google Earth image of the Thinia Valley (looking East) showing CRE sampling locations
Watch Professors John Underhill and Peter Styles as they explain the technique and what it means for the Odysseus Unbound project.

The main samples were from the scarp slope behind the massive collapse on the mountains at the south-eastern end of the Thinia Valley.

We also took samples from the slope behind the village of Zola, which is built on material from a smaller landslide at the north-western end of the valley.

We took the samples at different heights on the slopes to determine if the landslides happened in a single event or were the result of two or more collapses over time. And it will be interesting to find out if both landslides occurred at the same time or not.

Asst. Prof. Constantin Athanassas takes a rock sample from the steep scarp face behind Zola
Zola village, built on a landslide at the north-western end of the Thinia Valley

Our rock samples are now at the laboratories of the Centre Européen de Recherche et d’Enseignement de Géosciences de l’Environnement (CEREGE) in France.

Background Information

Where is Odysseus’ homeland?

For centuries scholars have been baffled by Homer’s description of Ithaca in the Odyssey.  It simply doesn’t fit the geography of the modern day Ionian island of Ithaki.

Ionian islands today (EN)
The Ionian islands today

Today’s islands of Ithaki and Kefalonia lie to the west of mainland Greece, with Lefkas to the north and Zacynthos to the south.

Ithaca is described as an island in the Odyssey, but in the Iliad Homer says the people who live there are the Cephallenians:

Odysseus led the gallant Cephallenians,
From Ithaca and leaf-quivering Neriton,
IIiad 2.631-2

When Odysseus makes himself known to King Alcinoos on the island of Scheria (thought to be Corfu) he introduces his homeland with a description that scholars have pondered over for many centuries:

Ulysses at the court of Alcinoos - Francesco Hayez
Ulysses at the court of Alcinoos – Francesco Hayez (1815) – National Museum of Capodimonte, Naples, Italy

I am Odysseus, Laertes’ son, world-famed
For stratagems: my name has reached the heavens.
Bright Ithaca is my home: it has a mountain,
Leaf-quivering Neriton, far visible.
Around are many islands, close to each other,
Doulichion and Same and wooded Zacynthos.
Ithaca itself lies lowfurthest to sea
Towards dusk; the rest, apart, face dawn and sun.

Odyssey 9.19-26

Interested in why we think this is the most accurate translation of the original Greek?
  Prof. James Diggle explains

Ithaki is not Ithaca

Kefalonia and Ithaki elevation map
Kefalonia and Ithaki, showing elevation.

However, the island called Ithaki today is not low-lying, it is mountainous. It is clearly not the furthest out to sea and it does not face towards dusk (i.e. west), nor do the adjacent islands face towards the dawn and sun (i.e. east).

The geographical layout is almost opposite to that described by Homer, so how can his description of ancient Ithaca make any sense? And where are Same and the lost island of Doulichion?




Source –

2 thoughts on “Is Homer’s Ithaca actually in Kefalonia? (2021 update )

  • November 15, 2021 at 4:56 pm

    Great Article!!! Will be interesting to hear results of their analysis!!! Thanks for a great report!

  • November 16, 2021 at 8:50 am

    It is also interesting to see that the area where we live today, around Spartiá, must have been under the sea level. This explains that every day, when I go with my dog over the fields and meadows, I find seashells and fossiles. Great that the mystery is about to be looked at and unveiled further …


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