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.

Thinia valley showing sampling locations for Cosmic Ray Exposure dating
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.

Constantin Athanassas takes CRE sample
Asst. Prof. Constantin Athanassas takes a rock sample from the steep scarp face behind Zola
View of Zola showing landslide
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.

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