Irish Institute for Hellenic Studies at Athens
10-11 January 2020
The geophysics techniques we’ve been using for the Odysseus Unbound project can give archaeologists essential clues to identify significant ancient sites.
In our presentation to the conference, Professors Peter Styles and George Apostolopoulos explained how our surveys on the Livadi Marsh have confirmed evidence of its suitability as a safe harbour in the Late Bronze Age. We believe the marsh is potentially the site of Odysseus’ harbour. Our collaborator at the Ephorate, Eleni Papafloratou, was also in the audience.
The surveys also reveal signs of potential human settlement and activity in the area that makes it worthy of further archaeological investigation.
Sites such as ancient harbours can be hidden by geological changes particularly in the Ionian islands where earthquakes are so common.
“Geological context is an important aspect of archaeological research which isn’t always appreciated,” says Peter Styles. Conference convenor, Dr. Gert Jan van Wijngaarden, a Faculty Member in the Amsterdam Centre for Ancient Studies and Archaeology at the University of Amsterdam, agreed. “It brings a sense of pastness to the discussion, rather than just simply place,” he told the conference.
Our research in the Livadi Marsh
An airborne Electromagnetic survey carried out for the project by the geophysics company FUGRO shows an area of thick sediment below the surface of the marsh. Homer describes Odysseus’ harbour as “deep” (πολυβενθεος). Radiocarbon dating of material from boreholes drilled into the marsh suggests the water here was around 5m deep in the Late Bronze Age.
The boreholes were drilled by FUGRO and by German scientists investigating tsunamis (Willershauser et al, 2015). They confirm that past tsunamis have altered the landscape of the marsh. Major tectonic events such as offshore earthquakes or localised landslides can trigger such tsunamis.
But most intriguing is the evidence from our Resistivity and Ground Penetrating Radar surveys in the area behind the marsh. The data shows anomalies that may be signs of human occupation. As this might be the remains of walls or buildings, the geoscience confirms the area is well worth further investigation by archaeologists.
The conference provided a tremendous opportunity for our team to establish contacts with other scientists and archaeologists working on Kefalonia and to share ideas that will play into our research plans.
The presentation was warmly received by the international scientists and archaeologists at the conference. All were experts interested in an important area of Greece that has received relatively little study.
“The prehistoric and Bronze Age archaeology of the Ionian Sea is a subject area with a future,” says IIHSA Director Dr Christina Souyoudzoglou-Haywood.