Reconstruction of Alexandria’s coastal zone illuminates Homer’s validity

Category Other
Group GSI.IR
Location International Geological Congress,oslo 2008
Author Chalari, Athena; Papamarinopoulos, Stavronikos; Papatheodorou, George; Ferentinos, George
Holding Date 04 October 2008

Scientists have been arguing for centuries, for the detection of the boundary between myth and paramyth in Homer’s work. Geoarchaeology is the science, which provides evidence of the past and attempt to reconstruct the palaeoenvironment, using modern techniques. Thus taking into account the poet’s exaggeration, we can trace the simple geographical description in the Homeric epic poems. The region where Hellenistic Alexandria developed was already known to the Greeks since Homeric times. According to Homer in his work Odyssey, the Achaeans have visited the Pharos, "island" which was located opposite to the shore where the great city was later developed, at about 1186 BC after the Trojan War. Marine geophysical surveys at the north and east of the Eastern Harbour of Alexandria and a number of palaeoshorelines were detected at the coastal zone of Alexandria. The results of these surveys in conjunction with evidence of sea level changes in drilled core at the tombolo upon which the Heptastadion was constructed at 331 BC, permit the interpretation of the environmental setting at about 1186 BC. The tool which we used for this journey through time was a Geographical Information System, where palaeoenvironmental maps were constructed, showing that Pharos was in fact a peninsula during prehistoric times. In order to understand the characterization "Pharos island" in Odyssey we are obliged to take under consideration the true meaning of the words "island" and "Pharos" in the 8th century Greek. The paper illustrates scientifically that Homer’s text is not a fabricated myth but remote memory of an African environment known to the Greeks at least from the 20th millennium B.C.