John Crawshaw had no idea that the simple birthday gift of a book from his daughter could lead to a life-altering experience.
The book, “Odysseus Unbound: The Search for Homer’s Ithaca” by Robert Bittlestone, presents Bittlestone’s theory that the location of Ithaca in Homer’s “The Odyssey” is in fact the western peninsula of the Greek island called Kefalonia today. After reading the book in 2007, Crawshaw became excited by the idea that Ithaca could actually be found.
“I thought (the book) was a wonderful detective story,” says Crawshaw, 60, a retired Heinz executive and Sea Pines resident who earned his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in Classics from Oxford University in his home country of England. “The idea that a special place in Greek epic literature could be discovered I found extraordinary. I wanted to join that story, if I could.”
He could and he did: Crawshaw contacted Bittlestone to volunteer for the author’s exploration team. Because the area is known for seismic activity, that team is looking for geologic proof that what Homer describes as the island of Ithaca has become joined to Kefalonia. Crawshaw believes that if the location can be found, it could lead to the discovery of a possible palace, harbor or even town one day.
Since joining the team, Crawshaw has traveled to Greece’s Ionian islands almost 20 times to photograph sites with potential connections to places mentioned in “The Odyssey” and its counterpart, “The Iliad.” He’s also assisting the geologists in their work of collecting core samples.
The project isn’t quite shovelready just yet: the group’s final published report is still about a year away. If Bittlestone and his team gather enough supporting evidence, they’ll want to request permits for archaeological study from the Greek government for professional archaeological studies to be initiated, a process Crawshaw says could take some time. “But realistically, we could know a lot more between 2012 and 2020,” he says.
In the meantime, when Crawshaw isn’t investigating the Greek islands, he plans to travel for pleasure, remain involved in his charitable activities here and abroad and recommend that his daughter considers buying him “a nice jazz CD” next time!
THE SEARCH FOR ITHACA
To learn more about the project, visit odysseusunbound.org