In contrast to the rich History of Ithaca, the archaeological research has been comparatively limited with the most important being done by foreign scientists in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Greek state has not shown the interest they should have, and some of the discoveries made took place at excavations that were for building purposes.
Considered the pioneer of archaeological study on the island, was William Gell. He began his scientifically based research in 1806 but he did not continue with methodic excavations. Nevertheless he is credited with the discovery of part of an ancient inscription probably from the temple of Artemis near Vathy.
After Gell, several other archaeologists came to Ithaca dealing illegally in antiquities and undertaking in “secret” excavations that were tolerated by the English rulers. Among these archaeologists were Leake (1806), Charles de Bosset (1810-1813) and Lee. Lee was in cooperation with Baron Stackelberg and divided the precious objects they found. Some of the objects known to have been taken were the following: a bronze pre-historic sword found at Aetos, which was similar to the one found at the Cave of Louizos, various gold jewelery, glass and clay bowls, pottery, tools, copper, silver and gold coins. A characteristic example is of the local conqueror Guitera (1811-1814) who plundered 200 tombs at the Aetos area, melted some of the gold and silver coins and sold the metal with the other treasures abroad.
Therefore, because of these illegal excavations most of the priceless ancient objects from Ithaca are now in certain museums and private collections mostly in European countries.
After the Union of Ithaca with Greece in 1864, legal excavations began and Schliemann was the first to systematically organize them in 1868 and 1878. Other archaeologists followed until the begining of the 20th century and from the research and excavations of this period a variety of interesting objects were found, some of them are now either in the two museums of Ithaca or the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
The excavations at the hill of Pilicata under Heurtley’s supervision which took place in 1930 was considered one of the most important. A variety of discoveries proved that the area was inhabited as early as the Neolithic Period, also a wall surrounding the hill, foundations of buildings, graves of the Mecanaean period and different objects indicate that civilization continued and that this area was of great significance. The next excavation that took place was in Polis at Loizos cave by Heartly’s assistant Benton. These findings, proved that it had been a place of worship from 2500 B.C. till the 1st century A.D. There, gods, the nymphes and even Ulysses whose name was engraved on a female mask of clay that was found in the cave. The mask another strong indication that links the identity of the island to that of Homer’s.
Derived from the various discoveries is a general conclusion that the arts and crafts on Ithaca were very similar to those in other significant Kingdoms of Greece of the same time periods, and that the Ithacans were especially skilled in pottery.
In 1931 and 1932 Heurtly undertook excavations at the Aetos area. He discovered ruins of buildings, ancient temples, everyday articles and many Corinthian objects of worship. These were dated to be from the 9th, 8th, and 7th centuries B.C. Also of significance are the nine different types of coins from the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C. These coins refer to Ithaca and Ulysses as well as various symbols or gods.
Excavations were very limited after the 1930’s with no finds of any great importance.
From the research and excavations that have taken place it has been proved that civilization has existed on Ithaca for the past six thousand years with some periods having a very high level. The main settlement was in the northern peninsula around the hill of Pilicata. Later on a new settlement was founded at the area of Aetos where the ruins of the ancient town Alalcomenae lie. In Vathy and Southern Ithaca ruins from the Roman period and previous periods have been discovered. Excavations on the island are considered to be incomplete and it is believed that there are numerous objects and ruins under the ground waiting to be discovered and to enlighten us further about the ancient History of Ithaca.
-Ιθάκη Τότε και Τώρα- Εκδσεις Σπύρος Δενδρινός, Σπύρος Χ. Δενδρινός - Αλέκος Φ. Καλλίνικος
-ΟΜΗΡΟΣ ΚΑΙ ΟΔΥΣΣΕΑΣ, Εκδόσεις Σπύρος Δενδρινός