Michael Cosmopoulos was raised in Athens but has been in St. Louis since 2001.  Yet his heart and his science never left Greece.   Since 1999, he has been working at a site in Pylos and he recently came across a real-life palace dating back to the time of the Trojan War.

The Trojan War is just a story, of course (though if you don't think so, which figure from Homer's historical work do you think I am?)(1) but historians debate what kernels of truth may be in there.
In the 19th century, archeologist Heinrich Schliemann placed the location of ancient Troy in modern Turkey, near the Dardanelles.   Now Cosmopoulos, the Hellenic Government-Karakas Family Foundation Endowed Professor in Greek Studies at UM-SL, took 65 students and 25 staff members on the dig in Pylos and says the palace they have found is in one of the capital cities of King Nestor, who stories say became king when Hercules killed off all his relatives, was one of the Argonauts and became famous in the Iliad version of the Trojan War for keeping the tempestuous peace between Agamemnon and Achilles.(2)

Close-up of palace walls. Credit: University of Missouri-St. Louis

The palace is from the Mycenaean period (1600-1100 B.C.), right in the strike zone of the Bronze Age period when the Trojan War was set.   Speculation is this would be Aipy, one of the nine cities mentioned in the second book of the Iliad under control of King Nestor.

"This is a unique site -- a place where archaeology meets ancient texts," Cosmopoulos said. "This discovery may change our perspective of how the first states were born. It appears that this was the seat of the chiefdom that was annexed by the earliest known state in Greece -- that of Mycenaean Pylos."

From Cosmopoulos' site, the Iklaina Archaeological Project:
The palace complex sits on a flat plateau on the Englianos ridge and commands a striking panorama. All sides of the ridge drop down into deep valleys except for the northeastern side, which continues along the spine of the ridge.  Where the terrain is manageable, terraces line all sides of the ridge and support olive groves and vineyards.
Has science met mythology?   The Linear B script, the oldest surviving record of the Greek Mycenaean dialect named after Mycenae where Agamemnon ruled, may provide some corroborating evidence because it matches some of the pottery found there.

Linear B basic syllabary

So what do we know?   It's an ongoing project and Cosmopoulos has spent the last 10 years getting this far and they have found thousands of vases, frescoes offering tables and amulets.

And if you look at everything they have found affirming the Pylos palace as one of King Nestor's you can see this is just scratching the surface, pardon the pun.    They'll be sifting through this for years.

If they find Hector, tell him I am looking for him.


(1) You probably said Achilles.   But I would have been Ajax - Telamonian Ajax, Aivas Tlamunus, that is, since there were two.

(2) Eratosthenes placed the various battled that likely inspired the story of the Trojan War at 1194–1184 BC and recent archaeological evidence of the burning of Troy VIIa seem to make the most sense.

(3) The project is funded by UM-SL, the National Endowment for the Humanities Institute for Aegean Prehistory and the Loeb Foundation.