The origins of Homer's IIliad have remained a mystery for 2.500 years, both the work and its author enmeshed in mythology, religious interpretation, and tribal history. So little is known about Homer, in fact, that some scholars question whether he even existed, though it is evident that ancient Greek historians believed he did. Other modern scholars wonder whether he actually wrote the Iliad, or merely patched together smaller epic poems created by other authors over the centuries. Such questions aside, efforts by researchers and archaeologists show that much of what the Iliad contains is historically accurate. More recently, American researcher John Kraft and colleagues at the University of Delaware have found that the author's description of battle scenes is consistent with their reconstruction of the geography around the city of Troy at the time of the Trojan War, believed to have occurred around 1250 B.C. The Iliad describes in detail how Troy was besieged and provides clues about the geography of the area. The first Troy was built about 3,000 years ago on the coast of a great bay, but the environs today bear little resemblance. The ruins of the city stand at a site called Hissarlik in modern-day Turkey, on a plateau rising above a river floodplain of sand and marshes. The bay is long gone, filled in with silt by the rivers Dumrek Su and Kara Menderes. In fact, the coastline has moved several kilometers further north of the ruins, Kraft and his team of researchers tracked the changing geography by carbon-dating remains found in various layers of the Trojan Plain and showed that the area evolved from bay to lagoon Lu marshland. Kraft's team has been searching for geographical landmarks. According to the Iliad, the Greek army encamped on the Aegean coast west of Troy after beaching their ships “on the shore of the surging sea, well away from the fighting.” Kraft believes the Greeks encamped on a promontory somewhere to the west of the former Bay of Troy, and, as described within the epic, built a “deep ditch” to the south to prevent the Trojans from attacking over the narrow finger of land there. Kraft and his colleagues believe they have located the “ford of the fair-flowing river” Scamander where the Greek hero Achilles broke the Trojan line” and forced many of his enemies into the deep, swift waters. Seth Schein, professor of comparative literature at the University of California, is unimpressed with this encroachment of science into the realm of literature. “I find archaeological and geographical attempts to verify or reconstruct details of ancient Troy uninteresting,” he says. “In my view, the Homeric descriptions of landscape and geographical features are imaginative and poetic; they need not be thought of as referring to actual, physical reality.” Granted, the promontory where the Greeks encamped, if it did once exist, has long since disappeared, and the “surging sea” has retreated. But if these landscapes have a basis in reality, Kraft and his colleagues do a great service to both science and literature in their quest for the truth. Homer is no less a poet for being an accurate historian.