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Nailing down the publication date of Homer’s “Iliad”

Scientists have been working to determine the publication date of Homer’s “Illiad” using the same technique employed to decode the genetic history of humans by tracking how genes mutate.

“Languages behave just extraordinarily like genes,” Pagel said. “It is directly analogous. We tried to document the regularities in linguistic evolution and study Homer’s vocabulary as a way of seeing if language evolves the way we think it does. If so, then we should be able to find a date for Homer.”

It is unlikely there ever was one individual man named Homer who wrote the “Iliad.” Brian Rose, professor of classical studies and curator of the Mediterranean section at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, said it is clear the “Iliad” is a compilation of oral tradition going back to the 13th century B.C.

“It’s an amalgam of lots of stories that seemed focused on conflicts in one particular area of northwestern Turkey,” Rose said.

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Story: Joel N. Shurkin, LiveScience | Photo: Public Domain

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