The Secrets Hidden in Achilles’ Shield

How a retired foresight scientist’s unusual approach has led to rethinking Troy’s location and the motives for the Trojan War.

Fiona Cameron Lister
16 min readJul 22, 2020

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The new shield of Achilles, the key to unlocking Troy’s secrets. Image: Sybren Vlasblom.

When award-winning Dutch innovation expert Henk van Oosten retired, he wasn’t interested in taking up golf or bridge. Instead, he decided to solve one of ancient history’s most enduring mysteries.

Using skills acquired over many years in foresight studies and his experience as a sailor, he took on the knotty topic of the Trojan War and Odysseus’ travels. Were they just myths conjured up by Homer to entertain his Greek audience or could they be something more?

He treated the search as if it were one of his innovation projects, using wide spectrum thinking and knowledge from diverse fields. And in doing so, he has come up with a tantalising hypothesis. He believes that the Trojan War was not fought over the breathtakingly beautiful Helen of Sparta and based in the Mediterranean. He thinks it took place in the Atlantic around 1400 BC and was fought over something the ancients considered even more precious.

The poems that prompted the quest

When van Oosten retired in 2007, his approach to this new phase of life was typical of a man who had spent his entire career thinking outside the box.

He decided to read at least one classical text a year to see why they were considered classics. He began with Dante’s Divine Comedy and Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

Then came the works that would change his life.

In 2013–2014, he tackled Homer’s 8th-century BC epic poems about the Bronze Age Trojan War and its aftermath: The Iliad and The Odyssey, finding the first difficult to read but the second much more interesting.

The epic poem that started it all… Image: Tbel Abuseridze, Unsplash

As luck would have it, a rock opera O Die Zee (Oh That Sea) was playing near where he lived in Zeeland, south west Netherlands. The wordplay of its clever title mirrored its subject matter: it was based on Iman Wilkens’ 1990 book Where Troy Once Stood, which argues that…

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Fiona Cameron Lister

Experienced British writer/editor/mentor in Italy | MWC semi-finalist| Loves words, history, humour, unusual subjects| Contact: fcameronlister@gmail.com