Backgrounder: Epidaurus, UNESCO World Heritage site

2016-11-08 22:39:43 GMT2016-11-09 06:39:43(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

by Alexia Vlachou, Liu Yongqiu

ATHENS, Nov. 8 (Xinhua) -- With a recent land, aerial and underwater topographic mapping of ancient Epidaurus conducted by Greece's Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities and China's Xinhua News Agency, more light was shed to the underwater treasures in Epidaurus, one of Greece's legendary cities.

Reflecting the history of the Greek culture, the ancient Epidaurus is among the most popular archaeological sites in Greece, in a small valley of the Argolida peninsula in the Peloponnese.

Epidaurus, home to the famous healing center in the antiquity, provides valuable insights into the Greek and Roman times.

During the fourth and third centuries BC, endless conflicts in the area led people from all over Greece and the Mediterranean to seek protection and help from the healing god Asclepius, making the sanctuary one of the richest of its time.

Surrounded by a preserved natural landscape, the sanctuary of Asclepius comprises a series of ancient monuments, including the temple of the god, the altar of Apollo, the Tholos, the stadium, the banqueting hall and the renowned theater -- all considered unique examples of the late classical Greek architecture.

Among them, the ancient theater of Epidaurus is famous for its symmetry and incredible acoustics. This exquisitely preserved theater has revived as part of an annual festival with performances from Greek and foreign productions dedicated to ancient Greek drama every summer since 1954.

In 1881, excavations began under the guidance of Panagiotis Kavvadias of the Greek Archaeological Society who devoted his entire life to Epidaurus and to uncover the sanctuary's most important monuments. In 1988, the Sanctuary of Asclepius at Epidaurus was added to the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites.

Although the famous sanctuary has attracted experts and tourists' attention, the seabed of ancient Epidaurus full of underwater treasures in the small bay has been quite unknown.

During the 1970s, remains of the ancient harbor installations, as well as many ruins of various buildings under the water, were revealed, but no excavation has ever taken place in that area.

On the southern part of the city lies the sunken city with many Roman relics at a very low depth. Among them there is a complete building, a Roman villa according to archaeologists, that can be clearly seen.

Under the instructions of the archaeologists, a crew of submarine topographers with their technological equipment and 3D cameras dived into the sea to capture the ancient ruins, while a drone operator from land took aerial photos on an expedition in September.

During a one-day conference at the new Acropolis Museum to mark the 40th anniversary of the ephorate's establishment on Oct. 14, Angeliki Simosi, archaeologist and head of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, presented a short video produced by Xinhua on the submerged ancient city at Epidavros port.

"It is breathtaking," Stamatina Barouxi, a pensioner teacher, told Xinhua after the screening.