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Greek archaeologists reveal plan for underwater museum in ancient Epidaurus

Can the urban renewal of a coastal zone safeguard the protection of underwater cultural heritage? An aspiring project for the redevelopment of Greece's ancient city of Epidaurus at the Saronic Gulf with the construction of a new harbour opts to give an answer to this question by transforming the coastal zone into a promising tourist destination, without ruining the antiquities that lie under the sea.

Greek archaeologists reveal plan for underwater museum in ancient Epidaurus
View of Palea Epidavros, the original harbour town of the Sanctuary of Asclepius 
[Credit: David Gavin/WikiCommons]
Over the years, there was an increasing and uncoordinated use of coastal area in Epidaurus resulting respectively in multiple increasing pressures on coastal and marine resources.

No redevelopment could be made at the port without the permission of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities and the Greek Central Archaeological Council, since it is listed as archaeological site and is protected by the Ephorate.

So, a large part of the interventions made in the area were not always authorized, did not follow the rules and were illegal putting into danger the marine ecosystem.

For the first time, local authorities in cooperation with the archaeological services prepared a study of environmental impact assessment to address the ongoing issue.

"Until now the procedure followed was wrong. For the first time, we started to plan with main objective to safeguard the antiquities," the mayor of ancient Epidaurus Konstantinos Kantzios told Xinhua.

Greek archaeologists reveal plan for underwater museum in ancient Epidaurus
Aerial view of the Sanctuary of Asclepius, Epidaurus 
[Credit: Getty Images]
"The study describes strategically the directions to follow and what infrastructure must be introduced in order to project the underwater treasures, to help visitors have access to the site, and develop a functional integrity of the land-sea continuum," he added.

For her part, Angeliki Simosi, head of the Hellenic Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities explained that the project will not affect the archaeological sites.

"This plan can contribute both to the promotion of underwater antiquities and to the renewal of the harbour of the ancient city of Epidaurus," she told Xinhua.

With main concern to protect the antiquities, the Ephorate works with the municipality to promote underwater antiquities. According to the plan, glass or wooden docks will be constructed in the old harbour so visitors can admire the ancient relics.

At the same time, the municipality hopes the rebirth of the place with an effective coastal spatial planning will decompress the city, re-establish the communication with the sea and provide a wide range of tourist activities to boost local economy.

Greek archaeologists reveal plan for underwater museum in ancient Epidaurus
Aerial view of the ancient theatre at the Sanctuary of Asclepius, Epidaurus 
[Credit: Getty Images]
By creating an attractive destination, the city plans to offer a year-around destination since it will not be only famous for the Epidaurus Festival that occurs every summer and includes drama performances in the Ancient Theatre.

"There will be suitable floating docks only for the yachts to moor, depending on their size without affecting the seabed. In addition, all the green area can be offered for trekking and biking activities for tourists, while incentives could be given for the rural growth of the area that is so fertile," Konstantinos Bertzouanis, architect and counselor to the urban plan, told Xinhua.

As Bertzouanis pointed out, human, natural and cultural environment are the three key pillars that provide opportunities for growth.

As a member country of the European Union, Greece is obliged to record its coastal zones, to protect its marine and terrestrial archaeological reserve, to decrease the ecological footprint under certain regulatory framework.

According to experts, sustainable use of resources will lead to sustainable growth of maritime and coastal economies, by the smooth cooperation between the Ephorate and the local community.

"In general, we are in cooperation with local authorities in each archaeological site that we work. Local communities, especially the remote ones, respond well because they know that this will bring them more life, will revive the tourism and will protect the antiquities," Simosi marked.

"Great efforts have been made in many places across Greece, like in Pylos in Messenia, in Pavlopetri in southern Laconia, in the municipality of Lavreotiki in the southeastern part of Attica. Now in Epidaurus we try to project the unique antiquities that lie beneath the sea," she explained.

For land and sea planning, it is important to involve all stakeholders across the different sectors to ensure broad support for the protection and promotion of marine and terrestrial archaeological preserve for the common benefit of all people and the marine environment.

"In Epidaurus, all parts agree that there is great need to proceed with the protection of the cultural heritage and the urban redevelopment, otherwise a place of worldwide cultural interest will be doomed," Kantzios said. Enditem

Author: Alexia Vlachou | Source: Xinhua [November 03, 2016]

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