The Mycenaean necropolis at Palaia Epidaurus

Work began at the end of the 19th century on locating and partially excavating the Mycenaean necropolis on the steep eastern slope of Katarachi Hill, at Nera, west of the modern town of Palaia Epidaurus. New evidence has come to light in recent years, following preservation excavations. The necropolis was organised into clusters of chamber tombs, cut into the natural rock of the area. Following the usual arrangement of tombs of this type, the chamber tombs at Epidaurus consist of a long entranceway heading downwards with converging walls leading to a quadrilateral or circular chamber, which had an opening sealed with bricks. Their interior was used for the burial of many dead; members of the same family or dynasty. Pits in the floor of the entranceway and the chambers were used for additional burials.

The most common grave goods that accompanied the dead were clay vases, mostly stirrup jars and small amphorae, alabastra [small pottery vessels], small boxes, pins, beakers and cups. There were also clay figurines of the 'phi' and 'psi' type, copper weapons, stone seals, copper pins, spirals, beads and tiles made of glass and faience, steatite buttons, and gold leaf. Boar tusks were found lying scattered around the interior of a tomb — the remains of a Mycenaean helmet from an older burial that had been moved out of the way.  

The necropolis was in use from the 15th to the 11th century BC. The Mycenaean settlement of ambeloessa [full of vines] Epidaurus to which the necropolis belonged has not been located. Its geographical position, however, makes it clear that this settlement would have played an important role in maritime trade and connecting the Mycenaean centres of the Argolid Plane with the sea. The presence of some Cycladic pottery amongst the funeral gifts in the tombs demonstrates the relationship that the martime-orientated Mycenaean settlement had with the prosperous centres of the Aegean. Three Mycenaean bridges, built using the corbel arch system, in the Kazarma region, demonstrate the existence of a network of roads via which these centres were connected with the Epidaurus region.

Some of the tombs were used again — possibly as temporary shelter — during the Hellenistic and Roman times, when the city of Epidaurus extended to the Nisi peninsula. A few finds from the Byzantine period show that there was activity during that time as well.