The Hellenistic Nekromanteion (Oracle of the Dead) and sanctuary of Hades and Persephone at the Acheron river is located 45 km northwest of Preveza. The majority of the finds belong to the period of the flourishing of the sanctuary, in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, though the existence of the sanctuary as early as the 8th century BC is confirmed by the writings of Herodotus, the eleventh rhapsody of the Odyssey as well as the terracotta statuettes of Persephone found in the remains. The first habitation on the site goes back to the Mycenaean period, judging from several pottery sherds and a bronze sword of the Mycenaean type, dated to the 13th century BC. The Hellenistic sanctuary was
destroyed by the Romans in 167 BC.
The main part of the sanctuary is a
surrounded by a
rectangular peribolos in polygonal wall masonry. The interior of the building is divided by two parallel walls into a central hall and two side aisles, each further divided by transverse walls into three rooms. Under the central room lies an underground chamber of the same dimensions, carved in the rock. Fifteen poros arches supported the roof of this
underground chamber, which was thought to be the dark palace of Persephone and Hades. This building is dated to the end of the 4th or the beginning of the 3rd century BC. Later, at the end of the 3rd century BC, a
complex of buildings was added to the west of the initial structure, consisting of a central court around which there were rooms and storerooms.
Excavations on the top of the rocky hill were carried out in two campaigns
(1958-64 and 1976-77) by the University of Ioannina and under the direction of S. Dakaris on behalf of the Archaeological Society of Athens.
Remarkable is the tripartite structure of the building, which strongly reminds the
idea of the Underworld. The pilgrims were subjected to three stages of physical and spiritual
tests during their long-lasting stay in the dark rooms of the oracle. Through isolation, magical
rituals, prayers and invocations, wandering in the dark corridors, having the common faith in
the apparition of the dead, and being obliged to follow a special diet, they were appropriately
prepared to meet the souls of the dead.
In the years 1953-64 and 1976-77 were conducted excavations at the top of the cliff by S.I. Dakaris and the University of Ioannina on behalf of the Archaeological Society. Restoration works on the Nekromanteion followed in 1975-78.
Recently, under the integrated in NSRF project "Enhancement of the Archaeological Sites of Nekromanteion and Ephyra", were commenced upgrading works on the site and a pursue to link the Nekromanteion with the neighboring archaeological site of Ephyra.