English Français

Decision : 35 COM 8B.22
Cultural Properties - Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe (Sudan)

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Documents WHC-11/35.COM/8B and WHC-11/35.COM/INF.8B1,

2. Inscribes the Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe, Sudan, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (ii), (iii), (iv) and (v);

3. Takes note of the following provisional Statement of Outstanding of Universal Value:


Brief synthesis

The Island of Meroe is the heartland of the Kingdom of Kush, a major power in the ancient world from the 8th century BCE into the 4th century CE. Meroe became the principal residence of the ruler, and from the 3rd century BCE onwards it was the site of most subsequent royal burials. It also has evidence for industrial activities, particularly iron-working. Naqa has important implications for understanding the palaeoclimate and hydrological regime in the area in the later centuries BCE and the first few centuries CE. Musawwarat es-Sufra is a religious complex that, along with Naqa, raises the question of how it functioned in what is today a very arid environment: in this context, the massive water reservoirs (hafirs) are particularly significant.

These three sites comprise the best preserved relics of the Kingdom of Kush, encompassing a wide range of architectural forms and occupying a range of environments. They testify to the wealth and power of the Kushite state and to its wide-ranging contacts with the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern worlds: this is the meeting place of the Pharaonic and Classical worlds and Sahelian Africa.

Some of the sites are located in a semi-desert (Meroe pyramids, Musawwarat es-Sufra, and Naqa), whilst the Meroe town site is in a riverine landscape. The temples of Musawwarat es-Sufra and Naqa and the pyramid of Meroe, set against reddish-brown hills and contrasting with the green bushes that cover them, are striking when viewed from an almost empty distance of more than 30 km from the bank of the Nile. The neighbourhood of these sites is inhabited by traditional communities that have changed little over many centuries.

The three sites of the serial property (Meroe, Musawwarat es-Sufra and Naga) exhibit an architectural tradition of pyramids, temples, palaces, industrial areas that shaped the political, religious, social, artistic and technological scene of the Middle and Northern Nile Valley for more than 1000 years (8th Century BC-4th Century AD).

Criterion (ii): The archaeological sites of the Island of Meroe provide a detailed insight into the interchange of ideas between central Africa and the Mediterranean world along what was the major corridor to and from Africa over a very long period during the ancient world. The interaction of local and foreign influences are demonstrated by the architecture, art, iconography, religion, and language.

Criterion (iii): All aspects of Kushite civilization were largely expunged by the arrival of Christianity on the Middle Nile in the 6th century CE. The nominated properties with their wide range of monument types, well preserved buildings, and potential for future excavation and other avenues of research are unique testimony to this, perhaps the greatest civilization of sub-Saharan Africa.

Criterion (iv): The pyramids at Meroe are outstanding examples of this highly distinctive Kushite funerary monument, and their intimate association with the well preserved remains of the urban centre is noteworthy. The evidence for iron-working is of considerable importance for studying the role of Meroe in the diffusion of metal-working technology in sub-Saharan Africa.

At Naqa the „Roman kiosk,‟ with its juxtaposition of architectural and decorative elements from Pharaonic Egypt, Greece, and Rome as well as from Kush itself, and the Lion Temple, which preserves superb reliefs of the Kushite gods and royalty, are of especial importance.

Musawwarat is a unique architectural ensemble with temples, courtyards, and domestic buildings, as well as major installations connected with water management, quarries, and industrial areas.

Criterion (v): The major centres of human activity far from the Nile at Musawwarat and Naqa raise questions as to their viability in what is today an arid zone devoid of permanent human settlement. They offer the possibility, through a detailed study of the palaeoclimate, flora, and fauna, of understanding the interaction of the Kushites with their desert hinterland.

Integrity and authenticity

The integrity and authenticity of the three sites (the Meroe town site, the North and South cemeteries, Musawwarat es-Sufra, and Naqa) conform with the requirements of the World Heritage Committee. They have been subject to no inappropriate interventions of any significance since their abandonment and their places in the natural landscape have not been compromised or degraded. The treasure hunting of Ferlini in the 1830s was very deleterious to some of the pyramids in the Meroe cemeteries, but the overall appearance of the ensembles has survived.

A certain amount of restoration has been carried out since the mid 20th century, most notably on a number of pyramids and a few buildings (eg the "Royal Baths‟ and the Kiosk at Naqa). Whilst the materials and techniques employed do not in certain instances conform with current conservation principles and practice, which have made considerable advances since these works were carried out, the precepts of the Venice Charter (1954), the Nara Document (1995), and the concept of anastylosis have not been violated. Two or three small pyramids have been completely rebuilt, with a didactic purpose, to demonstrate how they would have appeared in antiquity.

Protection and management requirements

- The property is protected by the Antiquities Protection Ordinance of 1905, amended in 1952 and recently in 1999.

- The sites are guarded by a military force from the Police of Tourism and Antiquities.

- A resident site manager has been appointed. He is assisted by a group of technicians.
- Establishment of a Management Committee for the property.

- A consultant company is preparing the design and cost for the fencing and basic infrastructure on the sites.

- Attempts to attract foreign and local partners to contribute to the ongoing efforts for the preservation of the archaeological heritage of the sites.


4. Recommends the State Party to:

a) Consider, in the future, the addition of other important sites in the region to the property to give a complete vision of the "Island of Meroe" during Meroitic times,

b) Include the archaeological remains of the northern part of the Royal City within the boundaries of the property,

c) Include the southern flanks of the northern hills within the buffer zone of Meroe,

d) Reinforce the Management Committee, obtain dedicated funding to include a maintenance programme for the sites, linked to the monitoring system; and establish mandatory guides for visitors,

e) Develop an overall inventory and database for the sites as a basis for the conservation program and monitoring,

f) Develop a co-ordinated Conservation Plan with an agreed conservation policy for the three nominated sites,

g) Strengthen protection of the setting of Meroe to ensure that mining in the setting is not allowed where it would impact adversely on the property,

h) Provide a timetable for rerouting the highway, power transmission lines around the outside of the Meroe site;

5. Encourages the State Party to seek international assistance for the protection and conservation of the property, through the development of the co-ordinated Conservation Plan, in accordance with Paragraph 235 (c) and Paragraph 241 (Conservation and Management Assistance) of the Operational Guidelines;

6. Invites the international community to consider support for these extraordinary sites and cooperate to help with the development of the co-ordinated data-base and the Conservation Plan.

Themes: Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties: Sudan
Year: 2011
Decision Code: 35 COM 8B.22