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Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley)

Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley)

Wadi Al-Hitan, Whale Valley, in the Western Desert of Egypt, contains invaluable fossil remains of the earliest, and now extinct, suborder of whales, Archaeoceti. These fossils represent one of the major stories of evolution: the emergence of the whale as an ocean-going mammal from a previous life as a land-based animal. This is the most important site in the world for the demonstration of this stage of evolution. It portrays vividly the form and life of these whales during their transition. The number, concentration and quality of such fossils here is unique, as is their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape. The fossils of Al-Hitan show the youngest archaeocetes, in the last stages of losing their hind limbs. Other fossil material in the site makes it possible to reconstruct the surrounding environmental and ecological conditions of the time.

Wadi Al-Hitan (La vallée des Baleines)

Wadi al-Hitan, la Vallée des baleines, dans le désert occidental de l’Égypte, contient des restes fossiles inestimables du plus ancien, et maintenant éteint, ordre des baleines archaeoceti. Ces fossiles représentent l’une des étapes les importantes de l’évolution : les débuts de la baleine en tant que mammifère marin après avoir été mammifère terrestre. C’est le plus grand site au monde témoignant de cette époque de l’évolution. Il montre très clairement l’aspect et la vie de ces baleines pendant leur transition. Le nombre, la concentration et la qualité de ces fossiles sont uniques, tout comme leur accessibilité et leur présence dans un paysage attrayant et protégé. Les fossiles d’Al-Hitan montrent des jeunes archéocètes, dans les dernières étapes de la perte de leurs membres postérieurs. D’autres fossiles présents sur le site permettent la reconstruction de l’environnement et des conditions écologiques de cette époque.

وادي الحيتان

يقع وادي الحيتان في صحراء مصر الغربيّة ويتضمّن بقايا أحفوريّة متحجّرة نفيسة عن فصيلة الحيتان القديمة والمنقرضة اليوم. تمثّل هذه البقايا المتحجرة إحدى أبرز محطات تطوّر الحيتان من ثدييات بريّة إلى ثدييات بحريّة. وهو أكبر مواقع العالم الشاهد على هذه المرحلة من التطوّر حيث يعكس طبيعة الحيتان وحياتها في خلال فترة تحوّلها. فهذه البقايا الأحفوريّة بعددها وتركّزها ونوعيّتها فريدة من نوعها تماماً كما النفاذ إليها ووجودها في موقع جميل ومحمي. تُبيّن بقايا الحيتان المتحجرة حيتاناً شابةً في المراحل الأخيرة من فقدان أعضائها الخلفيّة. وتتيح متحجرات أخرى متوفرة في هذا الموقع  التعرف على البيئة والشروط البيئية في تلك الحقبة.

source: UNESCO/ERI

鲸鱼峡谷

鲸鱼峡谷位于埃及西部沙漠,有珍贵的鲸化石,这种鲸类属于最古老的、现已绝迹的古鲸亚目。这些化石反映了主要的进化历程之一:鲸由早期的陆生动物进化为海洋哺乳动物。这是世界上反映这一进化阶段的最重要遗迹,生动地展示了这些鲸在进化过程中的生命形态。化石的数量、集中程度以及质量可谓首屈一指,所处的环境风景迷人,受到良好保护,可以接近。鲸鱼峡谷的化石展现了鲸后鳍退化最后阶段的原始状态。这些鲸鱼尽管在头骨和牙齿结构方面仍保持了原始面貌,但已显示了现代鲸典型的流线型身体形态。加上该遗址的其他化石材料,使人们完全可能重建当时的环境和生态。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Вади-аль-Хитан («Долина китов») - местонахождение окаменелостей

В пустыне на западе Египта обнаружены бесценные палеонтологические находки – ископаемые остатки древних китов, принадлежащих к ныне уже исчезнувшему подотряду Аrchaeoceti. Эти окаменелости иллюстрируют одну из ярких страниц эволюции жизни на Земле - происхождение китов как млекопитающих, приспособленных к жизни в океане, от животных, обитавших на суше. С точки зрения демонстрации этой ступени эволюции, находки в Вади-аль-Хитан признаны наиболее значимыми во всем мире. Количество, сохранность и степень концентрации обнаруженных окаменелостей поистине уникальны. Кроме того, живописный и особо охраняемый ландшафт, вмещающий эти ископаемые образцы, вполне доступен и пригоден для исследований. Найденные здесь окаменелости принадлежат к самым ранним представителям Аrchaeoceti и отражают ту стадию их развития, на которой они уже почти полностью утратили свои задние конечности, унаследованные от своих предков, обитавших на суше. Тело древних китов уже имело такую же обтекаемую форму, как и у современных, однако их зубная система и череп имели еще примитивное строение. С помощью других ископаемых остатков, обнаруженных в Вади-аль-Хитан, ученые реконструировали всю природную обстановку того времени в данном регионе мира.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Uadi Al Hitan (El Valle de las Ballenas)

El sitio de Uadi Al Hitan –el Valle de las Ballenas– está situado en el desierto occidental de Egipto y posee inestimables restos fósiles de arqueocetos, cetáceos de un orden específico antiquísimo, hoy en día extinguido. Los fósiles de las ballenas de Uadi Al Hitan son testigos de una importante etapa de la evolución de las especies: el paso de estos mamíferos –que vivían en un medio terrestre– a su vida actual en el medio oceánico. Este sitio es el más importante del mundo en su género para comprender esa etapa de la evolución de los cetáceos, ya que los vestigios existentes son un vivo exponente de su forma de vida durante la transición de la tierra al mar. El número, la concentración y la calidad de los fósiles, así como su accesibilidad y emplazamiento en un paisaje protegido de gran belleza, hacen del sitio un lugar excepcional por todos los conceptos. Las ballenas fósiles de Uadi Al-Hitan pertenecen al grupo de arqueocetos más jóvenes, es decir los que se hallaban en la última fase de pérdida de sus miembros posteriores. Otros fósiles del sitio permiten, además, reconstruir en el medio ambiente y las condiciones ecológicas de la época.

source: UNESCO/ERI

ワディ・エル‐ヒータン(クジラの谷)

source: NFUAJ

Wadi Al-Hitan (walvisvallei)

Wadi Al-Hitan – de walvisvallei in de westelijke woestijn van Egypte – bevat waardevolle fossiele resten van de vroegste, nu uitgestorven onderorde van walvissen: archaeoceti (oerwalvissen). De fossielen vormen een belangrijke schakel in de evolutie: de opkomst van de walvis als zeezoogdier dat voortkomt uit een vroeger leven als landdier. Dit is de belangrijkste plaats waar deze evolutionaire fase getoond wordt. De fossielen van Al-Hitan tonen de jongste archaeocetes, in de laatste fase van het verlies van hun achterpoten. Het aantal, de concentratie en de kwaliteit van dergelijke fossielen is uniek, net als de toegankelijkheid en de ligging in een aantrekkelijk en beschermd landschap.

Source: unesco.nl

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Wadi Al-Hitan © UNESCO
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The globally important fossils of Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley), in the Western Desert of Egypt, provide dramatic evidence of one of the iconic stories of evolution: the emergence of whales as ocean-going mammals, from their previous life as land-based animals. 

The World Heritage property is a strictly protected zone, set within the wider landscape of the attractive Wadi El-Rayan Protected Area. It is an exceptional global reference site because of the number, concentration, quality and accessibility of the evidence of the earliest whales, often in the form of complete skeletons, and the record of the environment that they lived in.

 

Criterion (viii): Wadi Al-Hitan is the most important site in the world to demonstrate one of the iconic changes that make up the record of life on Earth: the evolution of the whales.  It portrays vividly their form and mode of life during their transition from land animals to a marine existence.  It exceeds the values of other comparable sites in terms of the number, concentration and quality of its fossils, and their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape.

 

Integrity

Wadi Al Hitan is of sufficient size to include the main exposures of rocks where the whale fossils are found, as well as associated geological features of interest. In addition, a wider part of the Wadi El-Rayan Protected Area is included in the property, including the immediate landscape surrounding the fossil sites, areas of scenic interest, and areas which provide visitor access and facilities. A buffer zone has been identified to protect the property from wider threats, including from visitation and traffic, and could be extended further in order to provide additional safeguards and to facilitate management.

 

Protection and management requirements

Wadi Al-Hitan is State owned and has strong and unequivocal legal protection under the Egyptian Law 102/1983 for Nature Protectorates reserves, forbidding actions that would lead to destruction or deterioration of the natural environment. The law mentions geological features as specific elements receiving protection. 

The property lies within the Wadi El-Rayan Protected Area (WRPA), declared by Prime ministerial Decree No. 2954/1997. It is managed under national regulatory law on Nature Protectorates. The Nature Conservation Sector (NCS) of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) is responsible for the management, protection and conservation of the entire site, as part of its overall management of the WRPA. 

An effective management system is in place for the property, as an integrated part of the implementation of the Management Plan for the WRPA. Under the updated Management Plan (2008-2013) the property is identified as a “World Heritage Zone”. No vehicle access is permitted, whilst zones provide for well-controlled eco-tourism in part of the property, whilst maintaining areas for research and studies.  The buffer zone is also managed as a part of the World Heritage Zone within the WRPA. Effective and well designed visitor facilities are provided to present the property, guide visitors to key localities via footpaths, prevent vehicular traffic in the property and provide for limited on-site accommodation. There is a planning team responsible for day-to-day management of the property, and the preparation of annual plans and monitoring and reporting on the effectiveness of its management. 

Maintenance of an effective and well-resourced management plan, supported by adequate staff, finance and resources is an essential long term requirement. Amongst the key management issues are the protection, conservation and encouragement of well-managed research in relation to the fossil remains and the associated geological values, to international standards of best practice. Other important long-term management needs are the continued protection of the property from damage by traffic of vehicles, the provision and maintenance of the essential management infrastructure within the property that minimises intrusion and damage to its natural values, and the provision of facilities for sustainable tourism at appropriate levels of visitation.

Long Description

Wadi Al-Hitan, Whale Valley, in the Western Desert of Egypt, contains invaluable fossil remains of the earliest, and now extinct, suborder of whales, the archaeoceti. These fossils represent one of the major stories of evolution: the emergence of the whale as an ocean-going mammal from a previous life as a land-based animal. This is the most important site in the world for the demonstration of this stage of evolution. It portrays vividly the form and life of these whales during their transition. The number, concentration and quality of such fossils here is unique, as is their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape. The fossils of Al-Hitan show the youngest archaeocetes, in the last stages of losing their hind limbs. They already display the typical streamlined body form of modern whales, whilst retaining certain primitive aspects of skull and tooth structure. Other fossil material in the site makes it possible to reconstruct the surrounding environmental and ecological conditions of the time.

Wadi Al-Hitan is the most important site in the world to demonstrate one of the iconic changes that make up the record of life on Earth: the evolution of the whales. It portrays vividly their form and mode of life during their transition from land animals to a marine existence. It exceeds the values of other comparable sites in terms of the number, concentration and quality of its fossils, and their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape. It accords with key principles of the IUCN study on fossil World Heritage sites, and represents significant values that are currently absent from the World Heritage List.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC