Following the return of the Aksum Obelisk, from Rome to Aksum, in April 2005, and in the framework of the Italian Funds in Trust, UNESCO has implemented the “Aksum Archaeological Site Improvement Project: “Preparatory studies for the re-erection of the Obelisk and capacity building for archaeological conservation – Phase 1”, started in October 2005. In close collaboration with the Ethiopian Authorities, UNESCO undertook Remote Sensing Investigations of the Aksum Stelae field in all the areas concerned by the re-erection works, an Impact Assessment Study for the planned re-erection of the Aksum Obelisk, a detailed Engineering Project for the re-erection of the Aksum Obelisk, as well as an outline Landscaping Project in the Stelae field.
The Remote Sensing Investigations allowed the identification of areas that need to be protected during the works, thus re-shaping the Engineering Project to preserve the site’s integrity and archaeological remains. In addition, and as a result of the risk assessment, the temporary consolidation of Stela 3 -the only remaining decorated stela erected in situ- was added to the initial activities to protect it from eventual negative effects during the re-erection works. The implementation of the re-erection works will start shortly, in the framework of the Italian Funds in Trust.
“The Ethiopian Cultural Heritage Project –Pilot Project” funded through a Learning and Innovation Loan (LIL) by the World Bank (USD 700,000), which has also benefited from a Japanese fund of USD 174,000 during the preparatory phase, is composed of a site museum and annexed services (including a cafeteria in a rehabilitated 19th century building), signage in all the areas of the serial site, training and capacity building in conservation techniques, tourism guiding and museum inventory, as well as infrastructure development in the old town of Aksum. This Project does not comprise a comprehensive management plan.
With reference to the World Heritage Committee request in 2005(29 COM 7B.34)for the “World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM to undertake a mission to Aksum with view to evaluate its state of conservation and to submit a report to the Committee for consideration at its 30th session in 2006”, the Director of the World Heritage Centre, in agreement with ICOMOS and ICCROM, considered that the present state of conservation report could be prepared without a joint field mission to Aksum, for the following reasons:
a) The World Heritage Centre is implementing a large scale project in Aksum; regular missions were thus conducted in 2005 and 2006, and technical reports, addressing management, training and institutional support, archaeological and environmental conservation, were undertaken by the World Heritage Centre Experts;
b) The Training and Capacity building activities that are planned by the World Heritage Centre within the Aksum Obelisk re-erection project will address in 2006 and 2007 the main elements that concern the protection of the property: the management of the site, the definition of its boundaries and buffer zone, the legal frmaework, and the constitution of appropriate cartography and documentation.