1.         Archaeological Site of Cyrene (Libya) (C 190)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1982

Criteria  (ii)(iii)(vi)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/190/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/190/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions


Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/190/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2004

Since its inscription on the World Heritage List, the site has never been the subject of a state of conservation report. In March 2003, the Centre dispatched a mission to Cyrene to assess its state of conservation and identify possible remedial measures. The findings and recommendations of the mission, which had been discussed with the State Party, were contained in an extensive report of which the main points are summarised here.


The exact perimeter of the World Heritage property is unclear, owing to the lack of a reliable map and the complex geomorphology of the site. However, it would appear that the area currently protected is confined to the main excavated monuments (Agora, Temple of Zeus, Sanctuary of Apollo) and does not include the large necropolises (over 1500 tombs) surrounding them. According to the Libyan authorities, some 50 staff work on the site, including seven technicians, all of them employees of the Department of Antiquities. However, owing to lack of resources and capacity, the site does not have a proper management system, including adequate documentation, maintenance and monitoring.


Cyrene is threatened by a number of man-made and natural factors. Among the latter, mention should be made of the very harsh climatic conditions, with cold weather in the winter, and rain from November to the end of March. Rain water seeping into the structures or standing on floors, along with variations in temperature and humidity, cause extensive deterioration. The situation is worsened by the uncontrolled growth of plants (shrubs, cacti), and trees (fig trees, palm trees, etc.), and the proliferation of micro-organisms, especially lichens, which invade the surface of the walls, and of the extant mosaic floorings.


Among the man-made factors, a particularly important issue is the development pressure from the neighbouring city of Shahat, which in recent years has been expanding considerably, partly encroaching upon the western necropolis. This has resulted in the loss of significant remains of the funerary architecture of Cyrene. A municipal Commission, including a representative from the Department of Antiquities, has managed to re-direct the expansion of the town and avoid further loss of heritage for the time being, but the lack of a proper planning instrument based on a credible map of the site is clearly undermining these efforts. Moreover, several other incompatible land-uses are endangering the integrity of the property, including planting of trees and animal grazing. Other man-made factors affecting the property are vandalism and looting. The sheer size of the property, which is difficult to control, and the huge number of unexcavated graves have facilitated in recent times the development of an industry of illicit trafficking that the Department of Antiquities, with its current resources, cannot adequately prevent.


The above situation is aggravated by the launching of new excavations (mostly by foreign archaeological missions) in peripheral areas of the site. Other foreign scientific missions concentrated on the restoration of significant buildings, such as the Temple of Zeus, or on the study and conservation of outstanding classical statues from the site, which are currently protected and presented in a storehouse. This, unfortunately, was not open to the public in March 2003. The Mission had the impression that, while the contribution of these foreign missions is of undisputed scientific value (with the exception of some inappropriate conservation techniques, such as the use of cement in the Temple of Zeus), the scope for their involvement should be reassessed by the Libyan authorities in the light of the real priorities for the conservation of the site, namely the preparation of a cartography, the development of a permanent and long-term maintenance policy and the training of local staff in conservation and monitoring.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM


Decision Adopted: 28 COM 15B.49

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Urges the State Party to redefine, within two years, the exact boundaries of the World Heritage property, as well as the necessary buffer zones, based on an up-dated topographic map of the site at the appropriate scale documenting the archaeological evidence, but also the existing infrastructure and recent constructions surrounding the property;

2. Requests the State Party to ensure, through the appropriate legal and planning instruments, including a Management Plan and coordination of archaeological interventions on the site, and in close consultation with the responsible local authorities, the adequate protection of the property in the light of the newly designated boundaries of the World Heritage property, and that, to the extent possible, fences be installed along these boundaries and sufficient staff be appointed to ensure their guard;

3. Further requests the State Party to conduct, possibly in co-operation with the foreign scientific missions working on the property, a comprehensive and prioritised survey of the state of conservation of the property and to develop appropriate solutions for the various types of deterioration processes, including preventive conservation measures such as temporary shelters and re-burial of exposed archaeological remains;

4. Encourages the State Party to reassess its policy concerning archaeological excavations and major restoration works on the property to direct all available resources towards the strengthening of the capacity of the technical staff of the Department of Antiquities, both in terms of skills and the necessary equipment and financial means, in the documentation, regular maintenance and monitoring of the property;

5. Further encourages the State Party to submit an international assistance request under the World Heritage Fund to support the implementation of the aboverecommendations

6. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Committee, by 1 February 2006, a report on the implementation of the above recommendations, for examination by the Committee at its 30th session in 2006.