Human Evolution: Adaptations, Dispersals and Social Developments (HEADS)

Pleistocene occupation sites of Klasies River, Border Cave, Wonderwerk Cave and comparable sites relating to the emergence of modern humans, South Africa. (01/01/2010) © UNESCO / Nuria sanz

Human Evolution related properties represent a process of evolutionary accretion that took place over a vast period of time, offering vital insight to scientific, cultural, ethological and historical dimensions of human development, and the earliest evidence of human ritual, expression and practice.

We find the record increasingly valuable as our inherited storehouse of knowledge about the foundations and diversity of human life, experience, and social behavior as well as modes of early human adaption in response to environmental and climatic influences. This precious knowledge rests at the core of understanding human lineage and the origins of our cultural diversity, as well as its continuity today.

As a global phenomenon, the properties are not geographically exclusive, and require an inclusive and comprehensive approach in terms of their study and conservation. The nature of the properties necessitates a strong cooperation between the fields of both science and culture to inform a deeper understanding of our cultural origins.

Types of properties:

  • Deposits useful for the reconstruction of palaeo-environments;
  • Deposits with human remains, including intentional ones such as burials, burial mounds and megalithic graves;
  • Evidence of human occupation, use and modification of caves or rock shelters, be it ephemeral or long-standing, such as in tells, and monumental or scarcely visible, such as kill and butchery sites;
  • Mining sites, quarries and refuse deposits;
  • Caches, campsites and abandoned or lost equipment;
  • Artificial modification of the environment, as in hunting, fishing and drainage systems, ditches and enclosures, salt working sites, pottery production;
  • Long-sequence evolutive landscapes related to hunter-gatherer communities;
  • Places with intangible values related to criteria (vi) and associative cultural landscapes, such as palaeo landscapes and rock art sites; 
  • Sites important for the history of science;
  • Sites related to human mobility and traces of long-term repeated human movement;
  • Sites related to trade;
  • Rock Art Sites.

The development of the HEADS Programme is directed toward defining and establishing a solid strategy of cooperation and implementation to ensure the future recognition, conservation and study of these early vulnerable sites in relation to World Heritage. HEADS is financed by the Spanish Funds-in-Trust for World Heritage.The Action Plan for the Programme was approved by the 34th Session of the World Heritage Committee in Decision WHC-10/34.COM/5F (Brasilia, 2010), with a prioritized list of actions for implementation. The key objectives of the Action Plan are:

  • i. Establish links between scientific research and integrated conservation by recognizing the scientific values of properties related to human origins;
  • ii. Operate within the framework of the Global Strategy, launched by the World Heritage Committee in 1994, to broaden the definition of World Heritage in better reflecting the full spectrum of the world's cultural and natural sites of outstanding universal value;
  • iii. Recognize sites that are outstanding demonstrations of traces of the earliest interaction between humankind and the land, early cultural behaviour, cognitive steps and creative expressions;
  • iv. Preserve the identified properties from progressive deterioration due to their ancient chronology and vulnerable fabric through scientific analysis and the application of conservation plans;
  • v. Develop collaborative, outreach and sustainable initiatives through fostering networks with Advisory Bodies, States Parties, National Commissions, and national and international institutions to implement the Action Plan.

Since the programme's inception in 2006 the activities have been focused in 3 core thematic areas:

 

Other activities (1)
Decisions
  • Decision 34COM 5F.1 Show
  • Decision 33COM 5A Show
  • Decision 32COM 10A Show