Decision : 43 COM 8B.11
Ancient Ferrous Metallurgy Sites of Burkina Faso (Burkina Faso)
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Documents WHC/19/43.COM/8B and WHC/19/43.COM/INF.8B1,
- Inscribes the Ancient Ferrous Metallurgy Sites of Burkina Faso, Burkina Faso, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (iii), (iv) and (vi);
- Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:
The five components of the property bear witness to the ancient nature and importance of iron production, and its impact on pre-colonial societies in the Sahelian zone of Burkina Faso. Dated to the 8th century BCE, Douroula bears the most ancient testimony to the development of iron production currently identified in Burkina Faso, and illustrates this first and relatively early phase of the development of iron production in Africa. Tiwêga, Yamané, Kindibo and Békuy all have remarkably well conserved iron ore smelting furnaces. They are also the very rare sites in Burkina Faso to have furnaces in elevation. They are massive production sites that, through their scale, illustrate the intensification of iron production during the second millennium AD, at a time when Western African societies were becoming increasingly complex. The property is directly associated with living traditions embodied by the blacksmiths at Yamané, Kindibo and Douroula. These traditions are expressed today by symbolic values linked to iron technology among the communities of descendants of the blacksmiths and metallurgists.
Criterion (iii): The ancient ferrous metallurgy sites bear exceptional testimony to a unique tradition of iron ore smelting, passing on to today’s Burkina Faso communities a rich technical and cultural heritage. Douroula illustrates this first phase of iron production development in Africa, and demonstrates that the iron production technology was already widely disseminated by around 500 BCE across the whole region. Tiwêga, Yamané, Kindibo and Békuy are massive production sites that illustrate iron production throughout the Sahelian zone of Burkina Faso in the second millennium AD.
Criterion (iv): The ancient ferrous metallurgy sites are outstanding examples that illustrate the variety of traditional iron ore smelting techniques in Burkina Faso. The furnaces have conserved all or almost all of their elevation, and have morphological features that enable their differentiation. Other remains are associated with the furnaces, such as the huge assemblages of slag and traces of mining extraction, together with technical traditions that are still alive today. The very ancient appearance of this technology in global terms has had very significant consequences for the history of the African peoples.
Criterion (vi): The ancient ferrous metallurgy sites of Burkina Faso are directly associated with living traditions embodied by the socioprofessional group of the blacksmiths. These traditions are expressed today by symbolic values linked to iron technology in the communities that descend from the blacksmiths and metallurgists. As the masters of fire and iron, the blacksmiths perpetuate ancestral rites and social practices that confer on them an important role in their communities at Yamané, Kindibo and Douroula.
Within their boundaries the ancient ferrous metallurgy sites contain all the essential attributes of Outstanding Universal Value. They have all been preserved in their integrity and in their environment, with no major disruption down the centuries. No furnace has been dismantled, moved or damaged by vandalism. Only the furnace base at Douroula with the earliest dating has been physically protected. The distance at which dwellings are located, and the sacred nature of these zones, which are connected to the blacksmiths, are a guarantee of the protection of integrity. Nevertheless, the conditions of integrity are vulnerable because of soil erosion by water and wind, drought cycles and in some cases desertification, the colonisation of some furnaces by termites and trees, and small-scale gold mining.
The sites bear witness to continuity of production over more than 2700 years, to mastery of the processes of iron smelting and transformation, and to the essential contribution of this technology to the history of African settlement, and not only to the history of the peoples of Burkina Faso. The five metallurgy sites of the property express Outstanding Universal Value in terms of the age of the phenomenon, the form of the smelting structures, the completeness of the metallurgical complex elements, the diversity and richness of the architectural techniques, and the blacksmith traditions that are still alive today. The limited state of documentation in the property zones and in the buffer zones however means that the conditions of authenticity are vulnerable. Maintaining authenticity should be an important priority in the management of the property, to ensure the resilience of smithing traditions.
Management and protection requirements
The property is protected at national level by a set of laws, and by traditional protection provided by local communities on the basis of customary law. Management is also ensured at local level by communities, except for the site of Békuy, located in the Maro forest reserve.
A management system, drawn up for the period 2018-2022, is based on the management plans for each of the five sites, and constitutes the main sustainable management tool for the property. The property is managed in terms of reflection and orientations by a National Management Committee and in practical terms by the Listed World Heritage Sites Department. The national management committee exercises authority and control for all questions relating to the sites. At the level of each individual site, a local committee has been set up to ensure the sustainable management of the property by the local communities. The committee is guided by the site management plan and the orientations of the national management committee.
- Recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following:
- Continuing issuing Municipal Orders to officialise the protection of all the serial components of the property,
- As the conservation measures are one of the most important challenges for the management of the property, developing strategies to ensure the stability of financial resources, sufficient numbers of qualified human resources, and multiple institutional and technical capacities,
- Setting up the scientific committee in charge of conceiving, examining and supervising research, conservation and valorisation work on the property,
- Developing the management system so as to include action plans with clear priorities as regards conservation intervention and budget proposals, and to include a risk preparedness plan and strengthened monitoring systems,
- Finalising the tourism management plan,
- Continuing archaeological prospection, the inventory and documentation of ancient ferrous metallurgy sites inside the boundaries of the property and in the buffer zones,
- Continuing archaeological research and ethnographic investigations that are not strictly linked to the metallurgical phenomenon, such as settlement sites and burial grounds near to the furnaces, document them and consider their inclusion in the future in buffer zones;
- Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2021, a report on the implementation on the above-mentioned recommendations;
- Encourages international cooperation to support the protection and conservation of the property;
- Also encourages countries in the region to commit themselves to a procedure of nominating metallurgical sites in their territory so as to provide a selection of properties that are representative of the whole metallurgical phenomenon across Western Africa.