World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring Mission to Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia
In January 2018, a joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission took place at the World Heritage property “Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia” (Federated States of Micronesia).
The mission was requested by the World Heritage Committee to ‘agree on a Desired State of Conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSoC), based on the cultural attributes of Outstanding Universal Value and to be reached through a detailed assessment of the stability of the walls as a base for setting out a Conservation Strategy and corrective measures that can then be phased and costed. Efforts would then be made with the assistance of ICOMOS and UNESCO to find partners and donors to support this conservation project’. (Decision 40 COM 8B.22, Istanbul, 2016)
The World Heritage property of Nan Madol was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2016. The site was also inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to threats, notably the siltation of waterways that is contributing to the unchecked growth of mangroves and undermining existing edifices.
Due to the complexity of threats affecting the property, a multi-disciplinary Reactive Monitoring mission team consisting of an archaeologist, stone expert, structural engineer and project management specialist was established, thanks to the financial support from the Netherlands Funds-in-Trust at the World Heritage Centre for “Technical Support for Nan Madol” under the World Heritage SIDS Programme.
Furthermore, in 2016 the State Party requested support of USD 30,000 of International Assistance from the World Heritage Fund for drafting a Conservation Plan and for carrying out preliminary work on clearing the waterways. This request was approved in March 2017. The archaeologist who is to draft the Conservation Plan was also part of the Reactive Monitoring Mission, as the development of the Conservation Plan will be carried out following the mission. Work on the waterways will be carried out in the first half of 2018.
The World Heritage Committee will review the state of conservation of the property at its 42nd session in June/July 2018.
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7A,
- Recalling Decision 40 COM 8B.22, adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016);
- Welcomes the support extended by the international partners (France, Japan and the United States of America) in offering expert resources to the State Party to work on the state of conservation of the property;
- Notes that the State Party will submit a consolidated report to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies, on the outcomes of the three visits by international experts;
- Also notes that the State Party has invited a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to visit the property in 2017 and considers that this mission must have the benefit of the report of the international experts;
- Further notes that the mission will consider a draft Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) and that this should aim to reflect both the long timeframe needed for the major project to stabilize the extensive stone remains, and the need to define a point at which the main threats have been mitigated to an acceptable degree before the overall project has been completed;
- Regrets that work on adopting legislation LB 392 has been delayed until April/May 2017 and urges the State Party to make progress on this matter so that a Nan Madol Historic Preservation Trust can be set up and become operational;
- Notes furthermore that efforts to appoint cultural heritage staff are ongoing, but that progress on developing management, conservation, risk management and a tourism strategy will only be achieved once a property manager has been appointed, and also urges the State Party to proceed with this appointment as soon as possible;
- Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2018, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018;
- Decides to retain Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia (Micronesia (Federated States of)) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Documents WHC/16/40.COM/8B and WHC/16/40.COM/INF.8B1,
- Inscribes Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia, Federated States of Micronesia, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (i), (iii), (iv) and (vi);
- Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:
The megalithic basalt stone structures of the more than 100 islets that form Nan Madol off the shore of Pohnpei Island comprise the remains of stone palaces, temples, mortuaries and residential domains. They represent the ceremonial centre of the Saudeleur dynasty, an era of vibrant Pacific island culture which underwent dramatic changes of settlement and social organisation 1200-1500 CE. Through its archaeological remains, Nan Madol is tangibly associated with Pohnpei’s continuing social and ceremonial traditions and the authority of the Nahnmwarki.
Criterion (i): The outstanding monumental megalithic architecture of Nan Madol is demonstrated by the wall construction using massive columnar basalt stones, transported from quarries elsewhere on the island, and laid using a distinctive ‘header-stretcher technique’.
Criterion (iii): Nan Madol bears exceptional testimony to the development of chiefly societies in the Pacific Islands. The huge scale, technical sophistication and concentration of elaborate megalithic structures of Nan Madol bear testimony to complex social and religious practices of the island societies.
Criterion (iv): The remains of chiefly dwellings, ritual/ceremonial sites, mortuary structures and domestic sites combine as an outstanding example of a monumental ceremonial centre illustrating the period of development of chiefly societies from around 1000 years ago, associated with increasing island populations and intensification of agriculture.
Criterion (vi): Nan Madol is an expression of the original development of traditional chiefly institutions and systems of governance in the Pacific Islands that continue into the present in the form of the Nahnmwarki system under which Nan Madol is traditionally owned and managed.
Nan Madol includes all elements necessary to express it Outstanding Universal Value and is of adequate size to ensure the complete representation of features and processes which convey the property’s significance. There are no intrusive elements from development or modification, and no reconstructions of the original elements. Due to cessation of use for residential purposes by the 1820s, while retaining religious and traditional significance, the property suffers from overgrowth of vegetation, the effects of storm surge and some stonework collapse. The state of conservation of stone structures is now of extreme concern, rendering the integrity of the property vulnerable.
The property is authentic in terms of location and setting, intangible culture, spirit and feeling, materials, form and design. The overgrowth of the stone structures and their state of conservation means that many of them are unable to be seen, rendering authenticity vulnerable.
Protection and management requirements
Nan Madol is legally protected by the federal government and administered by the Office of National Archives, Culture and Historic Preservation (NACH) through the Historic Preservation Office of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). It is protected by the state government of Pohnpei under the Pohnpei Historic and Cultural Preservation Act (2002), administered by the Pohnpei Historic Preservation Office. The FSM Constitution acknowledges the customary interests of the traditional chiefs and the property is customarily protected by the Nahnmwarki Madolenihmw.
A management committee has been set up involving all stakeholders including traditional owners and this collaboration will be consolidated by passage of the proposed Bill LB 392 (expected to pass in October 2016) to create a Nan Madol Historic Preservation Trust with ownership and management under traditional oversight by the Nahnmwarki Chief. The Management Plan is expected to be completed with international financial and technical assistance by mid-2017. This will include appointment of a designated property manager trained in cultural resource management and strategies for risk preparedness, conservation and tourism as well as an ongoing maintenance and monitoring program.
- Also inscribes Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia, Federated States of Micronesia, on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
- Recommends that the State Party invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the property in 2016 to agree on a Desired State of Conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, based on the cultural attributes of Outstanding Universal Value and to be reached through a detailed assessment of the stability of the walls as a base for setting out a conservation strategy and corrective measures that can then be phased and costed. Efforts would then be made with the assistance of ICOMOS and UNESCO to find partners and donors to support this conservation project;
- Also recommends that the State Party give urgent consideration to the following:
- passing and implementing the new legislation LB 392 (expected by October 2016) which will create a Nan Madol Historic Preservation Trust with ownership and management under traditional oversight by the Nahnmwarki Chief with a Board of traditional authority and will permanently consolidate the resolution of issues regarding ownership and management that was established by the MoU,
- extending the management system to include a designated property manager trained in cultural resource management,
- developing the management plan to:
- include a risk preparedness strategy,
- extend the current maintenance program to the full area of the property including removal of silt from the waterways without jeopardizing possible cultural layers on the sea floor,
- include the conservation strategy project and corrective measures required to achieve the desired state of conservation,
- include a comprehensive tourism strategy to deal with the future impact of tourism on the property;
- considering the new UNESCO recommendation on the protection and promotion of museums and collections (17 November 2015) and using the proposed museum to disseminate the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;
- Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2017 a report on the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017;
- Encourages international cooperation to support the conservation project;
- Also encourages the submission of Lelu as a serial component when ownership, protection, conservation, funding and management requirements are resolved.