1.         Maya Site of Copan (Honduras) (C 129bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1980

Criteria  (iv)(vi)

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

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/129/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1979-1999)
Total amount approved: USD 226,513
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/129/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions

Monitoring missions in 1999, 2003 and 2005

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

The projected construction of an airport in the archaeological area of Rio Amarillo, 17 km from the protected area of the World Heritage property.

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/129/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2007

After transmitting to the State Party the Committee’s Decision 30 COM 7B.95, taken at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006), the Secretary of State for Culture of Honduras requested the Director-General to organize a meeting with the State Party at UNESCO Paris. This meeting took place at UNESCO on 27 November 2006 and was attended by four representatives of Honduran ministries and by two archaeologists, during which the State Party submitted an important amount of documentation on the Maya Site of Copán to UNESCO. The State Party requested that these reports be studied and brought to the attention of ICOMOS and the World Heritage Committee and that a new technical expert mission be sent to the World Heritage Property. The Honduran authorities informed UNESCO that the President of the Republic of Honduras attached particular importance to the Decision taken by the Committee at its 30th session and said that he would not go ahead with the airport construction project until UNESCO and ICOMOS had studied the documentation given to them during the meeting.

Decision 30 COM 7B.95 requested the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2007, a detailed report on the state of conservation of the property and on the progress made in implementing its other recommendations, e. g. to elaborate a Public Use Study for the future Rio Amarillo Archaeological Park and the continued monitoring of the state of conservation of the Copán Hieroglyphic stairway. This State of Conservation Report was received by the World Heritage Centre on 20 March 2007, and reports, in point, that “the project of an airport at Rio Amarillo has been definitely cancelled”.

The State Party report, however, further states that the cancellation of the Rio Amarillo project led to the suspension of the funding for its collateral projects, including the creation of the Archaeological Park of Rio Amarillo and the formulation of Public Use Plans. However, in prior reports progress had been mentioned in this respect for the inscribed property and this should be included in the existing Management Plan. The report also states that the funding could be reinstated, if the airport project at the alternative site, Concepción, is approved.

The Getty Conservation Institute has completed the Copán Hieroglyphic Stairway Conservation Plan and its report on Study Results and Conservation Proposals is currently under publication. It was requested that the monitoring equipment remain in place and that monitoring of the stairway continue. In addition, the State Party prepared a report, with the cooperation of the INAH (Mexico) on the state of conservation of the underground stuccoes throughout the site, the state of which is considered to be fair.

There are concerns that as temples and buildings of the Copán archaeological site are constructed of volcanic tuff, a type of stone that has deterioration mechanisms and factors that have not been fully studied, that the stone may contain expansive clay elements that could cause extensive stone deterioration. It is critical that a systematic condition assessment of the site is carried out to develop a comprehensive, long–term intervention programme.

 Previous archaeological excavations exploring the different layers of construction of the moments have left tunnels, some of which could be visited, however the tunnels are fragile and there is a risk of collapse. The State Party reports that these tunnels have been provided with metallic reinforcement and metal doors with aeration holes. A comprehensive survey of these tunnels needs to be undertaken to assess the adequacy of keeping these areas open to the public and the need for structural reinforcement in others.

Biological growth in this tropical site, which has in the past led to the use of biocides and chemical cleaning agents may present risks of environmental pollution. The use of alternative biological control agents needs to be examined.

The framework agreements with the development banks prescribe a participatory approach in the management of the property, particularly in relation to the issues concerning the Copán Ruins Community. The Sociedad de Buenos Componedores (Society of Good Repairers) was founded in 2004, by the communities adjacent to the Río Amarillo area, and the State Party reported that three meetings were held with this organization in 2005, and an agreement was reached deciding that the rights of the landowners, with lands situated within the different zones of the heritage property, would be conserved, as long as these respected the intended land use, as permitted in the zoning and land use study. Furthermore, IHAH promised to establish regional mechanisms for communication, in order to obtain the participation and consultation of the local communities, that is, the people of Copán Ruinas. The State Party reports that the INAH is currently reviewing these concerns (point 6.4.1 of the State Party report).

The World Heritage Centre also requested the State Party to provide clear and accurate cartography, showing the official limits of the registered site. The State Party reports that the planned review will provide an opportunity to present clear and accurate maps of the boundaries of the World Heritage property, as well as the planned extension of the Archaeological Park and its buffer zone and the possible purchase of lands that would make it possible to link the Las Sepulturas area with the main Copán site. 

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


Decision Adopted: 31 COM 7B.126

The World Heritage Committee,

1.       Having examined Document WHC-07/31.COM/7B,

2.       Recalling Decisions 29 COM 7B.90 and 30 COM 7B.95, adopted at its 29th (Durban, 2005) and 30th (Vilnius, 2006) sessions respectively,

3.       Also recalling the recommendations of the previous monitoring missions of 1999, 2003 and 2005,

4.       Notes with satisfaction that the State Party has decided not to proceed with the construction of the planned airport at Rio Amarillo Valley, and invites the State Party to submit by 1 February 2008 details of plans for the alternative airport site for consideration by the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS;

5.       Encourages the State Party to identify funding in order to conduct the Public Use Study for the conservation, presentation and management of the future RioAmarilloArchaeologicalPark and to complement the already existent management plan for the Archaeological site of Copán, which is under review,

6.       Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2008, a detailed report on the state of conservation of the property and on the progress made in the review of the management plan for the property, for the examination by the Committee at its 32nd session in 2008.