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Prehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves of the Vézère Valley

France
Factors affecting the property in 2013*
  • Micro-organisms
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports

Micro-organisms: outbreaks of mould and bacterial spores on the surface of the cave paintings of Lascaux

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2013
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2013**

2006: World Heritage Centre site visit; March 2009: ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission 

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

The State Party submitted a state of conservation report on 31 January 2013, as requested by World Heritage Committee in its Decision 35 COM 7B.92.

a)  Research and Recording

The report details the research and work undertaken over the past two years on establishing better understanding of the problems of mould and bacterial spores in the caves. Strictly limited access to the most important caves has resulted in a stabilisation of the atmospheric conditions and hence the bacterial attack; improved equipment put in place in 2012 permits greater precision in controlling of humidity, air quality, water and temperature. Research work has led to the identification of the micro-organisms responsible and the processes behind micro-organism attack. Those results, along with the mapping of areas at risk, were presented to the Scientific Council in March 2012. The Council now intends to undertake further work on the hydro-climatic conditions in the caves,  on  recording and mapping of areas most severely affected by micro-organism attack, on experimental methods of control, and eventually to undertake  measures to  control the atmosphere of the caves themselves. The Council has established a group charged with the responsibility for undertaking this work and will be inviting tenders in the first third of 2013.

Further non-invasive studies of the colour of the paintings by automatic means, specially designed for the site and thereby reducing human presence in the caves, have been embarked upon to ensure the constant condition of the rock walls. The 2009 studies on movement of water and carbon dioxide are continuing and older installations in the cave made from inappropriate and damaging material have been removed. A new campaign of 3D modelling will permit a greatly enhanced record of the Lascaux cave to allow greater public information, multimedia outlets and reconstructions. The sharing of the information deriving from these studies will enable better understanding of risks of actions at similar caves where preventative measures may be better developed.

b)  Public Awareness and Communication

A website for the purpose of sharing information within the Scientific Council has been set up and a project to make available all documentation deriving from the studies is commencing in 2013. Meetings of the scientific community, seminars and papers in international journals and available on line have widened awareness of the work to concerned bodies. Filming of the conservation and recording has been made available to the public and a series of press releases have raised awareness of the amelioration of the condition of the caves.

c)  Protection and Isolation of the Hill

The State Party reports progress on the work towards removing unsightly infrastructure from the hill and the protection of setting, while still allowing public appreciation – this year 250,000 visitors came to the reconstruction of Lascaux II. The 2011 feasibility study for a new road and car park before closing the existing facilities will allow work to begin in 2013.

d)  The Scientific Council

 

This independent and international council has met on eleven occasions since its inauguration by the Minister of Culture and Communications in 2010. It has various sub-groups responsible for specific functions. Independent from the Ministry of Culture, it nonetheless assures synergy by the representation of those responsible for the management of the caves - conservators, inspectors and managers.  The minutes of the Council meetings are available online. It advises on and approves research and programmes of conservation for the caves, and a document with such details was sent to UNESCO in February 2011.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2013

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that the State Party has made important progress in identifying micro-organisms responsible for the mould outbreak, and in stabilising the atmospheric conditions by limiting access.

They note that these steps forward will be followed by further work on analysing hydro-climatic conditions and on recording and mapping of areas most severely affected, which could lead to measures being developed to control the atmosphere of the caves. The Council has established a group charged with the responsibility for undertaking this work and will be inviting tenders in the first quarter of 2013.

 

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies also note the work undertaken to record and monitor the colour of paintings, the programme for dissemination of research and educational facilities, and the progress made towards clearing the property of tourist infrastructure and replacing it with better planned roads and car parks.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2013
37 COM 7B.74
Prehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves of the Vézère Valley (France) (C 85)

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7B,

2.  Recalling Decision 35 COM 7B.92 , adopted at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011),

3.  Welcomes the important progress in identifying micro-organisms responsible for the mould outbreak, and in stabilising of the atmospheric conditions through limiting access;

4.  Notes that these steps forward will be followed by further work on the hydro-climatic conditions starting in 2013, for the recording and mapping of areas most severely affected, which could lead to development of measures being developed to control the atmosphere of the caves;

5.  Commends the State Party for the significant improvements in communicating both results of its research to the scientific community and the educational aspects to the general public by means of publication, websites and exhibitions;

6.  Also notes the progress made by the State Party towards the removal of undesirable infrastructure from the property and its replacement with new roads and car parks further from the focus of the property,

7.  Further notes the enhancement of the system of management of the caves;

8.  Requests the State Party to provide details of the proposed new developments at the property, especially the development of the new reconstruction, new road and car park with appropriate Heritage Impact Assessments before their implementation, in accordance with paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines ;

9.  Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and on the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015.

Draft Decision:  37 COM 7B.74

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7B,

2.  Recalling Decision 35 COM 7B.92, adopted at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011),

3.  Welcomes the important progress in identifying micro-organisms responsible for the mould outbreak, and in stabilising of the atmospheric conditions through limiting access;

4.  Notes that these steps forward will be followed by further work on the hydro-climatic conditions starting in 2013, for the recording and mapping of areas most severely affected, which could lead to development of measures being developed to control the atmosphere of the caves;

5.  Commends the State Party for the significant improvements in communicating both results of its research to the scientific community and the educational aspects to the general public by means of publication, websites and exhibitions;

6.  Also notes the progress made by the State Party towards the removal of undesirable infrastructure from the property and its replacement with new roads and car parks further from the focus of the property,

7.  Further notes the enhancement of the system of management of the caves;

8.  Requests the State Party to provide details of the proposed new developments at the property, especially the development of the new reconstruction, new road and car park with appropriate Heritage Impact Assessments before their implementation, in accordance with paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;

9.  Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and on the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015.

 

Report year: 2013
France
Date of Inscription: 1979
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (i)(iii)
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 37COM (2013)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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