1.         Aksum (Ethiopia) (C 15)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1980

Criteria  (i)(iv)

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/15/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1996-1996)
Total amount approved: USD 2,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/15/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided to the property: USD 4.78 million by the Italian Funds in Trust for the “Aksum Archaeological Site Improvement Project": Preparatory studies for the re-erection installation of the Obelisk and capacity building for archaeological conservation” - Phase 1, and "Re- erection of the Obelisk"- Phase 2.

Previous monitoring missions

2005, 2006, 2007, 2008: Missions of the World Heritage Centre and experts for the implementation of the project.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Insufficient delimitation of this serial property;

b) Lack of conservation and management plans;

c) Lack of appropriate urban planning and building regulations;

d) Lack of cartography, documentation and equipment.

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/15/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2008

The World Heritage Committee had requested a joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS / ICCROM mission to Aksum to assess its state of conservation and submitting a report for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session in 2008. This mission aimed amongst other matters at evaluating the impact of the works on the property.

Due to delays in the re- installation works of the Obelisk, the World Heritage Centre, in consultation with ICOMOS and ICCROM, decided to postpone the joint mission until the works are completed, and prepared the present state of conservation report on the basis of the data collected regularly by the World heritage Centre and experts.

Following the return of the Aksum Obelisk / Stelae 2 from Rome to Aksum in April 2005, the World Heritage Centre, in close collaboration with the Ethiopian Authorities, undertook the preparatory studies for the re-installation of the Obelisk, and launched in July 2007 the works for its re-installation. The works are well advanced and the three blocks of the 152 ton, 24.3 metre high Obelisk will be installed at the end of July 2008. The Obelisk's restoration and the final arrangements at the site will be undertaken before the end of December 2008.

“The Ethiopian Cultural Heritage Project – Pilot Project” funded by the World Bank (USD 700,000) was implemented and is currently being finalized. The project outputs affecting the property are the construction of a site museum and annexed services, the rehabilitation of a 19th century building into a cafeteria (both constructions are in the Stelae Field) and signage.

The plans of the World Bank project shown to UNESCO in January 2006 were implemented with a change in the original design: the height of the museum entrance has been raised to two stories instead of the foreseen one storey; this is regrettable since the museum was built inside the Stelae Park. In addition, with increasing tourism, the location of the entrance in the back of the Stelae Park will transform the later into a crossing area to access the museum.

Ventilation elements in iron and glass - aesthetically arguable - have also been put in place over the underground galleries of the Stelae Park.

Rising water table in the Stelae Park area is causing regular flooding in some of the underground tombs. The site manager is currently dealing with this problem by pumping the water out.

The Tigray regional authorities have worked on the definition of the limits of the property and its buffer zone which were not submitted originally with the nomination file, and have shared the information with the local community. Consequently, they prepared a bill to be submitted to the regional parliament proposing revised limits and a buffer zone. At the time of drafting this report, no maps had been submitted to the World Heritage Centre.

The regional authorities have also taken several positive measures in the field of site management including regular maintenance works, allocating funds for the employment of guards and dispatching them in all the areas of the serial property, closing a stone quarry in Gobadre in the vicinity of the ancient Aksumite quarry, and controlling new constructions within the property.

The World Heritage Centre held a Training Workshop in Aksum from 31 May to 5 June 2008 to which a multidisciplinary team of national and international experts took part. Forty participants including site managers and decision makers from Aksum and other Ethiopian World Heritage properties attended the workshop. The participants produced, with the guidance of the experts, an Outline site management road map document which identifies the problems and the needs of the property, the technical and administrative means to respond to these needs and the mechanism to start-up a management process at the property. 

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


Decision Adopted: 32 COM 7B.46

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-08/32COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 30 COM 7B.39, adopted at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006),

3. Notes with satisfaction that significant progress has been achieved in the implementation of the Aksum Obelisk re-installation project;

4. Reiterates its request to the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2008, the map of the property indicating clearly the boundaries of the World Heritage property and buffer zones, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in 2009;

5. Encouragesthe State Party to submit an International assistance request to address the issue of rising water table level at the Stelae Park;

6. Requests the State Party to implement the site management road map and to take the necessary protective measures;

7. Also requests the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, to develop a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value including the conditions of integrity and authenticity, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in 2009;

8. Further requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS mission to Aksum end of 2009 with a view to assessing its state of conservation and to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2010, a report on progress made in the management of the property, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010.