Tuesday, April 21, 2015

UNESCO World Heritage Center's Portal to the Heritage of Astronomy

UNESCO World Heritage Portal to the Heritage of Astronomy

"The portal exists to raise awareness of the importance of astronomical heritage worldwide and to facilitate efforts to identify, protect and preserve such heritage for the benefit of humankind, both now and in the future.

Serving UNESCO’s Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative, the portal aims to open pathways for co-operation between, and the sharing of knowledge among, State Parties to the World Heritage Convention, the academic community, and other individuals and organizations with a strong interest in promoting and safeguarding the planet’s most precious astronomical heritage."

"Astronomical heritage is evidence relating to the practice of astronomy and to social uses and representations of astronomy. It exists in the form of the tangible remains of monuments, sites and landscapes with a link to the skies that constitute a well-defined physical property. It can also involve movable objects such as instruments and archives, intangible knowledge—including indigenous knowledge still preserved in the world today—and natural environments that support human interest in astronomy, for example through the cultural use of their horizons or dark night skies."

Why preserve it?
"The sky, our common and universal heritage, forms an integral part of the total environment that is perceived by humankind. Heritage that bears witness to people’s interpretation and understanding of the sky from earliest times through to the present day stands as a record of the extraordinary diversity of ways in which our species has viewed, interpreted and understood the relationship between itself and the world—the universe—that we inhabit. If we are to keep this record intact, it is vital to recognize and safeguard cultural sites and natural landscapes that encapsulate and epitomize the connection between humankind and the sky."

Astronomical Heritage Categories

"In heritage terms, we can identify three main aspects of the ‘astronomical system’ associated with a given place and thus contributing to the value of a site:
  • material evidence of the astronomical place in the form of fixed property and/or movable objects;
  • the results of scientific activities (in the broadest sense), including but not restricted to astronomical observations; and
  • socio-cultural applications and uses of astronomy at a given moment or over a given period for the site.
Each of these three main categories gives rise to both tangible evidence and intangible heritage. Following the World Heritage Convention, the tangible evidence must be divided into two subcategories: movable heritage and immovable heritage. Immovable heritage is central to the application of the Convention but movable heritage is not, strictly speaking, covered by the Convention."

  • Tangible Fixed
  • Tangible Movable
  • Intangible
  • Moveable

Astronomy and World Heritage
World Heritage List, established sites connected to astronomy 
(This is just a brief selection of sites listed.)

Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative

ICOMOS-IAU Thematic Study

Heritage Sites of Astronomy and Archaeoastronomy in the context of the World Heritage Convention: A Thematic Study Published 2010. 
Print Copies available through Ocarina Books.
"Following the Thematic Study, this portal contains a single thematic essay for each theme, presenting a general overview in accordance with the particular disciplinary competence and experience of the author(s) concerned....The thematic essays aim to provide a short and clear overview of the recognised evidence relating to astronomical heritage. Thus they provide an initial framework for promoting and supporting the global recognition of astronomical and archaeoastronomical sites of possible significance, including those with potential OUV [Outstanding Universal Value]"

The Heritage
Astronomical Heritage Finder
Google Map listing sites with astronomical heritage.

Filtering Options
  • Timespan Controls
    • 5000 B.C. - 2000+ A.D.
  • Heritage Themes
    • See 16 themes above.
  • Sources of Information
    • Short Description ICOMOS-IAU Case Study
    • Full Description IAU Extended Case Study
    • UNESCO World Heritage List
    • UNESCO World Heritage Nomination
    • UNESCO World Heritage Tentative Lists
    • Other Astronomical Heritage
  • Heritage Categories
    • Cultural
      • tangible immovable
      • tangible movable
      • intangible
    • Natural/dark skies
    • Cultural/Natural mixed
  • Heritage Types
    • Property connected with astronomy
    • Astronomical artefact
    • Astronomical observatory
    • Astronomical instrument
    • Astronomical archive
    • Starlight Reserve
    • Starlight Oasis
    • Indigenous beliefs
    • Calendars
    • Astronomical theories
    • Astronomical calculations

Short Case Studies
"Short Case Studies aim to demonstrate methods and relevant issues concerning the presentation and analysis of the value of the chosen sites and objects in relation to astronomy. Each of the case studies produced in the context of the ICOMOS–IAU Thematic Study illustrates one of the thematic essays. The intention is to help State Parties identify potential sites and undertake comparative studies.
There is no linkage with the World Heritage List or the national Tentative Lists: some of the heritage described is on the World Heritage List already, either in its own right or as part of a larger property, but in other cases it is not. The inclusion or otherwise of a particular site carries no implications whatsoever should it ever be proposed for inscription onto the World Heritage List."

Full Case Studies
"Full Case Studies are structured as sections of draft dossiers. They are based upon nine “Extended Case Studies” produced by the International Astronomical Union’s Astronomy and World Heritage Working Group, working with other interested parties as appropriate, in 2012 with the aim of highlighting issues that might arise if State Parties were to prepare nomination dossiers concerned with the astronomical values of the properties concerned. In this sense, they represent a follow-up to the ICOMOS–IAU Thematic Study on astronomical heritage in exploring in more detail some of the unresolved issues raised by the Thematic Study."
  • Chankillo, Peru
    • "values in relation to astronomy v. wider values of related archaeological sites (in Casma valley)"
    • Published
  • Stonehenge World Heritage Site, United Kingdom
    • "Issues relating to the re-inscription of existing WH sites with more explicit recognition of their astronomical values, altered boundaries and/or buffer zone, inclusion of environmental aspects such as (relatively) dark sky preservation, and preservation of significant lines of sight to horizons"
    • Pending Publication

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