In collaboration with the
International Astronomical Union

Full Case Studies (IAU Extended Case Study format)

Full Case Studies are structured as sections of draft World Heritage List nomination dossiers. They are based upon nine “Extended Case Studies” (ECSs) produced by the International Astronomical Union’s Astronomy and World Heritage Working Group (now its Commission C4 on World Heritage and Astronomy) in 2012, working with other interested parties as appropriate, with the aim of highlighting issues that might arise if State Parties were to prepare nominations relating to the astronomical values of the properties concerned. They represent a follow-up to the first ICOMOS–IAU Thematic Study on astronomical heritage (“TS1”) by exploring in more detail some of the more complex issues raised by TS1.

These ECSs were discussed at a Working Group meeting held in New Zealand on 14–15 June 2012 and in August were endorsed by the IAU at its General Assembly in Beijing. Finalised versions of the IAU Extended Case Studies, complimented by a few additions, have been published in the second ICOMOS–IAU Thematic Study on astronomical heritage (“TS2”) and are available as Full Case Studies on the portal.

Further Full Case Studies that have appeared on the portal more recently have been proposed by astronomy or heritage professionals, offered for discussion among the professional community, and reviewed by the portal’s advisors.

Given that these Full Case Studies are structured as segments of draft dossiers it is especially important to note that they do NOT represent draft dossiers: these can only be compiled by the national authorities concerned or by international experts following an official request from a State Party to the World Heritage Convention. Even for properties whose potential Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) might be completely related to astronomy, this process involves a wide range of stakeholders and must cover a range of legal and management issues as well as the scientific and heritage issues. This work often takes many years and usually involves coordination by specialist professional consultants.

In particular, while the Full Case Studies include provisional “Criteria under which inscription might be proposed” and “Suggested statement of OUV”, the actual statement of OUV with criteria in the event of a successful nomination is decided by the World Heritage Committee.


Purpose of the Full Case Studies

Four of the nine original ECSs explored ways in which dark sky values and light pollution issues could be raised in nomination dossiers, reflecting the IAU’s particular concerns in this area, but a range of other issues are elaborated upon in TS2. These are summarised in the table below. All Full Case Studies on the portal aim to highlight one or more general issues such as these.

Property Lead author(s) Particular issues raised

The Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

Ian Glass

Extent to which value of tangible immovable heritage is strengthened by tangible moveable and intangible heritage; moving v. stationary parts; individual v. serial nomination for historical observatories

Observatoire de Paris, France

Danielle Fauque

Extent to which value of tangible immovable heritage is strengthened by tangible moveable and intangible heritage; moving v. stationary parts; individual v. serial nomination for historical observatories

Seven-stone antas, Portugal and Spain

Juan Belmonte, Luís Tirapicos and Clive Ruggles

Serial nomination involving a group of prehistoric monuments whose astronomical significance is only evident from the group as a whole

Chankillo, Peru

Iván Ghezzi

Values in relation to astronomy v. wider values of related archaeological sites (in Casma valley)

Stonehenge World Heritage Property, United Kingdom

Amanda Chadburn and Clive Ruggles

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

Astronomical timing of irrigation in Oman

Harriet Nash

A modern indigenous cultural landscape with cultural practices of star observation that are threatened by the erosion of dark skies; links to other environmental issues (in this case, water management)

Aoraki–Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, New Zealand

Margaret Austin, John Hearnshaw and Alison Loveridge

‘Pristine’ dark-sky areas with broad cultural connections

Eastern Alpine Starlight Reserve and Großmugl Starlight Oasis, Austria

Günther Wuchterl, Kuffner-Sternwarte Observatory, Vienna, Austria

Relatively dark dark-sky areas with few or no direct cultural connections

Windows to the Universe: leading optical observatories (Chile, USA and Spain)

Malcolm Smith, Richard Wainscoat and Cipriano Marín

Modern observatory sites under direct threat from light pollution; relevance of cultural associations and indigenous practices to preserving any given observatory and its dark skies


Structure of the Full Case Studies

Star markers in Al Fath, Oman (2006). Photograph a

Star markers in Al Fath, Oman (2006). Photograph and graphic © Harriet Nash

Authors were asked to adhere to those categories identified in Annex 5 of UNESCO’s Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention that might be relevant to the astronomical aspects of a possible dossier. The categories in question are:

Identification of the property:

  • Country/State Party (§1.a)
  • State/Province/Region (§1.b)
  • Name (§1.c)
  • Geographical co-ordinates to the nearest second and/or UTM to the nearest 10m (§1.d)
  • Maps and plans, showing the boundaries of the property and buffer zone (§1.e)
  • Area of property and buffer zone (§1.f)


  • Description of the property (§2.a)
  • History and development (§2.b)

Justification for inscription:

  • Criteria under which inscription is proposed (§3.a)
  • Proposed statement of OUV (§3.b)
  • Comparative analysis (§3.c)
  • Integrity and/or authenticity (§3.d)
  • Present state of conservation (§4.a)

Factors affecting the property:

  • Development pressures (§4.b.i)
  • Environmental pressures (§4.b.ii)
  • Natural disasters and risk preparedness (§4.b.iii)
  • Visitor/tourism pressures (§4.b.iv)
  • No. of inhabitants (§4.b.v)

Protection and management:

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Cerro Tololo, AURA Observatory, Chile. © David Walker, Creative Commons Licence

  • Ownership (§5.a)
  • Protective designation (§5.b)
  • Means of implementing protective measures (§5.c)
  • Existing plans (§5.d)
  • Property management plan (§5.e)
  • Sources and levels of finance (§5.f)
  • Sources of expertise and training (§5.g)
  • Visitor facilities and statistics (§5.h)
  • Presentation and promotion policies (§5.i)
  • Staff levels (§5.j)


  • Key indicators for measuring state of conservation (§6.a)
  • Administrative arrangements (§6.b)
  • Results of previous reporting exercises (§6.c)


  • Photos and other AV materials (§7.a)
  • Texts relating to protective designation (§7.b)
  • Most recent records or inventory (§7.c)
  • Agencies holding inventory records (§7.d)
  • Bibliography (§7.e)