In collaboration with the
International Astronomical Union


World Heritage List

UNESCO’s World Heritage List (WHL) includes over 900 sites and landscapes distributed throughout the world, selected by UNESCO for having an outstanding significance that transcends cultural boundaries and will persist down the generations into the future. The majority are cultural properties, but some are natural places and a few are recognized in both respects. To be selected, not only must a site be important but also a plan must be presented and endorsed by the relevant country for its maintenance and exploitation.


The concept of ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ (OUV), value that transcends cultural boundaries and will persist indefinitely into the future, is fundamental in UNESCO’s efforts to identify cultural sites worthy of inclusion on the World Heritage List. Basically, OUV is the term of recognition for the value cultural or natural properties need to manifest in order to be inscribed on the WHL.

Astronomical heritage offers a profound new vision that has important implications for the more effective implementation of the World Heritage Convention and for helping State Parties create credible nomination dossiers. It raises valuable new heritage concepts, combines different categories of cultural heritage in previously unrecognised and unexplored ways, and highlights hitherto unrecognised types of linkage between cultural and natural heritage. The principal aspects of this vision are applicable more broadly to science heritage in general, and indeed also to technology heritage.

Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative

ICOMOS–IAU Thematic Study

Preparing a nomination dossier
(logged-in users only)

See also:
The World Heritage List: What is OUV? by Jukka Jokilehto, Christina Cameron, Michel Parent and Michael Petzet, Hendrik Bäßler Verlag, Berlin, 2008 (ICOMOS Monument and Sites XVI)


Sites connected to astronomy that are already on the World Heritage List

Members of the IAU Working Group on Astronomy and World Heritage have examined the World Heritage List for sites that are connected to astronomy. The resulting list is shown below. What perhaps stands out most is that the great majority of the sites listed are not related to modern scientific astronomy or its history.

CountryEstablished World Heritage Site With Possible Connections to Astronomy
ArgentinaCueva de las Manos, Río Pinturas
AustraliaUluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
BoliviaTiwanaku: Spiritual and Political Centre of the Tiwanaku Culture
BoliviaFuerte de Samaipata
ChileRapa Nui National Park
ChinaTemple of Heaven: An Imperial Sacrificial Altar in Beijing
ChinaMausoleum of the First Qin Emperor
ChinaLongmen Grottoes
ChinaImperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang
ChinaHistoric Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa
ColumbiaSan Agustín Archeological Park
ColumbiaNational Archeological Park of Tierradentro
EgyptNubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae
EgyptMemphis and its Necropolis—The Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur
EgyptAncient Thebes with its Necropolis
FrancePalace and Park of Versailles
FrancePrehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves of the Vézère Valley
GreeceTemple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae
GreecePythagoreion and Heraion of Samos
GreeceArchaeological Sites of Mycenae and Tiryns
GreeceArchaeological Site of Olympia
GreeceSanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus
GreeceArchaeological Site of Delphi
GreeceAcropolis, Athens
GuatemalaTikal National Park
GuatemalaArchaeological Park and Ruins of Quirigua
HondurasMaya Site of Copan
IndiaSun Temple, Konârak
IndiaEllora Caves
IndiaElephanta Caves
IndonesiaBorobudur Temple Compounds
IrelandArchaeological Ensemble of the Bend of the Boyne
ItalyThe Trulli of Alberobello
ItalyRock Drawings in Valcamonica
ItalyArchaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata
ItalyArchaeological Area of Agrigento
KenyaLake Turkana National Parks
KoreaGochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites
MaliCliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons)
MaltaMegalithic Temples of Malta
MexicoRock Paintings of the Sierra de San Francisco
MexicoHistoric Centre of Oaxaca and Archaeological Site of Monte Albán
MexicoPre-Hispanic Town of Uxmal
MexicoPre-Hispanic City of Teotihuacan
MexicoPre-Hispanic City of Chichen-Itza
MexicoPre-Hispanic City and National Park of Palenque
MexicoHistoric Centre of Mexico City and Xochimilco
MexicoEl Tajin, Pre-Hispanic City
MexicoArchaeological Monuments Zone of Xochicalco
MexicoAncient Maya City of Calakmul, Campeche
NorwayRock Art of Alta
PeruRío Abiseo National Park
PeruLines and Geoglyphs of Nasca and Pampas de Jumana
PeruHistoric Sanctuary of Machu Picchu
PeruCity of Cuzco
PeruChavin (Archaeological Site)
South AfricauKhahlamba / Drakensberg Park
SudanGebel Barkal and the Sites of the Napatan Region
SwedenRock Carvings in Tanum
SyriaSite of Palmyra
TogoKoutammakou, the Land of the Batammariba
TurkeyNemrut Daǧ
United KingdomStonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites
United KingdomMaritime Greenwich
United KingdomHeart of Neolithic Orkney
USAMesa Verde National Park
USAChaco Culture
USACahokia Mounds State Historic Site
UzbekistanSamarkand – Crossroads of Cultures
ZimbabweMatobo Hills
ZimbabweGreat Zimbabwe National Monument