Astronomical Heritage Finder


In collaboration
with the

International Astronomical Union

Full Case Studies (IAU Extended Case Study format)

Full Case Studies are structured as sections of draft dossiers. They are based upon a set of “Extended Case Studies” produced in 2012 by the International Astronomical Union’s Astronomy and World Heritage Working Group, now its Commission C4 for World Heritage and Astronomy, working with other interested parties as appropriate. The aim is to highlight 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.

Finalised versions of the IAU Extended Case Studies have gradually been made available as Full Case Studies on the portal, prior to the release of a second Thematic Study, of which edited versions will form part. Full Case Studies may also proposed by astronomy or heritage professionals, whereupon they will be offered for discussion among the professional community, reviewed by the portal’s advisors, and published in due course given favourable feedback.

Further information on submitting a proposal

Purpose of the IAU Extended Case Studies

The ECSs elaborate upon a range of issues raised in the Thematic Study. They include modern and ancient sites, single and potential serial transnational nominations, cultural landscapes, and sites already on the WHL where there may be a strong case for updating the statement of OUV to include astronomical heritage aspects.

The last three ECSs relate directly or indirectly to dark skies issues, reflecting the IAU’s particular concerns about such matters. A dark sky site place could be nominated as a classic cultural and/or natural site, but there will be great difficulties if the dark sky is the sole attribute of the place: other exceptional cultural and/or natural attributes may be needed to strengthen and complement the dark sky quality of the place if it is to have a real chance of inscription onto the WHL. The extended case studies explore ways in which dark skies and light pollution issues could be raised in nomination dossiers.

Given that these Extended 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 demonstrable 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 ECSs 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.

Structure of the IAU Extended Case Studies

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:
  • 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)

Accessing the IAU Extended Case Studies

As the IAU extended case studies have become available as Full Case Studies on the portal, they have become accessible via the astronomical heritage finder. They appear as green markers on the map.

They may also be accessed using the list view of all case studies.

Property Lead author(s) Particular issues raised Status

The Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

Ian Glass, South African Astronomical Observatory

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, Université de Paris Sud–Orsay

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, Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain, and Luís Tirapicos, University of Lisbon, Portugal

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


Chankillo, Peru

Iván Ghezzi, Pontifica Universidad Católica del Perú, Lima, Peru

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


Stonehenge World Heritage Site, United Kingdom

Amanda Chadburn, Historic England, Bristol, 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


Astronomical timing of irrigation in Oman

Harriet Nash, University of Exeter, United Kingdom

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, Royal Society of New Zealand, John Hearnshaw and Alison Loveridge, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

‘Pristine’ dark-sky areas with broad cultural connections


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

Malcolm Smith, Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory, Chile; Richard Wainscoat, Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii, USA; and Cipriano Marín, Starlight Foundation, Spain

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



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