International Council on Monuments and Sites

International Astronomical Union


Heritage Sites of Astronomy and Archaeoastronomy
in the Context of the World Heritage Convention

A Thematic Study



This Thematic Study presents an overall vision on astronomical heritage, attempts to identify what constitutes “outstanding universal significance to humankind” in relation to astronomy, and identifies broad issues that could arise in the assessment of cultural properties relating to astronomy. It was the first ICOMOS Thematic Study in any field of science heritage. It is elaborated using examples of properties, including some already on the World Heritage List or national Tentative Lists. The second ICOMOS–IAU Thematic Study on astronomical heritage followed in 2017.


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Below, you can view the contents and download individual chapters and case studies. These form the basis of various thematic essays and case studies on the portal, but the portal versions may have been revised and updated.


    PDF Portal
Preface, Acknowledgements, and Further information  
List of authors  
Chapter 1: Earlier prehistory
  Case Study 1.1. The Thaïs bone, France
  Case Study 1.2. The decorated plate of the Geißenklösterle, Germany
  Case Study 1.3. The Ishango bone, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  Case Study 1.4. The astronomical rock panels in the Lascaux Cave, France
Chapter 2. Later prehistoric Europe
  Case Study 2.1. Stonehenge World Heritage Site, United Kingdom
  Case Study 2.2. Seven-stone antas, Portugal and Spain  
  Case Study 2.3. The stone circles at Odry, Poland
Chapter 3. Pre-Columbian America
  Case Study 3.1. Boca de Potrerillos, Mexico
  Case Study 3.2. Caguana, Puerto Rico
  Case Study 3.3. Chankillo, Peru
  Case Study 3.4. Metallurgical centre of Viña del Cerro, Chile
Chapter 4. Indigenous uses of astronomy
  Case Study 4.1. Navajo star ceilings, USA
  Case Study 4.2. Atituiti Ruga, Mangareva, French Polynesia
  Case Study 4.3. Wurdi Youang, Australia
Chapter 5. Ancient and medieval Far East
  Case Study 5.1. Taosi observatory, China
  Case Study 5.2. Dengfeng observatory, China
  Case Study 5.3. Beijing ancient observatory, China
  Case Study 5.4. Cheomseongdae observatory, Republic of Korea
Chapter 6. India
  Case Study 6.1. Jantar Mantar at Jaipur, India
Chapter 7. Mesopotamia and the Middle East
Chapter 8. Ancient Egypt
  Case Study 8.1. The tomb of Senenmut at Western Thebes, Egypt
  Case Study 8.2. The temple of Amun at Karnak, Egypt
  Case Study 8.3. The temple of Hathor at Dandara, Egypt
  Case Study 8.4. The pyramids of Giza and related buildings, Egypt
  Case Study 8.5. Napata, Sudan, including the temples of Djebel Barkal and the Nuri necropolis
Chapter 9. The Classical World
  Case Study 9.1. The Pnyx at Athens, Greece
  Case Study 9.2. The acropolis of Alatri, Italy
  Case Study 9.3. The Pantheon at Rome, Italy
Chapter 10. Islamic astronomy
  Case Study 10.1. The Maragheh observatory, Iran
  Case Study 10.2. Ulugh Beg's observatory, Uzbekistan
Chapter 11. Medieval astronomy in Europe
  Case Study 11.1. Monkwearmouth - Jarrow, United Kingdom
  Case Study 11.2. The Baptistery of Parma, Italy
  Case Study 11.3. Strasbourg cathedral, France, and astronomical time
Chapter 12. Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
  Case Study 12.1. The Royal Observatory, Greenwich, United Kingdom
  Case Study 12.2. The Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa
  Case Study 12.3. Meudon observatory, France
  Case Study 12.4. Mount Wilson observatory, USA
  Case Study 12.5. The Einstein Tower, Potsdam, Germany
Chapter 13. The development of radio astronomy
  Case Study 13.1. The Stockert radio telescope, Germany
Chapter 14. Applied astronomy in modern times
  Case Study 14.1. The Struve geodetic arc
Chapter 15. Space heritage
Chapter 16. ‘Windows to the universe’—starlight, dark-sky areas and observatory sites
  Case Study 16.1. Lake Tekapo - Aoraki - Mount Cook Starlight Reserve, New Zealand
  Case Study 16.2. Eastern Alpine Starlight Reserve and Grossmugl Starlight Oasis, Austria
  Case Study 16.3. AURA observatory, Chile
  Case Study 16.4. Mauna Kea observatory, Hawaii, USA
  Case Study 16.5. Canarian observatories, Spain
Conclusion – Astronomical heritage in the context of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention: developing a professional and rational approach