by Gerd-Christian Weniger
Neanderthal man on the way to World Heritage
The workshop with 25 international experts from archeology, UNESCO and the German Federal Foreign Office early November 2017 at the Neanderthal Museum, Mettmann/Germany proved to be a great success.
The participants were able to draw on the preparatory work of the network Ice Age Europe, which since 2013 has sought to promote the Ice Age heritage of Europe and has laid the foundation for close cooperation. As a result it was agreed to further pursue a serial, transnational nomination process. Besides the eponymous Neanderthal site, 11 other partners from Croatia, Italy, Belgium and Spain are currently involved. A follow-up meeting is planned for early 2018 with the participation of representatives from French Neanderthal sites, who were unfortunately not able to attend the kick-off meeting.
More than thousand sites are listed on UNESCO's World Heritage List, yet only a handful of them are sites of early human history.
This is what UNESCO aims to change. In 2006, the programme HEADS was initiated to do justice to the significance of these sites and the spectacular finds discovered, as they often document milestones of human development history with global consequences. Neanderthal sites are of particular importance. Through their discovery, the social and scientific coordinate system of modern man was repositioned and the Neanderthal man became the archetype for the people of the Ice Age. Until today, Neanderthals and their way of life are the subjects of a vast, worldwide research activity - the results of which, for example in the field of paleogenetics, have a strong influence on us today.
The unique research history and the extraordinary scientific potential of the Neanderthal sites for the understanding of early human history became once more visible in the lectures and discussions during the workshop. They are the main arguments for an application as World Heritage. The cluster of the most important Neanderthal sites fulfills several of the criteria required by UNESCO, being the prerequisite for the recognition of an extraordinary, universal value.
It became clear to all involved that the long process has only just began and that the application needs to be worked out and specified in further meetings.
Prof. Dr. Gerd-Christian Weniger
Director Neanderthal Museum / Lead Partner Ice Age Europe