2011년 5월 14일 토요일

이짚트 세계문화유산 2/2 : World Heritage in Egypt 2/2

지난 블로그에 게재한 것에 연하여 이짚트에 있는 나머지 세계문화유산에 대해 알아 보았다.

3. Historic Cairo
Tucked away amid the modern urban area of Cairo lies one of the world's oldest Islamic cities, with its famous mosques, madrasas, hammams and fountains. Founded in the 10th century, it became the new centre of the Islamic world, reaching its golden age in the 14th century.

The historic centre of Cairo bears impressive material witness to the international importance, on the political, strategic, intellectual and commercial levels, of the city during the medieval period. There are few cities in the world as rich as Cairo in old buildings: the historic centre on the eastern bank of the Nile includes no less than 600 classified monuments dating from the 7th to 20th centuries, distributed over various parts of the well-preserved urban fabric, which represent forms of human settlement that go back to the Middle Ages.
In the 7th century, following the death of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, Arab armies marched with great speed to conquer neighbouring lands. In 640 the army of the Caliph Omar reached the Nile, occupied Babylon, and founded across from it his own capital al-Fustat, surrounded by an enclosure wall. There the caliph built the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina: enclosing a simple courtyard surrounded by brick walls, it perfectly embodies the essence of Islam, severe and almost military in character.
During the domination of the Abbasids, al-Fustat gradually declined in importance and was replaced by the northern suburb of al-Askar, the military camp that gradually gathered more and more buildings, such as the palace of the governor, houses, shops and a mosque.
In 870 the new Governor Ahmed Ibn-Tulun made Egypt independent of the Abbasid Caliphate and founded in the north-eastern area a splendid new capital, al Qatai. This city was destroyed at the beginning of the 10th century, when the Abbasids regained control of the country. They spared the Great Mosque of Ibn-Tulun with its large courtyard surrounded by porticoes intended for teaching, punctuated by elegantly decorated round arches, probably the work of Iraqi artists, is still one of the most admirable monuments in Cairo.
The great period of city splendour began at the end of the 10th century, when Egypt was conquered by the powerful Shiite Muslim dynasty of the Fatimids, who decided to build a new capital. In AD 969 the city of al-Qahira was founded, and at the heart of the capital stood the residence of the Imam, the administrative buildings, and the two great Fatimid palaces ,of which nothing survives today.
The present-day quarter of al-Azhar preserves other monuments from the Fatimid era, such as the three large gates and the huge square towers of the city's enclosure walls and five mosques. Among these the Mosque of al-Hakim is the last example of a military mosque: it is a compact and severe building, with a broad open courtyard that, with the adjacent walls, makes up a medieval architectural compound of remarkable power. The Mosque of al-Azhar was built between 970 and 972 under the Caliph Muizz, to serve as a sanctuary and as a meeting place; it also housed a university which became an important centre for Islamic studies. The present-day appearance, with its Persian-arch porticoes, its decorated gates, the immense prayer hall, the variously shaped minarets, adorned with lacy carved stone, is the product of a series of embellishment projects.
After the brief intrusion of Seljuk Turks and the attacks of the Crusaders, Egypt fell in 1172 into the hands of Saladin, founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. The period of Cairo's greatest splendour coincided with the advent of the dynasty of the Mamelukes, who replaced the Ayyubids and remained in power until 1257. The first Mameluke mosque was built in 1266 by Sultan Baibars, crowned by an immense dome. The mandrasa-mosque that Sultan Hasan VII ordered to be built dates from 1356-63. This impressive building, whose cross-shape plan develops around a central courtyard, with the elegant pavilion of the fountain for ritual ablutions, was built with the use of material taken largely from the pyramids. The stern and massive appearance of the construction is balanced by the thrusting vertical power of the dome and the sole minaret of the original four to have survived. In addition to religious structures the Sultans built splendid mausolea in the City of the Dead, the huge cemetery to the east of the city proper.
Cairo has always been dependent on the ongoing Nile from here. The town was officially founded sometime around 969 years and centuries, even millennia before the site was live. Low levels of the Nile in the 11th century added new territories to the area of Cairo, and in 1174 appeared island Geziret al-Phil, who later was associated with drought and now forms the Shubra area. In the early 14th century to form a new island, now divided into two parts – Zamalek and Gezira.
Over the centuries the Nile shifted its bed and over. Therefore today the newest parts of the city are situated near the river itself. In the south of the new center of Old Cairo is part of the capital where you can see the remains of the former capital of the fifth century – petticoats. Here is the old Coptic Quarter. In the northern part of Cairo is the region Bulak. It emerged in 16th century as a port, and today is the main industrial area of Cairo.
Miuzz street at night, Cairo

Egyptian bustle at the base of the Bab Zuweila Gateway in Islamic Cairo.

Talaat Harb Street in Historic Cairo

Mosque of Muhammad

Mosque of Ibn Tulun
Cairo Tourism
cairo egypt
Cairo is a huge metropolis that can amaze anyone with different urban paintings and cultural diversity. If you are looking for an exotic holiday destination, thenCairo is not one of them. The capital of Egypt is rather oriental destination that is able to fascinate visitors, but also alienated those who come from disparate parts of the world. This duality rich-poor is also evident if you are looking for sun, beach, sea, better head to the beach as Byron Bay in Australia, not to Cairo.Cairo, however, is totally an advantage as the center of an ancient culture and people, remains among the world wonders as the pyramids

cairo egypt al azhar mosque
Al Azahr Mosque is the oldest university in the Islamic world – Al-Azhar University.
cairo egypt
Geographic Cairo is located in northern EgyptCairo is located on two opposite banks of the River Nile. Egyptian capital is the place which is immediately south of the point where the Nile leaves the valley surrounded by desert is divides into its delta. The central part of Cairo is spread along the east coast of two islands. The total area of Cairo is 214 sq. km.

East of central Cairo can see one of the biggest attractions of the Egyptian capital – the Citadel, built by Fatimidite after the founding of Cairo.

This historical monument is surrounded by the old Muslim quarter. While westernCairo is dominated by open spaces, wide boulevards and modern architecture with a European influence, but the eastern half of the city remains underdeveloped. Here chaos prevails, people are poorer, the streets are very narrow and crowded with small, arranged side by side homes
cairo egypt pyramids
In central Cairo, home to some 8 million inhabitants, and with suburban population of the entire metropolis to significant jumps 17 million people. These numbers automatically rank Cairo ahead of the pack among the largest metropolises in the Middle East and Africa and 11th in size in the world. Cairo is the main cultural, tourist, political, economic, industrial, financial and business center in Egypt.
cairo egypt giza sphinx
Giza Sphinx: On the west bank of the Nile, which over time became part of Cairo is part of the city’s historic city and famous Giza Pyramids. Today there are about 3 million people.

Boats line Cairo's Nile River, which was calm and free of crowds on Saturday

Tahir Square

Egyptian Museum, Cairo
Egyptian Museum

Cairo Church at night

Coptic church with rambunctious school group

Minerats in the morning haze

Egypt Tourist Attractions

4.Memphis and its Necropolis
The capital of the Old Kingdom of Egypt has some extraordinary funerary monuments, including rock tombs, ornate mastabas, temples and pyramids. In ancient times, the site was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The ensemble at Memphis embraces a number of exceptional monuments of great antiquity. The step pyramid of the first pharaoh of the Memphis period, constructed entirely in limestone, is the oldest known architectural structure of this type, from regularly cut stone. At Giza, one of the oldest boats preserved today, the solar barge, was discovered intact in the complex around the Pyramid of Cheops. The archaic necropolis of Saqqara dates back to the period of the formation of the pharaonic civilization. The exceptional historic, artistic and sociological interest of these monuments bears witness to one of the most brilliant civilizations of this planet.
The capital of the Old Kingdom of Egypt has some extraordinary funerary monuments, including rock tombs, ornate mastabas, temples and pyramids. In ancient times, the pyramids were considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The first sovereign of the unified Egyptian kingdom, Menes or Narmer, ordered the construction of a new capital in the area around the Nile Delta, the City of Menes, Mennufer, also know as Huta-Ka-Pta or dwelling of the Ka of Ptah, the most important sanctuary dedicated to the god of creative force, depicted as a ram-headed artisan working intently to shape humanity on his potter's wheel. Of the grandeur of Memphis, as it was known to the ancient Greeks, all that survive today are a few ruins of the sanctuary of Ptah, from which have come many votive statues depicting pharaohs and dignitaries and monumental necropolises.
In the necropolis of Saqqara, the closest to the capital and the largest in the land, stands the first great stone pyramid. It was built as a mausoleum by Djoser, the founder of the Third Dynasty. This was a transformation of the earlier tombs, shaped like great brick rectangles, with the walls sloping inward and a flat roof, commonly referred to as mastabas. For the first time brick was replaced by stone. The pyramid is located inside a funerary complex enclosed by a curtain wall rising to a height of 10 m built from a fine-grained limestone. There are 14 false stone doors in the enclosure wall and a monumental entrance consisting of a corridor and a hall flanked by columns. The entry path leads to a plaza known as the Courtyard of the Jubilee. One side of this is occupied by a great stepped podium upon which were arranged the thrones of the Pharaoh; to the east and to the west of the podium sanctuaries were constructed.
The founder of the Fourth Dynasty, Snefru, transformed the structure of the tomb once and for all by choosing the now familiar pyramid shape with a square base. In the necropolis of Dahshur stands the Red Pyramid, named after the reddish hue of the limestone that was used to build it. To the south is the Rhomboid Pyramid, with its double slope on each of the four faces, apparently an intermediate form. With Snefru for the first time the annex construction appeared.
Credit goes to the son of Snefru, Khufu or Cheops, and to his successors Rahaef (Chephren) and Menkaure (Mycerinus) for the construction of the great pyramids of Giza. The pyramid is a symbol of the Sun, the great god Ra, whose cult became pre-eminent from the Fourth Dynasty; the Pyramid Texts, found in the funerary chambers of the tombs dating from the end of the Old Kingdom, speak of the transformation of the dead king into the Sun.
The 'Horizon of Cheops' was the name given to the Pharaoh's tomb, the oldest and the largest. The entrance is located in the middle of the north side. In the interior the narrow passageway splits in two: one leading to a chamber carved into the rock beneath the monument, and the other to a small room called the 'Chamber of the Queen' and thence to the Great Gallery and the large 'Chamber of the King'.
The other two pyramids were known in antiquity as 'Great is Chepren' and 'Divine is Mycerinus' respectively. Each tomb forms part of the classic funerary complex first built at the behest of Snefru.

Guarded by the familiar lone lion-bodied Sphinx are the three Great Pyramids of Giza. Over 4,000 years ago, the mummified bodies of Kings Cheops, Kefren and Mykerinos were ferried down the Nile to be buried and prepared for the journey to the afterlife within these massive monuments.
The largest, oldest and finest of all three is Cheop's Pyramid, simply known as the "Great Pyramid". It was the tallest structure in the world until the end of the nineteenth century (145 meters). But Kefren's Pyramid, Cheop's son and successor, makes a bigger first impression. On higher ground with its limestone cap still intact, it looks loftier even though it's 4 meters shorter.
The smallest of the three, Mykerinos' Pyramid, makes up for its size with its fine funerary and valley temples.
But the Giza necropolis is also the final resting place of the Pharaoh's family and high officials. Buried inside the mastabas and minor pyramids which dot the plateau are queens and royal courtiers. There are also tombs of the craftsmen and engineers who toiled over these epic edifices.

Step Pyramid at Saqqara: A Time has all but erased the once mighty Memphis from the Egyptian landscape, however, the city of the dead has been excavated and exhumed from the desert sands, the vast necropolis of Saqqara. Memphis is some 23km south of central Cairo, in the center of the floodplain on the western side of the Nile. Memphis was traditionally founded in 3000 BC by Menes, the legendary figure credited with the creation of a politically unified Egypt. Memphis served as the effective administrative capital of the country during the Old Kingdom and partly in later times.
It's eleven pyramids, countless mastabas and lone Coptic monastery stretch over 7km from north to south, and span three and a half thousand years of Egyptian civilisation. At its centre sits King Djoser's "Stepped" Pyramid, the very first pyramid and the first great stone structure in the world. North of the pyramid, inside a stone "serdab", sits the Ancient Pharaoh himself.
Saqqara also includes the Serapeum, represented by a life-sized sculpture of limestone, the original of which is in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and an astonishing collection of mummified Apis bulls in gargantuan granite coffins. Of its eleven pyramids, King Teti boasts the best preserved burial chamber, with pyramid text lined walls mapping out his journey to the afterlife. The walls of Mereruka's multichambered maze-like tomb are covered with exquisite murals, showing scenes of everyday life.

Temple at Saqqara
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Dashur- Pyramid

Pyramid of Djoser

There were originally 11 pyramids at Dahshur, although only the two Old Kingdom Pyramids, the Bent and the Red Pyramid, remain intact. Pharaoh Sneferu, father of Khufu and founder of the 4th Dynasty, built Egypt's first real pyramid, the Red Pyramid, here. It is a quiet place where you will be able to enjoy the monuments in peace.

Pedro II of Brazil, 1871

5. Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Pilae
This outstanding archaeological area contains such magnificent monuments as the Temples of Ramses II at Abu Simbel and the Sanctuary of Isis at Philae, which were saved from the rising waters of the Nile thanks to the International Campaign launched by UNESCO, in 1960 to 1980.

The open-air Museum of Nubia and Aswan brings together cultural properties closely associated with the unfolding of a long sequence of Egyptian Pharaonic history. In addition to the complexes of Abu Simbel and Philae the site includes the temples of Amada, of Derr, those of Ouadi Es Sebouah, Dakka and Maharraqah, the temple of Talmis, and the kiosk of ak-Kartassi, the temple of Beit el Ouali which are both rare and ancient. To these must be added the astonishing granite quarries of Aswan, exploited by pharaohs from early antiquity, where colossal unfinished obelisk-like monuments have been discovered.
An archaeological zone of primary importance extends from Aswan to the Sudanese border. Aswan, situated north of the First Cataract, was an essential strategic point where, since prehistoric times, victorious expeditions had been mounted leading to a lasting domination of Nubia, the country to the south, rich in gold and other minerals, in ivory and in precious wood. To each of the great periods of Egyptian history there corresponds, if only partially, a seizure of Nubia, which enjoyed the role of a natural annex to the kingdom. The sovereignty of the pharaohs was solidly established during the New Empire. After the military conquest, towards 1550 BC, Nubia virtually became a colony, administered by a governor, whose fiscal and commercial income was transferred to Aswan. With the fall of the New Empire (c. 1070 BC) Nubia again entered a period of prosperity during the Graeco-Roman period and during the first years of the Christian era, until the triumph of Islam.
Abu Simbel is a temple built by Ramesses II in ancient Nubia; he chose to build the temple dedicated to himself on the site where there were two grottoes consecrated to the cult of the local divinities. The sovereign in this way reaffirmed the fact that Nubia belonged to the Egyptian Empire. The Great Temple has four colossal statues carved out of the living rock, fastened to the cliff wall, which depict Ramesses II, seated with the double crown of Lower and Upper Egypt. Standing between and on either side of the pharaoh's legs were depicted princes, princesses and Queen Nefertari, much smaller in size and standing erect.
The temple faces east, and Re-Horakhty, one manifestation of the Sun God, is shown inside the niche directly above the entrance. The alignment of the temple is such that twice a year the Sun's rays reach into the innermost sanctuary to illuminate the seated statues of Ptah, Amun-Re, Ramesses II and Re-Horakhty. The facade is crowned by a row of statues of baboons, considered to be the protectors of water. Inside the temple there is a great hall, whose ceiling is supported by eight colossal pillars in the shape of statues of the king, a smaller hall with simple pillars, a vestibule and a sanctuary. There are reliefs on the walls of the halls in which Ramesses is depicted in different ways but always fighting against his enemies.
When the High Dam was being constructed in the early 1960s, international cooperation assembled funds and technical expertise to move this temple to higher ground so that it would not be inundated by the waters of Lake Nasser.
Not far off stands the Little Temple dedicated to the Goddess Hathor in memory of the king's wife Nefertari, who was later venerated as the goddess of love and fertility. In the facade six statues are carved in the rock. They represent the pharaoh and his wife, assimilated to the divinity and therefore depicted with the divinity's attributes, a Sun disk between the horns of a cow.
The interior is subdivided into a hall supported by pillars decorated with reliefs depicting the goddess, a vestibule with side rooms, and the sanctuary, which contained the statue of a goddess in the form of a cow. The interior walls are decorated with magnificent reliefs showing the presentation of offerings and festive processions in honour of the pharaoh and his wife.

Philae Temple, Aswan

Trajan's Kiosk(Roman) inside the Pilae Temple

Philae Temple

Columns with Isis on them, Philae Temple

A Lion Statue looking torwards columns


First look at hieroglyphics at Philae Temple in Aswan, Egypt.

Photos ancient egypt abu simbel temple

Panorama View of Abu Simbel

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Ramesses II earlier in his life wearing two crowns of Egypt

Inside the larger temple

Abu Simbel temple, Abu Simbel, Nubian desert, Egypt. Digital photo. A view known from Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot story Death on the Nile. The statues represent Ramesses II himself, and the three state gods of the New Kingdom, Ra-Horakhty of Heliopolis, Ptah of Memphis and Amun-Ra of Thebes. The axis of the temple is arranged so that on two days of the year, in February and October, the rising sun shoots its rays through the entrance and halls until it finally illuminates the sanctuary statues except Ptah.
Abu Simbel entrance

6.Saint Catherine Area

The Orthodox Monastery of St Catherine stands at the foot of Mount Horeb where, the Old Testament records, Moses received the Tablets of the Law. The mountain is known and revered by Muslims as Jebel Musa. The entire area is sacred to three world religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The Monastery, founded in the 6th century, is the oldest Christian monastery still in use for its initial function. Its walls and buildings of great significace to studies of Byzantine architecture and the Monastery houses outstanding collections of early Christian manuscripts and icons. The rugged mountainous landscape, containing numerous archaeological and religious sites and monuments, forms a perfect backdrop to the Monastery.
Ascetic monasticism in remote areas prevailed in the early Christian church and resulted in the establishment of monastic communities in remote places. St Catherine's Monastery is one of the earliest of these, and the oldest to have survived intact, having been used for its initial function without interruption since the 6th century. It demonstrates an intimate relationship between natural grandeur and spiritual commitment.
With the destruction of Petra by the Romans, Nabataean influence waned and the survivors became nomads. The Sinaï region, known to the Romans as Palestina Tertia, became a savage wilderness, and as such attracted early Christian anchorites. Following the departure of the Romans in the second half of the 4th century the general lawlessness eventually drove the monastic communities to seek help. This was supplied by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, who sent teams of architects and masons to build a fort below the rocky eminence identified by the monks as Mount Sinaï, with the dual purpose of protecting the community and securing the road from Aqaba to Suez.
Mount Sinaï is identified by Muslims as Mount Moses (hence its Arabic name, Jebel Musa/Gabbal Moussa), and for them, as for Christians, this is the place where God made a covenant with his people, handing down the Tablets of the Law to Moses.
The main Church of the Transfiguration was built in the 560s, around the time of Justinian's death. Its first dedication was to the Virgin Mary, but this was later to changed to the mid-3rd-century martyr St Catherine, whose head and hand are preserved as relics within the church. The Christian communities of St Catherine's Monastery have always maintained close relations with Islam. In 623 a document signed by the Prophet himself, known as the Actiname (Holy Testament), exempted the monks of St Catherine's from military service and tax and called upon Muslims to give them every help. As a reciprocal gesture the monastic community permitted the conversion of a chapel within the walled enceinte to a mosque during the Fatimid Caliphate (909-1171).
The monastery complex is completely surrounded by a massive wall. It is constructed of massive dressed granite blocks; however, the upper sections were restored on the orders of Napoleon, using smaller, undressed stone blocks. The wall is decorated in places with carved Christian symbols, such as crosses, monograms, etc. The main structure within the enclosure is the Church of the Transfiguration, which is the work of the Byzantine architect Stephanos; it is built from granite, in basilical form, with a broad main nave, two side aisles defined by massive granite columns with capitals composed of Christian symbols, an apse and a narthex. Each of the aisles has three chapels, and there is one on either side of the apse.
Behind the apse is the holiest part of the Monastery, the Chapel of the Burning Bush, which incorporates the 4th-century chapel built by the pious Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The neoclassical bell tower is the work of the monk Gregorius and was built in 1871. The rectangular Old Refectory has 16th-century murals on the walls. The most ancient library in the Christian world is considered to be second only to that of the Vatican, in terms of both number and value of its collection.
The Fatimid Mosque, on the site of a small Crusader chapel, was built between 1101 and 1106. It is rectangular in plan, with a small semi-detached minaret in the northern corner and a small courtyard in front, which forms the roof of the well restored ancient olive press and mill. A constant supply of fresh water is provided by the Fountain of Moses, which taps an underground spring. The monks' cells are disposed along the inner faces of the walls. Outside the walls is the triangular monastery garden, created over many years by the monks, who brought soil here and made tanks to store water for irrigation. Adjoining the garden are the cemetery and charnel house.

Bush claimed to be a transplanted descendant of the original Burning Bush.
Burning Bush at Saint Catherine Monastery, Sinai, Egypt

In the 10th Century a body,claimed to be that of the martyred St Catherine (she was beheaded by the Romans in 307 AD), was discovered in the mountains and brought to the monastery. Since then it is has become a centre of pilgrimage for members of the Orthodox Church.


Beautiful garden inside of the monastery

Icon of Saint Catherine of Alexandria
The complex houses irreplaceable works of art: mosaics, the best collection of early icons in the world, many in encaustic, as well as liturgical objects, chalices and reliquaries, and church buildings. The large icon collection begins with a few dating to the 5th (possibly) and 6th centuries, which are unique survivals, the monastery having been untouched by Byzantine iconoclasm, and never sacked. The oldest icon on an Old Testament theme is also preserved there. A project to catalogue the collections has been ongoing since the 1960s.
The monastery, along with several dependencies in the area, constitute the entire Orthodox Church of Mount Sinai, which is headed by an archbishop, who is also the abbot of the monastery. The exact administrative status of the church within Eastern Orthodoxy is ambiguous: by some, including the church itself, it is considered autocephalous, by others an autonomous church under the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem. The archbishop is traditionally consecrated by theOrthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem; in recent centuries he has usually resided in Cairo. During the period of the Crusades, marked by bitterness between the Orthodox and Catholic churches, the monastery was patronized by both the Byzantine Emperors and the rulers of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and their respective elites. The monastery was an important centre for the development of the hybrid style ofCrusader art, and still retains over 120 icons created in the style, by far the largest collection in existence. Many were evidently created by Latins, probably monks, based in or around the monastery in the 13th century. Prior to September 1, 2009, a previously unseen fragment of Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in the monastery's library.
Gallery of Arts at Saint Catherine
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Icon of the enthroned Virgin and Child with saints and angels, 6th century
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Transfiguration, 12th century
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Ladder of divine ascent
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Crucifixation, 13th century
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Holy doors
Saint Catherine's Monastery
Inside the walls of St. Catherine

7.Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley)

Wadi Al-Hitan, Whale Valley, in the Western Desert of Egypt, contains invaluable fossil remains of the earliest, and now extinct, suborder of whales, Archaeoceti. These fossils represent one of the major stories of evolution: the emergence of the whale as an ocean-going mammal from a previous life as a land-based animal. This is the most important site in the world for the demonstration of this stage of evolution. It portrays vividly the form and life of these whales during their transition. The number, concentration and quality of such fossils here is unique, as is their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape. The fossils of Al-Hitan show the youngest archaeocetes, in the last stages of losing their hind limbs. Other fossil material in the site makes it possible to reconstruct the surrounding environmental and ecological conditions of the time.
Wadi Al-Hitan, Whale Valley, in the Western Desert of Egypt, contains invaluable fossil remains of the earliest, and now extinct, suborder of whales, the archaeoceti. These fossils represent one of the major stories of evolution: the emergence of the whale as an ocean-going mammal from a previous life as a land-based animal. This is the most important site in the world for the demonstration of this stage of evolution. It portrays vividly the form and life of these whales during their transition. The number, concentration and quality of such fossils here is unique, as is their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape. The fossils of Al-Hitan show the youngest archaeocetes, in the last stages of losing their hind limbs. They already display the typical streamlined body form of modern whales, whilst retaining certain primitive aspects of skull and tooth structure. Other fossil material in the site makes it possible to reconstruct the surrounding environmental and ecological conditions of the time.
Wadi Al-Hitan is the most important site in the world to demonstrate one of the iconic changes that make up the record of life on Earth: the evolution of the whales. It portrays vividly their form and mode of life during their transition from land animals to a marine existence. It exceeds the values of other comparable sites in terms of the number, concentration and quality of its fossils, and their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape. It accords with key principles of the IUCN study on fossil World Heritage sites, and represents significant values that are currently absent from the World Heritage List.

Two whales side by side
Fossilized crocodile

CNN Coverage: Wadi Al-Hitan
Dorudon atrox spine
There is virtually zero rainfall here in the Sahara desert, and the great majority of erosion in these sandstones and mudstones is from wind.
Rock formations
Mangroves were a key part of the estuarian ecosystem in the wadi 40 million years ago. This strata extends over many hectares and most of the whale skeletons are adjacent to it.
Wadi Al-Hitan is a very important fossil site that firmly establishes the fossil record of whale evolution from land mammals, one of Darwin's major assertions in The Origin of Species. The wadi hosts skeletons of families of archaic whales in their original geological and geographic setting of the shallow nutrient-rich bay of an early sea of some 30-40 million years ago, in what is now central Egypt.
There is no other place in the world yielding archaic whale fossils of such quality in such abundance and concentration -- over 400 cetacian skeletons have been discovered, the most important finds coming between 1985-1995. Many of the sirenians and cetaceans are preserved as virtually complete articulated skeletons which, uniquely, preserve reduced hind limbs, making them intermediate between earlier land mammals and later modern whales.
In addition to the whale fossils, numerous other fossils of plant and animal life provide a rich picture of the ecology of the Tethyan Ocean during Eocene time, enabling interpretation of how animals then lived and how they were related to each other. These fossils are the subject of continuing study and are of iconic value for the study of evolutionary transition, and make the site vitally important as a niche in Earth's natural history.
This fossil skeleton, around 50 million years old, has been partially excavated and reassembled where found in Wadi Al-Hitan. Dozens of whale skeletons remain undisturbed on the floor of the valley, usually indicated by small mounds created as wind erosion uncovered them.

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