The great pyramids at Giza, EgyptElephants crossing the Zambezi river in Mana Pools National Park world heritage site, ZimbabweThe great mosque in the Old Towns of Djenne world heritage site, MaliBlack and white ruffed lemur, Rainforests of the Atsinanana world heritage site, Madagascar

Wadi Al Hitan - Whale Valley Egypt

Map showing the location of the Wadi Al Hitan (Whale Valley) world heritage site in the western deserts of Egypt

Website Category:  Earth’s Crust

Area: (unknown)
Inscribed: 2005

Criteria: (viii) Earth's history 

 

Values: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, about 37 million years ago. 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.

 

Slideshow of Wadi Al Hitan (Whale Valley) world heritage site.


 

Impressions (based on a visit in May 2006): Lying exposed on the desert floor, in a most spectacular setting, these fossils are quite awe-inspiring. A new road has been constructed into the site, so the area can now be reached within about three hours from Cairo, making it readily accessible.

Management considerations: The second phase of an Italian aid project has just begun and will support activities to secure the site (theft of fossils is a risk), and provide for tourist management and interpretation. Whale Valley is part of a much wider area (the Fayoum Depression), which is extremely rich in fossils, and consideration should be given to extension of the world heritage site to include adjoining areas, such as Gebel Qatrani.

 

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Links to other places in the Earth’s Crust category:  Mosi-oa-tunya Victoria Falls  I  Land of the Dogons  I  Vredefort Dome  



Links:  Google Earth | UNEP-WCMC Site Description |Official UNESCO Site Details          

 

Visitors cars at Wadi Al Hitan (Whale Valley) world heritage site in the western deserts of EgyptWind-sculpted sandstone block lying on the desert floor at Wadi Al Hitan (Whale Valley) world heritage site in the western deserts of EgyptFossilised whale skeleton lying in the sand at Wadi Al Hitan (Whale Valley) world heritage site in the western deserts of EgyptWind-sculpted sandstone blocks create an extraordinary landscape in the desert at Wadi Al Hitan (Whale Valley) world heritage site in the western deserts of Egypt

 

 

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