The Gibraltar Caves Complex, which is the last known refuge for the Neanderthals around 32,000 years ago, has been inscribed onto UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The decision was taken by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th Session that was held in Istanbul, Turkey this summer. The Gibraltar Caves Complex becomes the 30th UK site to be inscribed as a World Heritage Site in the same year that the UK marks 30 years since the first six sites were inscribed onto UNESCO’s prestigious list.
Part of the Site’s Outstanding Universal Value, is the unique insight that the Gorham’s Cave Complex gives us into the evolution of humankind. For over a quarter of a century, the Gorham’s and Vanguard Caves have been archaeologically excavated by an international, multi-disciplinary research team who have helped to uncover new insights into way that Neanderthals and early modern humans lived and behaved.
An official inauguration of the site will take place in the evening of Tuesday 20th September, hosted by Gibraltar’s Chief Minister. The event will take place in the viewing platforms, formerly the 1st and 2nd Europa Advance Batteries, with the magnificent backdrop of the new World Heritage Site. It will be followed by a reception at the University of Gibraltar which is located close to the Gorham’s Cave Complex. The event will include a number of speakers from Gibraltar and abroad who have had an involvement with the project at some point in its recent 26-year history.
In his acceptance speech at the World Heritage Committee meeting, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister the Hon Fabian Picardo QC, MP recalled how the Rock of Gibraltar had been one of the universal markers of the known world to mariners in ancient times. He remarked:
“Many people, from diverse cultural and political backgrounds have lived in Gibraltar. […] The Gorham’s Cave project reflects this openness. It has involved, and continues to involve, researchers from many different countries and disciplines; it has been an exemplar of how people can come together, leaving politics aside, and work towards a common goal to the benefit of humanity”.
Professor Clive Finlayson, Director of the Gibraltar Museum and of the new World Heritage Site said:
“It is a fairy tale come true. None of us could have suspected all those years ago when we started this project that we would be here today. There are so many people to thank for their involvement over the years – they have all contributed to this wonderful moment”.
Dr Cortes, Minister for the Environment, added:
“I am of course delighted. I have supported this proposal for many years and my Department has been working hard with the Museum team to provide all the information and support possible. It is deserved recognition for what is a spectacular historical and biological feature, particularly well preserved and fully protected by law. We will ensure that the site now flourishes even more and takes its rightful place in the extraordinary network that World Heritage Sites represent”.