International and national experts from the Nepalese Department of Archaeology and an archaeological team from Durham University have begun post-disaster excavation surveys and rescue excavations at earthquake damaged UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal.
“Creation of risk maps and identification and characterization of subsurface archaeology will facilitate the future protection, preservation and presentation of the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site, specifically, the severely damaged sites of Hanuman Dhoka, Patan and Bhaktapur” said Christian Manhart, Representative of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to Nepal in a press release issued today.
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake which hit Nepal in April this year, caused over 8,000 fatalities, devastated large areas of county and neighbouring regions, including destruction of Nepal’s unique monuments within the UNESCO Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site of Universal Outstanding Value.
The monuments of the Kathmandu Valley were a major source of income and economic growth through national and international tourism for the local residents and a key source of foreign currency in Nepal.
The severely damaged ornate temples of wood, brick and tile were not only of intangible value, but they also were places of worship for the residents who ‘reach out and commune with their guiding goddesses and gods’ through these temples.
Prior to rebuilding the experts will undertake rescue and survey excavations in the damaged medieval city squares of Patan, Hanuman Dhoka and Bhaktapur.
They will create Archaeological Risk Maps heritage within the three Darbar squares using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), which will provide a detailed layout of archaeological features such as walls and buildings below the surface.
This will be critical in guiding the laying of new service infrastructure, protecting key elements of Kathmandu’s underground heritage for future generations.
“This project offers archaeological expertise in the post-disaster recovery effort for Nepal, not only affording the opportunity of identifying earlier cultural phases of human activity in the Kathmandu Valley, of which there is a current paucity of evidence, but also mitigating the risk, and affording protection to subsurface heritage, prior to the post-disaster reconstruction of these World Heritage Sites,” said Professor Coningham, the UNESCO Chair in Archaeological Ethics and Practice in Cultural Heritage at Durham University in the United Kingdom.