Participants of the 1st International Workshop of the Project Neanderthal Cluster, November 2017, Neanderthal Museum

1st International Workshop
November 2017, Neanderthal Museum (Germany)

On 2 and 3 November 2017, an international workshop with 25 experts from archaeology, UNESCO and the German Federal Foreign Office took place at the Neanderthal Museum, Germany. The workshop was supported by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Communities and Local Government, Construction and Equality of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia and Ice Age Europe - Network of Heritage Sites.
Its aim was to evaluate the network of European Neanderthal sites with its unique findings in order to initiate a transnational serial nomination of this world heritage. 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.

The unparalleled 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.

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 not able to attend the kick-off meeting. 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.

Representatives of the most important Neanderthal sites as well as all institutions and offices dealing with cultural heritage are cordially invited to participate in the project process.


The process of the serial transnational nomination of the Neanderthals sites as UNESCO World Heritage continues! Following the first project meeting in November 2017 at the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann (Germany), the second #NeanderthalCluster meeting took place from 12 to 13 June 2018 in Namur (Belgium). Representatives from Croatia, Germany, Belgium and Spain as well as from the Ice Age Europe network followed the invitation of Agence Wallonne du Patrimoine (Walloon Heritage Agency). A representative from France joined the meeting via Skype.

The meeting proved again to be a success. The criteria of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) as demanded by UNESCO were finally defined and specified in detail. The subjects of authenticity and integrity, which play a crucial role in relation to the cave sites, were discussed in several steps and in a way that appropriate guidelines for the sites can now be developed. With it, the concept for the application is now decided in its basics, and is, in the opinion of all participants, also viable for a successful nomination process. On the basis of this concept, the candidate sites can now assess their individual potential for nomination.

Of particular importance is the commitment of the Walloon Heritage Agency as future lead partner in the coordination of the nomination process and the organization of upcoming projects meetings. The gathering in Namur was therefore the decisive step for the further course of action. Probably by the end of the year 2018, the official start of the nomination process will be announced at interstate level and with Wallonia as the lead partner.

For the understanding of early human history and the self-understanding of modern humans, the discovery of Neanderthals is of paramount importance. Its research history has redefined the position of man in the natural system of the earth, and the extraordinary scientific potential of the Neanderthal sites are expected to lead to further groundbreaking findings in the future.

The #NeanderthalCluster, comprising the most important Neanderthal sites in Europe, fulfills the criteria demanded by UNESCO in an outstanding way. The extraordinary, universal value of these sites for the history of humanity is beyond question. 

Gislaine Devillers / Agence wallonne du Patrimoine
Gerd-Christian Weniger / Stiftung Neanderthal Museum