African Archaeological Review

, Volume 24, Issue 3–4, pp 73–94 | Cite as

The Aswan High Dam and the International Rescue Nubia Campaign

  • Fekri A. Hassan
Original Article


The preservation of the legacy of mankind is no less important than the construction of dams, the erection of factories and the greater prosperity of peoples (President Gamal Abdel-Nasser, cited in Säve-Söderberg 1987, 90).

The Nubia Campaign mounted with the aim of salvaging the archaeological sites threatened by the construction of the Aswan High Dam (1960–1971) was the first collaborative international rescue effort involving UNESCO. One of the main outcomes of this campaign was the valorization of what came to be known as “world heritage” and the establishment of a UNESCO World Heritage Center entrusted with the mission to safeguard the cultural heritage of humankind. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Nubia Campaign and as more sites are increasingly in need of international drives to rescue them from dams and other threats, this contribution provides a critical assessment of this historical event highlighting the role of foreign scholars and institutions, governments, organizational infrastructures, sources of funding, activities undertaken, as well as the impact of the dam on Nubians. In retrospect and in light of what happened to the preservation of Egyptian and Sudanese heritage as work of the foreign missions united by a single cause came to end, and considering the ongoing projects in Egypt and the Sudan that require urgent international efforts, I canvass the shortcomings of the Nubia Campaign in order to come up with recommendations for immediate action.


Nubia Dam Cultural heritage Nile Floodplain 


La Campagne de Nubie montée dans le but de sauvegarder les sites archéologiques menacés par la construction du Haut Barrage d’Assouan (1960–1971) fut la première intervention internationale de sauvetage à laquelle l’UNESCO a participé. Une des issues principales de cette campagne fut la reconnaissance de ce qui est devenu “le patrimoine mondial” et l’établissement du centre du patrimoine mondial de l’UNESCO à qui a été confié la mission de protéger le patrimoine culturel de l’humanité. Alors que nous approchons du cinquantième anniversaire de la Campagne de Nubie et que bien des sites se voient de plus en plus menacés par des barrages et autres projets rendant cette collaboration internationale essentielle afin de les sauvegarder, cette participation fournit une évaluation critique de cet événement historique, souligne le rôle des intellectuels étrangers, des institutions, des gouvernements, des organisations responsables des infrastructures, des moyens de subvention ainsi que des effets du barrage sur les Nubiens. Rétrospectivement, je réexamine les défauts de la Campagne de Nubie afin de proposer des recommandations en vue d’une action immédiate tout en tenant compte de ce qui est arrivé au patrimoine égyptien et soudanais lorsque les missions étrangères ont cessé d´être unies par une cause commune et en examinant les projets courants en Egypte et au Soudan qui ont un besoin urgent de l’apport international.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of ArchaeologyUniversity College London (UCL)LondonEngland

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