Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley)

Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley)

Wadi Al-Hitan (Arabic: وادي الحيتان‎, “Whales Valley”) is a paleontological site in the Al Fayyum Governorate of Egypt, some 150 km southwest of Cairo. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2005 for its hundreds of fossils of some of the earliest forms of whale, the archaeoceti (a now extinct sub-order of whales). The site reveals evidence for the explanation of one of the greatest mysteries of the evolution of whales: the emergence of the whale as an ocean-going mammal from a previous life as a land-based animal. No other place in the world yields the number, concentration and quality of such fossils, as is their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape. This is why it was added by the UNESCO to the list of protected World Heritage sites.

The fossils found at the site may not be the oldest but their great concentration in the area and the degree of their preservation is to the extent that even some stomach contents are intact. The presence of fossils of other early animals such as sharks, crocodiles, sawfish, turtles and rays found at Wadi El-Hitan makes it possible to reconstruct the surrounding environmental and ecological conditions of the time, adding to its justification to be cited as a Heritage site.

The first fossil skeletons of whales were discovered in the winter of 1902-3. For the next 80 years they attracted relatively little interest, largely due to the difficulty of reaching the area. In the 1980s interest in the site resumed as four wheel drive vehicles became more readily available. Continuing interest coincided with the site being visited by fossil collectors, and many bones were removed, prompting calls for the site to be conserved. The remains display the typical streamlined body form of modern whales, yet retaining some of the primitive aspects of skull and tooth structure. The largest skeleton found reached up to 21 m in length, with well-developed five-fingered flippers on the forelimbs and the unexpected presence of hind legs, feet, and toes, not known previously in any archaeoceti. Their form was serpentine and they were carnivorous. A few of these skeletal remains are exposed but most are shallowly buried in sediments, slowly uncovered by erosion. Wadi El-Hitan provides evidences of millions of years of coastal marine life.

Outline
Wadi Al-Hitan (Arabic: وادي الحيتان‎, "Whales Valley") is a paleontological site in the Al Fayyum Governorate of Egypt, some 150 km southwest of Cairo.

Recommended world heritage video

  1. Medina of Tétouan (formerly known as Titawin)

    Medina of Tétouan (formerly known as Titawin)

  2. Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa

    Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa

  3. Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe

    Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe

  1. Victoria Falls

    Victoria Falls

  2. Timbuktu

    Timbuktu

  3. Timgad

    Timgad

  1. Medina of Fez

    Medina of Fez

  2. Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae

    Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae

  3. Al Qal’a of Beni Hammad

    Al Qal’a of Beni Hammad

  1. Ténéré

    Ténéré

  2. Namib Sand Sea

    Namib Sand Sea

  3. The Ruins of Loropéni

    The Ruins of Loropéni

  1. Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve

    Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve

  2. Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes

    Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes

  3. Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons)

    Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons)

  1. Fasil Ghebbi, Gondar Region

    Fasil Ghebbi, Gondar Region

  2. Fort Jesus

    Fort Jesus

  3. Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna

    Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna

  1. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

    Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

  2. Bassari Country : Bassari, Fula and Bedik Cultural Landscapes

    Bassari Country : Bassari, Fula and Bedik Cultural Landscapes

  3. Rwenzori Mountains National Park

    Rwenzori Mountains National Park

  1. Media of Marrakesh

    Media of Marrakesh

  2. Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve

    Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve

  3. Tiya

    Tiya

  1. Vredefort Dome

    Vredefort Dome

  2. Memphis, Egypt

    Memphis, Egypt

  3. Lake Turkana National Parks

    Lake Turkana National Parks

  1. Ecosystem and Relict Cultural Landscape of Lopé-Okanda

    Ecosystem and Relict Cultural Landscape of Lopé-Okanda

  2. Robben Island

    Robben Island

  3. Banc d’Arguin National Park

    Banc d’Arguin National Park

  1. Historic City of Meknes

    Historic City of Meknes

  2. Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur

    Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur

  3. Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae

    Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae

  1. Tipasa

    Tipasa

  2. W National Park of Niger

    W National Park of Niger

  3. Maloti-Drakensberg Park

    Maloti-Drakensberg Park

  1. M’Zab Valley

    M’Zab Valley

  2. Le Morne Cultural Landscape

    Le Morne Cultural Landscape

  3. Kairouan

    Kairouan

facebook comments
Comment
To the Top