The building of the Aswan Dam led to an archaeological emergency with ancient temples, monuments, and artifacts at risk from flooding and destruction. The governments of Egypt and Sudan appealed to UNESCO for help. The result was an unprecedented campaign to save irreplaceable ancient culture in the Nubia region – stretching along 200 miles of the Nile and 100 miles into Sudan.
UNESCO launched its appeal on 8 March 1960. An impressive list of high profile political, diplomatic and royal figures were members of a group of patrons, including Sir Julian Huxley, the first Director-General of UNESCO.
The international campaign lasted twenty years, saw the successful rescue and relocation of 20 monuments and contributed to the establishment of the 1972 World Heritage Convention which still forms the bedrock of international efforts to recognise and protect our cultural heritage.
The UK provided funding and resources for the campaign and Sir Mortimer Wheeler, Professor of Archaeology at London University, joined UNESCO’s committee of distinguished experts to advise the global project.
“Art is indivisible. There is no German Beethoven, only Beethoven, no Russian Dostoevski, only Dostoevski, no British Shakespeare, only Shakespeare. Great art is not for an age, but for all time. It is not for this or that side of the Iron Curtain, but for all men”
“On its banks some thousands of years ago the genius of man erected buildings, carved statues and inscribed records which are an important part of the cultural heritage not only of Egypt but of all man everywhere.’ Dr Horace King, 18 November 1960