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QuarryScapes guide to ancient stone quarry landscapes


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4. Statement of significance


The final phase of expert documentation, characterisation and  interpretation of a quarry landscape is the production of a formalised statement of significance.  In the conservation process, this document provides decision-makers, heritage authorities and stakeholders with essential information concerning the significance and value of the cultural resource from an ‘expert’ perspective. This document has to be written in an accessible manner so that it is understandable across a range of interests and has to avoid complicated scientific discussions.  As quarry landscapes are often the most difficult cultural landscapes to visualise and understand from a non-expert perspective, it is important to develop concepts and models through which their significance and value can be articulated within much broader frameworks; such as their connection with important historical events/places that are more generally known and recognised. 

A methodology that contains the steps necessary to produce a statement of significance that has relevance across a broad range of interests has been developed during the QuarryScapes project (Figure 6).  This chapter deals with the last two stages of this method from macro-level interpretation and historical value assessment, up to the statement of significance. 

There are 3 steps in this process:

1.         Identifying heritage values

2.         Macro-level interpretation: four concepts of landscape

3.         Historical value assessment and statement of significance

The following presents an outline of these 3 key stages.

Figure 6. A procedure for “building a case of conservation” for quarry landscapes (click to enlarge).

Identifying heritage values

Identifying heritage values to be assigned to a cultural resource would include those given by experts, decision-makers, heritage authorities, local communities and other stakeholders.  All these value assessments would then be formalised in the statement of significance.  From a Western perspective, the most widely used baseline criteria for assigning values to cultural resources come from those identified by Lipe (fact sheet 13).  Given the range of perspectives from which all these values are being assigned to the cultural resource, it would be expected that the statement of significance would often be contradictory and so cannot represent a universal view. In addition, these value assessment types would also adhere to legal frameworks of the specific country and other statutory criteria in a given cultural context.

An expert assessment of significance of an ancient quarry landscape is generally based on two sets of values: historical and informational value as summarised below:

  1. Historic value – or Associative/symbolic value – the essence of physical cultural remains and their authenticity, even if re-used, that can transmit cultural information about the past. 

  2. Informational value – made as ‘best projections’ by experts of what kind of resources/elements will be most useful for future study.

Although these definitions are made from a Western perspective, it would be expected that the essence of these value types is largely universal in an expert assessment of significance.

Macro-level interpretation: four concepts of landscape

Macro-level interpretation of ancient quarry landscapes, from an expert perspective, is key to how historical and informational values can be assigned to the ranges of material remains that constitute them.  It is also the foundation for making best projections as to which places or ‘sites’ within a quarry landscape should be conserved over others. This step is necessary to balance the needs of modern development with conservation, given that quarry landscapes can often extend over large areas. With this in mind, the statement of significance needs to put across historical and informational values in a meaningful way that has relevance across a broad spectrum of interests.  So, this next step in the production of a statement of significance has to place the ancient quarry landscape within a broader historical context.  This can be done by using broadly-based concepts, or analytical frameworks, as a means to connect ancient quarry landscapes with other places and/or events of broader historical significance. 

Four concepts of landscape have been developed with the specific aim of being adaptable to the diverse ranges of material remains, and archaeological contexts, in which a given quarry landscape may be situated. These concepts can only be applied after micro-level characterisation and interpretation of material remains has been undertaken. In summary, the four concepts of landscape are as follows (see  fact sheet 14 for more detailed descriptions): 

  1. Socially constructed landscapes: this concept can be used to isolate values of multi-period quarry landscapes in terms of time depth of quarrying and also where re-use of the landscape for other activities over time has compromised authenticity of some material remains.  The concept of a ‘socially constructed landscape’ also allows for the historical value context to be assessed across the totality of a landscape that may be related to ancestry, social embeddedness and tradition into the modern era.

  2. Contact landscapes (consumption): part of the historical significance of the ancient quarry landscape may be its connection to another more highly visible and significant place through consumption of its products.

  3. Associated historical landscapes: ancient quarry landscapes may be implicated in and provide additional evidence about significant events and transformations in history and prehistory. Can be used to ‘best project’ specific areas within a landscape that hold key historical and informational  values.

  4. Dynamic landscapes: to assign values to quarry landscapes where re-use for other activities may have completely or partially destroyed them. For instance, when a quarry landscape has been totally integrated into a modern city as a means to assess historical and informational values through human agency as characterising the present-day landscape, rather than its past.

One or more of these concepts would be used on a quarry landscape depending on single, or combinations, of variables such as:

  • the extent of the quarry landscape and need for making ‘best projections’ if under pressure from modern development

  • range of material remains, their visibility and status of preservation

  • extent of landscape re-use and how this has affected the authenticity of material remains, ie., is this multi-layering over time significant in terms of the historical value it adds to a landscape in its totality

  • proximity to a larger more significant monument and/or city

  • historical documents/written sources that can provide important contextual information

  • products produced in a quarry landscape that can be securely provenanced to places of consumption

Historical value assessment and statement of significance

This is where we have to assign associative/symbolic value (historical value) and informational value to the physical remains, as interpreted at a micro-level and macro-level, in a formalised statement of significance that will inform decision-makers.  Important to this stage is making a relative assessment of these values, as applied to a quarry landscape and its material remains, in terms of:

  • Scale: something may be important to a local community, region, state, nation or globally

  • Importance: how important is it at the appropriate scale and why

  • Either uniqueness or representativeness: can be a unique case (such as “the last remaining”), or it is a representative example of a type (comparative analysis).

In cases where the relative assessment of values of a quarry landscape may conclude that it is of global significance, then the statement of significance should inform decision-makers that there would be a strong case for UNESCO World Heritage status.  Decision-makers should be advised to look at UNESCO criteria for nomination of a quarry landscape as having ‘outstanding universal value’ (fact sheet 15). 

Assessing relative scales of significance, from an expert perspective, of ancient quarry landscapes requires:

  • comparative knowledge of other quarry landscapes in the country/region and also internationally (where applicable)

  • identification of specific elements of a quarry landscape, these may be roads, objects, extraction technologies, epigraphic material, that may be ‘world firsts’,  the last remaining example of its type, represents a key innovation of both historical and informational value

  • defining by ‘best projections’ areas (quarry complex with its key elements) within a landscape that represent the highest scale of value – this should be in terms of both historical and informational value


A statement of significance, from an expert perspective, is the key outcome of both micro-level and macro-level interpretation of a quarry landscape, the assignment of historical and informational values to the material remains, articulated through a scheme of relative scale. This document has to be accessible and meaningful to decision-makers, stakeholders and heritage authorities and so enable them to visualise where historical and informational value has been applied to specific material remains.  Using four concepts of landscape in the assessment of historical and informational value of ancient quarry landscapes allows for significance to be put across in two ways: first, across a landscape as whole, and second,  to make  ‘best projections’ onto specific areas of material remains, or quarry complexes, that hold key values.  

The information that decision-makers, managers and stakeholders take away from a statement of significance in relation to an ancient quarry landscape in terms of scale, importance, uniqueness and representativeness, would then be integrated into other frameworks of value assessment in their domain.

Sources used in the formulation in this methodology can be seen in the accompanying bibliography.

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December 2009
New book: a special volume with papers from the QuarryScapes project soon printed.
November 2008
Final workshop: the third QuarryScapes workshop was held in Aswan 12. - 15. October
June 2008
Final Reports: available for download
June 2008
More Palaeolithic quarries in Aswan Recent visits to the Aswan West Bank in Egypt have added new discoveries...

April 2008
QuarryScapes third workshop Aswan, October 12-15 2008

April 2008
Rescue of an obelisk top in Egypt Aswan, March 2008

December 2007
Second QuarryScapes Workshop 18-21 October 2007, Petra, Jordan

December 2007
Final Reports: Aswan West Bank Ancient Quarry Landscape

March 2007
New Aswan City: Rescue survey in progress

March 2007
QuarryScapes fieldwork in Egypt: The final season of survey at the Aswan silicified sandstone quarries revealed previously undocumented ancient paved roads

December 2006
Second Aswan field season The second QuarryScapes fieldwork season in Aswan took place through November 2006.

November 2006
First symposium
The first QuarryScapes symposium took place at Divan Talya hotel in Antalya (Turkey) 15-17 October 2006.
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Coordinator: NGU - Geological survey of Norway, Tom Heldal. Tlf: +47 73 90 40 00 . Partners. Layout: Lisa Løseth, NGU.