Ahwar of Southern Iraq


The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: refuge of biodiversity and the relict landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities covers the marshy delta that was home to the early Sumerian civilization.

This mixed site consists of 7 locations: three archaeological sites (Ur, Uruk and Tell Eridu) and four wetland marsh areas. The latter are the Huwaizah Marshes, Central Marshes, East Hammar and West Hammar Marshes - important for bird migration and fish species.

The area lies in the joint delta of the Tigris and Euphrates River, the river providing arable fields via the use of irrigation. Due to draining of large portions of the marshes, the marshes were diminshed to 10% of their original size by 2003.


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Site Info

Full name: The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: refuge of biodiversity and the relict landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities

Site History

  • 2016 - Inscribed

    Reasons for inscription
  • 2016 - Advisory Body overruled

    ICOMOS & IUCN proposed deferral
  • 2016 - Revision

    Merger of 2 TWHS: The Marshlands of Mesopotamia & Ur
  • 2015 - Postponed

    evaluation postponed at the request of the State Party – letter dated 24/08/2014


The site has 7 locations.

  • Tell Eridu Archaeological Site
  • The Central Marshes
  • The East Hammar Marshes
  • The Iraqi side of Huwaizah Marshes
  • The West Hammar Marshes
  • Ur Archaeological City
  • Uruk Archaeological City


The site has 38 connections.



  • Canals Uruk
  • Mosaic art Mosaic Temple in Uruk
  • Tell Tell Eridu Archaeological Site
  • Tombs 16 collective royal tombs in Ur
  • Ziggurat Each of the 3 ruined cities contains remains of Ziggurats. Tel Eridu: " Eighteen superimposed mudbrick temples at the site underlie the unfinished Ziggurat of Amar-Sin(c. 2047 – 2039 BC)." (Wiki) Uruk: "the Anu district consists of a single massive terrace, the Anu Ziggurat,dedicated to the Sumerian sky god, An" (Wiki). Ur: see link


  • Animal Migrations ... comprise the last stopover area for millions of migrating birds before entering the vast Arabian Desert. (Nom file)
  • Endemic Bird Species Basra Reed Warbler and Iraq Babbler
  • Lagoons Eridu was originally located in a lagoon
  • Otters Smooth-coated Otter


  • River deltas joint delta of the Tigris and Euphrates River


  • Achaemenid Empire Esagila Temple in Uruk
  • Assyrian Empire Uruk went into a steep decline until about 850 BC when the Neo-Assyrian Empire annexed it as a provincial capital. Under the Neo-Assyrians and Neo-Babylonians, Uruk regained much of its former glory (wiki)
  • Babylonian Empire ... offer a complete testimony to the growth and subsequent decline of southern Mesopotamian urban centers and societies from the Ubaid and Sumerian periods until the Babylonian and Hellenistic periods. (Nom file)
  • Mesopotamia 
  • Parthian Empire Temple of Charyos in Uruk

Human Activity

  • Astronomy and Astrology Bit Resh in Uruk
  • Irrigation and drainage draining the marshes and the building of dams and irrigation canals were major technological breakthrough first introduced under the Ubaid period and further perfected by the Sumerians who later built dams on the Tigris and Euphrates to expand agriculture far inland. (nom file))
  • Language isolate Sumerian (Ur)
  • Sea Ports Ur was a port at the Persian Gulf
  • Writing systems the centralized control of resources and surplus which gave rise to the first writing system and administrative archives (nom file). The earliest texts known were found in Uruk.

Religion and Belief

  • Goddesses Eanna, the temple of the Goddess Inanna at Uruk
  • Legends and Folk Myths The Gilgamesh Epic originated from Uruk likely as a "reflection of the city's power and influence" (nom file)
  • Mentioned in the Bible Ur is considered by many to be the city of Ur Kasdim mentioned in the Book of Genesis as the birthplace of the Hebrew and Arab patriarch Abram ... There are however conflicting traditions and scholarly opinions identifying Ur Kasdim with the sites of Sanliurfa, Urkesh, Urartu or Kutha. Ur is mentioned four times in the Torah or Old Testament, with the distinction "of the Kasdim/Kasdin"—traditionally rendered in English as "Ur of the Chaldees". The Chaldeans were already settled in the vicinity by around 850 BC, but were not the rulers of Ur until the late 7th century BC, around 550 BC. The name is found in Genesis 11:28, Genesis 11:31, and Genesis 15:7. In Nehemiah 9:7, a single passage mentioning Ur is a paraphrase of Genesis. (Nehemiah 9:7) (wiki)


  • Built in the 4th millennium BC The cities flourished between 4th and 2nd millennium BC (AB ev)
  • Holocene The natural components ... as we know them today were formed 3000 years ago. (Nom file)


WHS on Other Lists

  • Global Heritage Fund Ur: Since 2009, the non-profit organization Global Heritage Fund (GHF) has been working to protect and preserve Ur against the problems of erosion, neglect, inappropriate restoration, war and conflict. (wiki)
  • Ramsar Wetlands Huwaizah Marshes

World Heritage Process