Owing to the universal value of the permanent message recorded in rocks due meteoritic impact in general and its direct consequences away from the initial crater (such as tsunamites, tectites, firestorms, Ir/Os layers, and more on Earth), owing to the unique record and accessibility at the Rochechouart impact compared to its numerous counterparts on other planetary bodies and compared to its very rare analogs on Earth, owing to the continuous 2000 years old record of utilization of “asteroid bearing rocks” for building houses, cities and monuments (including world class Gallo-Roman baths and related artifacts, plus a variety of medieval castle, churches and a large number of hamlets and farms all made in impactites several centuries ago), owing to the effective worldwide mobilization toward exploiting the Rochechouart asteroid impact, the CIRIR aims at proposing it for the World Heritage list. Beyond what we already know of it (the remnant of the deposit in the central depression of the initial crater) the heritage expands far beyond. It includes the territory actually below the initial crater floor (about 50 km in diameter, to be further constrained), and a much larger territory below the flanks and the deposits over a zone 300-700 km in diameter where direct effects such as major fractures directly connected with the crater are necessarily present in the rocks, but have not been recorded so far, or have been, but have not been yet interpreted as related to the impact, as where the rocks forming the central deposit of the crater, known since over 2 centuries, but interpreted as sedimentary and or volcanic and or tectonic origins…
Beyond the crater and its crown of ejecta and fractures in the target, meteoritic impacts on Earth produce long distance effects, such as tectites, firestorms, “fine ash” deposits contaminated by the projectile (Ir/Os layers), tsunamite. Even though the erosion has erased part or a large part of these effects, some are necessarily still here today, as possibly the huge seismite/tsunamite field in UK concomitant in age with Rochechouart. These distant effects, together with the crater, form the International Natural Laboratory managed by CICIR for the planetary research community and the education of the public at large. These distant fields would provisionally be integrated as satellite of the UNESCO site centered on Rochechouart (today in UK, Italy, and Slovakia)
The CIRIR UNESCO project will be organized for achieving this aim and for gathering and coordinating all the volunteers, supporters, ambassadors and means that will be necessary to achieve such an ambitious goal.
Why UNESCO World Heritage
- Because there is a double universal message to be transmitted to the humanity at Rochechouart: One is contained in the natural material constituting the heritage itself. It tackles the fundamental questions of the Humanity about “origins” including our origin. The other is contained in the humanity itself, in the “exemplary” way WE will take (while combining skills and means) for extracting then disseminating, sharing the richness contained in the material, and for making it profitable to the largest number. This is a message of wisdom, peace, fraternity, humility and a message of respect for Nature, and for us.
- Because UNESCO has acknowledged the universal value of meteoritic impact as natural phenomenon by adding it on the list of type of natural sites eligible. It is the last of the 13 types of natural heritage of exceptional value eligible for the UNESCO record.
- Because the heritage value of the Rochechouart impact natural site is beyond doubt as testified by the mobilization of the world scientific community and the current # 60 research projects funded or to be funded worldwide through the CIRIR program.
- Because the French State has acknowledged the heritage value of the site. Today 12 sites, sampling some of the most interesting lithologies exposed in the impact structure, are protected under the scheme of the National Natural Reserve. The “Réserve Naturelle Nationale de l’Astroblème de Rochechouart Chassenon” is established on site since 2008 with a permanent staff of 3 persons and a small museum facility offering to the public and school, guidance and introduction to the event. The Reserve is partner of CIRIR and relies on CIRIR support and scientific expertise for achieving its tasks of inventory and protection.
- Because the territory of the asteroid impact encompasses almost a dozen of world heritage cultural and archeological sites already listed on the UNESCO, all benefiting of the project.
- One very unique characteristic of the impact site compared to other terrestrial impact is it situation and its accessibility. The deposit in the crater is locally complete and the erosion gives a unique 3D access through the deposit and down to the crater floor below. This situation is exceptional within the small population (about 40) of large impact crater preserved on Earth (larger than 20 km in diameter). Such a position is precisely needed by the scientists for ground truth data mining impact mechanisms and the potential hydrothermal cell that can modify all our views on origin of Life.
- In the other # 40 large impacts on Earth where the message is recorded too, either the erosion has gone too far and the information is lost, or the sediments have covered the structure and the information is limited to costly drillings. At Rochechouart we walk on the resource, and the access in the rural country side of the center of France is extraordinary easy compared to most of the other sites which are remote and in hostile environments. All this justify the proposal materialized by the CIRIR, for making the site a Natural Laboratory open worldwide for research and training on impact processes and collateral effects (including habitability of planets and emergence of life).
- The site bears extraordinary, impact related beauties, such as world class gallo-roman artifacts, medieval castles, churches and monuments, all made in impactites.
The negative points will have to be listed too…
NO crater: Rochechouart impact is not as “sexy” as can be young and small impact craters on Earth such as Meteor-Crater in Arizona, or Talemzane in Algeria . The lack of “visible” expression of the crater topography to the visitor is a feature common to all large impact structures on Earth, either because of the size (too big, relief too smooth) or because of the erosion has removed the crater itself . This applies to most of the large terrestrial impact, including the Vredeford dome, the only terrestrial impact registered on the UNESCO world heritage list, where the visitor stands several kilometers below the floor of the initial carter at the center of the structure.
Does the territory want to be visible, then visited???
In part because the main heritage value of the Rochechouart meteoritic impact is not visible to the profane, its geographical “extend” is still poorly constrained. Yet we know enough to be certain that what we know is very little compared to what we will learn. Thus, by far the value of the asteroid impact is less in what we know than in what we will know. And to do so, we need the mobilization of the world community. This is already what is achieved with the CIRIR. This worldwide collective effort is certainly in the spirit of the UNESCO. By all means the CIRIR structure needs to be supported and its perennity secured. The CIRIR UNESCO project is one way, if not THE way.
The whole exercise relies on a single intrinsic variable, the “value” of this natural site. All the rest can be adjusted. It depends on us, on our ability to invest ourselves, to combine forces, to take advantage of this resource and to share the benefits.
The site is at the level or our hope, as already demonstrated by the size and quality of the CIRIR scientific team and program. Will we be? That is all the beauty of the exercise that we propose to tackle collectively and that we propose for support by the UNESCO.