On the 25th April 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, devastating large areas of the country and neighbouring regions leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless and with over 8,000 fatalities. The earthquake also represented a cultural catastrophe, damaging and destroying much of Nepal’s unique cultural heritage including monuments within the UNESCO Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site. Not only historical and architectural treasures of Outstanding Universal Value, these monuments represent a major source of income for Nepal’s fragile economy and are of intangible value, playing a central role in the daily lives of thousands of the Valley’s inhabitants. For these reasons, the damaged heritage sites of Nepal will be subject to an ongoing major program of reconstruction and conservation.
Following on from last year’s post-disaster rescue excavations, a collaborative team of international and national experts from the Department of Archaeology, Government of Nepal and Durham University, will continue to explore several post-earthquake archaeological investigations throughout November and December. Based on the success of last year’s pilot in the Hanuman Dhoka Square, the team have been invited by UNESCO to explore the structural subsurface foundations of the Jagannatha Temple in Hanuman Dhoka that sustained damage during the 2015 earthquakes. The results will provide a better understanding of the monument’s history, the condition of its foundations in advance of reconstruction and rehabilitation, and help investigate the presence of subsurface archaeological remains in the vicinity of the temple.
The team will also continue work on the Kasthamandap at Hanuman Dhoka’s Durbar Square based on last year’s post-disaster archaeological investigations. Whilst the team had successfully identified the location of saddlestones supporting three of the Kasthamandap’s central timber pillars, they could find no trace of the fourth. Excavations will therefore investigate the location of the missing fourth central saddlestone as this element is a critical feature, both in the collapse of the monument and its successful reconstruction.