The United Nations’ cultural agency has added 22 heritage treasures to its list of World Heritage sites, joining iconic locations like India’s Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.
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UNESCO World Heritage List Committee designated Britain’s Lake District, the Baden-Wuerttemberg caves in Germany, and the modernist architecture in Asmara — the capital city of Eritrea — to the roster of places with special recognition.
The additions come as the agency meets in Poland for an 11-day session to nominate new locations in need of protection and reviews the status and well-being of existing designated sites.
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The UNESCO designation, which recognizes the outstanding universal values of the sites, is meant to draw attention to them and the need to preserve them.
Among the other new sites on the UNESCO list are: the underground mines in Tarnowskie Gory in Poland, the historic city of Yazd, in Iran; Japan’s sacred and restricted-access island of Okinoshima, and Los Alerces National Park in Argentina.
2017 UNESCO World Heritage additions:
The English Lake District (Britain): Located in northwest England, the English Lake District is a mountainous area, whose valleys have been modelled by glaciers in the Ice Age and subsequently shaped by an agro-pastoral land-use system characterized by fields enclosed by walls. The combined work of nature and human activity has produced a harmonious landscape in which the mountains are mirrored in the lakes. Grand houses, gardens and parks have been purposely created to enhance the beauty of this landscape. This landscape was greatly appreciated from the 18th century onwards by the Picturesque and later Romantic movements, which celebrated it in paintings, drawings and words. It also inspired an awareness of the importance of beautiful landscapes and triggered early efforts to preserve them.
Kulangsu (China): Kulangsu is a tiny island located on the estuary of the Chiu-lung River, facing the city of Xiamen. With the opening of a commercial port at Xiamen in 1843, and the establishment of the island as an international settlement in 1903, this island off the southern coast of the Chinese empire suddenly became an important window for Sino-foreign exchanges. Kulangsu is an exceptional example of the cultural fusion that emerged from these exchanges, which remain legible in its urban fabric. There is a mixture of different architectural styles including Traditional Southern Fujian Style, Western Classical Revival Style and Veranda Colonial Style. The most exceptional testimony of the fusion of various stylistic influences is a new architectural movement, the Amoy Deco Style, which is a synthesis of the Modernist style of the early 20th century and Art Deco.
KULANGSU Administrative Committee
Kujataa (Greenland): Kujataa is a sub-arctic farming landscape located in the southern region of Greenland. It bears witness to the cultural histories of the Norse hunters-gatherers who started arriving from Iceland in the 10th century and of the Norse farmers, Inuit hunters and Inuit farming communities that developed from the end of the 18th century. Despite their differences, the two cultures, European Norse and Inuit, created a cultural landscape based on farming, grazing and marine mammal hunting The landscape represents the earliest introduction of farming to the Arctic, and the Norse expansion of settlement beyond Europe.
Niels Christian Clemmensen / Christian K. Madsen
Venetian Works of Defence between 15th and 17th centuries: This property consists of 15 components of defence works in Italy, Croatia and Montenegro, spanning more than 1,000 kilometres between the Lombard region of Italy and the eastern Adriatic Coast. The fortifications throughout the Stato da Terraprotected the Republic of Venice from other European powers to the northwest and those of the Stato da Mar protected the sea routes and ports in the Adriatic Sea to the Levant. They were necessary to support the expansion and authority of the Serenissima. The introduction of gunpowder led to significant shifts in military techniques and architecture that are reflected in the design of so-called alla modernaI bastioned, fortifications, which were to spread throughout Europe.
Municipality of Palmanova
Taputapuātea (France): Taputapuātea on Ra’iatea Island is at the centre of the “Polynesian Triangle,” a vast portion of the Pacific Ocean, dotted with islands, and the last part of the globe to be settled by humans. The property includes two forested valleys, a portion of lagoon and coral reef and a strip of open ocean. At the heart of the property is the Taputapuātea marae complex, a political, ceremonial and funerary centre. It is characterized by a paved courtyard with a large standing stone at its centre. Widespread in Polynesia, the marae were places where the world of the living intersects the world of the ancestors.
Historic City of Yazd (Iran): The City of Yazd is located in the middle of the Iranian plateau, 270 kilomtres southeast of Isfahan, close to the Spice and Silk Roads. It bears living testimony to the use of limited resources for survival in the desert. Water is supplied to the city through a qanat system developed to draw underground water. The earthen architecture of Yazd has escaped the modernization that destroyed many traditional earthen towns, retaining its traditional districts, the qanat system, traditional houses, bazars, hammams, mosques, synagogues, Zoroastrian temples and the historic garden of Dolat-abad.
Sacred Island of Okinoshima (Japan): Located 60 km off the western coast of Kyushu island, the island of Okinoshima is an exceptional example of the tradition of worship of a sacred island. The archeological sites that have been preserved on the Island are virtually intact, and provide a chronological record of how the rituals performed there changed from the 4th to the 9th centuries CE. In these rituals, votive objects were deposited as offerings at different sites on the Island. Many of them are of exquisite workmanship and had been brought from overseas, providing evidence of intense exchanges between the Japanese archipelago, the Korean Peninsula and the Asian continent. Integrated within the Grand Shrine of Munakata, the island of Okinoshima is considered sacred to this day.
EPA/EVERETT KENNEDY BROWN
ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape (South Africa): The ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape is located at the border with Botswana and Namibia in the northern part of the country, coinciding with the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (KGNP). The large expanse of sand contains evidence of human occupation from the Stone Age to the present and is associated with the culture of the formally nomade ǂKhomani San people and the strategies that allowed them to adapt to harsh desert conditions. They developed a specific ethnobotanical knowledge, cultural practices and a worldview related to the geographical features of their environment. The ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape bears testimony to the way of life that prevailed in the region and shaped the site over thousands of years.
Francois Odendaal Productions (FOP Films)
Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site (Brazil): Valongo Wharf Archeological Site is located in central Rio de Janeiro and encompasses the entirety of Jornal do Comércio Square. It is in the former harbour area of Rio de Janeiro in which the old stone wharf was built for the landing of enslaved Africans reaching the South American continent from 1811 onwards. An estimated 900,000 Africans arrived in South America via Valongo. The physical site is composed of several archeological layers, the lowest of which consists of floor pavings in pé de moleque style, attributed to the original Valongo Wharf. It is the most important physical trace of the arrival of African slaves on the American continent.
João Mauríco Bragança
Qinghai Hoh Xil (China): Located in the north-eastern extremity of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, is the largest and highest plateau in the world. This extensive area of alpine mountains and steppe systems is situated more than 4,500 m above sea level, where sub-zero average temperatures prevail all year-round. The site’s geographical and climatic conditions have nurtured a unique biodiversity. More than one third of the plant species, and all the herbivorous mammals are endemic to the plateau. The property secures the complete migratory route of the Tibetan antelope, one of the endangered large mammals that are endemic to the plateau.
Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe: This transboundary extension of the World Heritage site of the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany (Germany, Slovakia, Ukraine) stretches over 12 countries. Since the end of the last Ice Age, European beech spread from a few isolated refuges in the Alps, Carpathians, Mediterranean and Pyrenees over a short period of a few thousand years in a process that is still ongoing. This successful expansion is related to the tree’s flexibility and tolerance of different climatic, geographical and physical conditions.
Mbanza Kongo (Angola): The town of Mbanza Kongo, located on a plateau at an altitude of 570 metres, was the political and spiritual capital of the Kingdom of Kongo, one of the largest constituted states in Southern Africa from the 14th to 19th centuries. The historical area grew around the royal residence, the customary court and the holy tree, as well as the royal funeral places. When the Portuguese arrived in the 15th century they added stone buildings constructed in accordance with European methods to the existing urban conurbation built in local materials. Mbanza Kongo illustrates, more than anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa, the profound changes caused by the introduction of Christianity and the arrival of the Portuguese into Central Africa.
Landscapes of Dauria (Mongolia): Shared between Mongolia and the Russian Federation, this site is an outstanding example of the Daurian Steppe eco-region, which extends from eastern Mongolia into Russian Siberia and north-eastern China. Cyclical climate changes, with distinct dry and wet periods lead to a wide diversity of species and ecosystems of global significance. The different types of steppe represented, such as grassland and forest, as well as lakes and wetlands serve as habitats for rare species of fauna, such as the White-Naped crane and the Great bustard, as well as millions of vulnerable, endangered or threatened migratory birds. It is also a critical site on the migration path for the Mongolian gazelle.
Los Alerces National Park (Argentina): The Los Alerces National park is located in the Andes of northern Patagonia and has a western boundary, which coincides with the Chilean border. Successive glaciations have moulded the landscape in the region creating spectacular features such as moraines, glacial cirques and clear-water lakes. The vegetation is dominated by dense temperate forests, which give way to alpine meadows higher up under the rocky Andean peaks. The property is vital for the protection of some of the last portions of continuous Patagonian Forest in an almost pristine state and is the habitat for a number of endemic and threatened species of flora and fauna.
Historic City of Ahmadabad (India): The walled city of Ahmadabad, founded by Sultan Ahmad Shah in the 15th century, on the eastern bank of the Sabarmati river, presents a rich architectural heritage from the sultanate period, notably the Bhadra citadel, the walls and gates of the Fort city and numerous mosques and tombs as well as important Hindu and Jain temples of later periods. The urban fabric is made up of densely-packed traditional houses (pols) in gated traditional streets (puras) with characteristic features such as bird feeders, public wells and religious institutions. The city continued to flourish as the capital of the State of Gujarat for six centuries, up to the present.
Hebron/Al-Khalil Old Town (Palestine): The use of a local limestone shaped the construction of the old town of Hebron / Al-Khalil during the Mamluk period between 1250 and 1517. The centre of interest of the town was the site of Al mosque -Ibrahim / the tomb of the Patriarchs whose buildings are in a compound built in the 1st century CE to protect the tombs of the patriarch Abraham / Ibrahim and his family. This place became a site of pilgrimage for the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The town was sited at the crossroads of trade routes for caravans travelling between southern Palestine, Sinai, Eastern Jordan, and the north of the Arabian Peninsula. Although the subsequent Ottoman Period (1517-1917) heralded an extension of the town to the surrounding areas and brought numerous architectural additions, particularly the raising of the roof level of houses to provide more upper stories, the overall Mamluk morphology of the town is seen to have persisted with its hierarchy of areas, quarters based on ethnic, religious or professional groupings, and houses with groups of rooms organized according to a tree-shaped system.
Caves and Ice Age Art in the Swabian Jura (Germany): Modern humans first arrived in Europe 43,000 years ago during the last ice age. One of the areas where they took up residence was the Swabian Jura in southern Germany. Excavated from the 1860s, six caves have revealed items dating from 43,000 to 33,000 years ago. Among them are carved figurines of animals (including cave lions, mammoths, horses and cattle), musical instruments and items of personal adornment. Other figurines depict creatures that are half animal, half human and there is one statuette of a female form. These archaeological sites feature some of the oldest figurative art worldwide and help shed light on the origins of human artistic development.
Landesamt für Denkmalpflege (LAD) im Regierungspräsidium Stuttgart
Tarnowskie Góry Lead-Silver-Zinc Mine (Poland): Located in Upper Silesia, in southern Poland, one of the main mining areas of central Europe, the site includes the entire underground mine with adits, shafts, galleries and water management system. Most of the site is situated underground while the surface mining topography features the remains of the 19th century steam water pumping station, which testifies to continuous efforts over three centuries to drain the underground extraction zone. It has made it possible to use undesirable water from the mines to supply towns and industry. Tarnowskie Góry represents a significant contribution to the global production of lead and zinc.
Assumption Cathedral (Russia): The Assumption Cathedral is located in the town-island of Sviyazhsk and is part of the monastery of the same name. Situated at the confluence of the Volga, the Sviyaga and the Shchuka rivers, at the crossroads of the Silk and Volga routes, Sviyazhsk was founded by Ivan the Terrible in 1551. It was from this outpost that he initiated the conquest of the Kazan Khanate. The Assumption Monastery illustrates in its location and architectural composition the political and missionary program developed by Tsar Ivan IV to extend the Moscow state. The cathedral’s frescoes are among the rarest examples of Eastern Orthodox mural paintings.
Asmara (Eritrea): Located at over 2000 metres above sea level, the capital of Eritrea developed from the 1890’s onwards as a military outpost for the Italian colonial power. After 1935, Asmara underwent a large-scale program of construction applying the Italian rationalist idiom of the time to governmental edifices, residential and commercial buildings, churches, mosques, synagogues, cinemas, hotels, etc. The property encompasses the area of the city that resulted from various phases of planning between 1893 and 1941, as well as the indigenous unplanned neighbourhoods of Arbate Asmera and Abbashawel. It is an exceptional example of early modernist urbanism at the beginning of the 20th century and its application in an African context.
AP Photo/Andrew England
Aphrodisias (Turkey): Located in southwestern Turkey, in the upper valley of the Morsynus River, the site consists of two components: the archeological site of Aphrodisias and the marble quarries northeast of the city. The temple of Aphrodite dates from the 3rd century BCE and the city was built one century later. The wealth of Aphrodisias came from the marble quarries and the art produced by its sculptors. The city streets are arranged around several large civic structures, which include temples, a theatre, an agora, and two bath complexes.
The Travel Library / Rex Features
Temple Zone of Sambor Prei Kuk (Cambodia): The archeological site of Sambor Prei Kuk, “the temple in the richness of the forest” in the Khmer language, has been identified as Ishanapura, the capital of the Chenla Empire that flourished in the late 6th and early 7th centuries CE. The vestiges of the city cover an area of 25 square kilometres and include a walled city centre as well as numerous temples, ten of which are octagonal, unique specimens of their genre in southeast Asia. Decorated sandstone elements in the site are characteristic of the pre-Angkor decorative idiom, known as the Sambor Prei Kuk Style. Some of these elements, including lintels, pediments and colonnades, are true masterpieces. The art and architecture developed here became models for other parts of the region and lay the ground for the unique Khmer style of the Angkor period.
Also added Sunday were Turkey’s 3rd century B.C. Aphrodisias temple and the Valongo Wharf Archeological Site in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
However, as UNESCO leaders move ahead on boosting protections and expanding conservation around some heritage sites, some critics say politics is leaving other locations exposed.
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UNESCO voted to leave the Great Barrier Reef off its “in danger” list on July 5 despite experiencing widespread destruction.
The decision, which was taken at UNESCO committee meeting allows Australia’s conservative government to dodge political embarrassment and potential damage to the country’s lucrative tourism industry,
Australia’s management of the Great Barrier Reef has come under sustained criticism amid the biggest ever coral die-off as a result of the strongest El Nino in 20 years, a weather event that scientists believe is exacerbated by climate change. Eager to head off charges that it was failing the site, the Coalition government of Malcolm Turnbull lobbied all 21 UNESCO members.
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Despite endorsing Australia’s management plan, the World Heritage Committee did express “serious concern” about the health of the reef. It urged Australia to accelerate its efforts to improve water quality, describing it as “essential to the overall resilience of the property”.
-With files from Reuters and The Associated Press.