A Tour of New Cultural Sites on Unesco World Heritage List | BLOUIN ARTINFO
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A Tour of New Cultural Sites on Unesco World Heritage List

Hawa Mahal, built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. The city is one of the 29 new cultural, natural and mixed sites inscribed to the Unesco World Heritage Sites list.
(© Archana Khare-Ghose)

Statistics compiled by a variety of agencies show that the number of people traveling all over the world has only risen over the years. That’s due to a variety of factors, the chief being disposable income and of course, curiosity (not necessarily in that order).

As more and more people travel and leave their footprints in remote corners of the world, there increases the need to have more and more ‘exotic’ places to go to. An important list that inveterate travelers consult while making their plans for an unparalleled experience is the Unesco World Heritage List, which truly is a compilation of some of the most outstanding places one must visit in a lifetime.

Though travel is not an avowed purpose of the inscription of any given site on the Unesco World Heritage List, it definitely helps in preserving a particular site for future generations. The list, born out of an international treaty signed in 1972, seeks primarily to protect world’s natural and cultural heritage, which according to Unesco, are of outstanding value to humanity.

Unesco’s World Heritage Mission, among other things, encourages countries and local population to protect their heritage, provides assistance to sites in danger, provides technical assistance and professional training for safeguarding the sites, and more.

At its recent meeting held in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku, from June 30 to July 10, the World Heritage Committee examined 36 nominations for inscription on Unesco’s World Heritage List. By the end of the meet, a total of 29 new properties were inscribed to the list, comprising 24 cultural, four natural and one mixed heritage site.

We take our readers through the list of 24 cultural sites, which is a veritable world tour with representation from all major regions of the world. The sites are listed in alphabetical order.

1. Ancient ferrous metallurgy sites of Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso, a small, landlocked country in west Africa, was producing iron through furnaces way back in the 8th century BCE. This is borne out by furnaces, 15 of which are still standing, natural-draught furnaces, other related structures, mines, and traces of dwellings alongside these furnaces located in different provinces of the country. Douroula, which dates back to the 8th century BCE, is the oldest evidence of the development of iron production found in Burkina Faso. There are other sites that show evidence of the intensification of iron ore production during the second millennium CE.

2. Archaeological remains of Liangzhu City, China

Dating from 3400 - 2250 BCE, Liangzhu city-site gave birth to what is known as the Liangzhu Culture in the Yangtze River Delta in southeastern China. The most striking aspect of this culture is the clear distinction between social classes as is evidenced through funeral structures. The division of class indicates that the Liangzhu period was an early state. This early regional state of the Late Neolithic period had a unified belief system based on rice cultivation. The site was initially excavated by Shi Xingeng in 1936.

3. Babylon, Iraq

One of the most celebrated of ancient civilizations of the world, it’s a surprise that Babylon has found its way into the World Heritage Site list now. Babylon was a key kingdom in ancient Mesopotamia (that we now know as Iraq) and got its name from the capital city built on the Euphrates river. The ruins of Babylon are located 85 km from Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. The region today includes villages and agricultural areas surrounding the ruins of the ancient city, which include outer and inner city walls, gates, palaces and temples, representing the height of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Babylon continued to remain the seat of successive empires, under rulers such as Hammurabi (circa 1810 - circa 1750 BCE) and Nebuchadnezzar (circa 605 - circa 562 BCE). The city is also associated with one of the seven wonders of the ancient world — the Hanging Gardens.

4. Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan is an ancient city in the Mandalay region of Myanmar. It reached its peak as the capital of the Bagan kingdom from between the 9th and the 13th centuries; this was the first kingdom to unify the regions that would eventually constitute modern Myanmar. Bagan lies on a bend of the Ayeyarwady River in the central plain of Myanmar. It is a sacred landscape, featuring an exceptional range of Buddhist art and architecture, and also is the main attraction of the country’s tourism industry. The site comprises numerous temples, stupas, monasteries and places of pilgrimage, as well as archaeological remains, frescoes and sculptures.

5. Budj Bim Cultural Landscape, Australia

The Budj Bim Cultural Landscape, located in the traditional Country of the Gunditjmara Aboriginal people in southeastern Australia, consists of one of the world’s most extensive and oldest aquaculture systems. The Budj Bim lava flows provide the basis for the complex system of channels, weirs and dams developed by the Gunditjmara in order to trap, store and harvest kooyang (short-finned eel – Anguilla australis). The highly productive aquaculture system provided an economic and social base for Gunditjmara society for six millennia. The Budj Bim Cultural Landscape is the result of a creational process narrated by the Gunditjmara as a deep time story, referring to the idea that they have always lived there. From an archaeological perspective, deep time represents a period of at least 32,000 years.

6. Churches of the Pskov School of Architecture, Russian Federation

The historic city of Pskov lies on the banks of the Velikaya River in the northwest of Russia, near Estonia. The city is known for a group of monuments produced by the Pskov School of Architecture, which includes cubic volumes, domes, porches and belfries, with the oldest elements dating back to the 12th century. Churches and cathedrals are integrated into the natural environment through gardens, perimeter walls and fences. Inspired by the Byzantine and Novgorod traditions, the Pskov School of Architecture reached its peak in the 15th and 16th centuries, and was one of the foremost schools in the country.

7. Dilmun Burial Mounds, Bahrain

This is a necropolis area on the main island of Bahrain, built between 2050 and 1750 BCE, comprising over 21 archaeological sites in the island’s western part. Six of these sites are burial mound fields consisting of a few dozen to several thousand tumuli (ancient burial mounds). In all there are about 11,774 burial mounds, originally in the form of cylindrical low towers. The other 15 sites include 17 royal mounds, constructed as two-floor sepulchral towers. The burial mounds are evidence of the Early Dilmun civilization, around the 2nd millennium BCE, during which Bahrain became a trade hub whose prosperity enabled the inhabitants to develop an elaborate burial tradition applicable to the entire population.

8. Erzgebirge/ Krusnohori Mining Region, Czechia/ Germany

Erzgebirge/Krušnohoři or the Ore Mountains of Central Europe have formed a natural boundary between southeastern Germany (Saxony) and northwestern Czechia. The region contains a wealth of several metals exploited through mining from the Middle Ages. The region became the most important source of silver ore in Europe from 1460 to 1560 and was the trigger for technological innovations. Tin was historically the second metal to be extracted and processed at the site. At the end of the 19th century, the region became a major global producer of uranium. The cultural landscape of the Ore Mountains has been deeply shaped by 800 years of almost continuous mining, from the 12th to the 20th century.

9. Historic Centre of Sheki with the Khan’s Palace, Azerbaijan

Located at the foot of the Greater Caucasus Mountains in northwestern Azerbaijan, the historic city of Sheki lies 325 km from the country’s capital of Baku. The city is divided in two by the Gurjana river. While the older northern part is built on the mountain, its southern part extends into the river valley. Located along important historic trade routes, the city’s architecture is influenced by Safavid, Qadjar and Russian building traditions. The Khan Palace, in the northeast of the city, and a number of merchant houses reflect the wealth generated by silkworm breeding and the trade in silk cocoons from the late 18th to the 19th centuries. The city also has the greatest density of cultural resources and monuments through all the eras of Azerbaijani history.

10. Jaipur City, Rajasthan, India

Jaipur, a fortified city in the northwestern state of Rajasthan in India, is one of the most popular tourist destinations of the country. It lies about 275 km from New Delhi and was founded in 1727 by the local king Sawai Jai Singh II. It was built according to a grid plan inspired by Vedic architecture. It is different from other cities of the region as most are located on a hilly terrain while Jaipur was established on the plains. It is also known as the Pink City as most of the buildings in the old city are built of pink sandstone. The city’s urban planning shows an exchange of ideas from ancient Hindu, Mughal and modern Western cultures. The city was designed to be a commercial capital and continues to be so. The streets intersect in the center, creating large public squares called “chaupars.”

11. Jodrell Bank Observatory, UK

Part of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester, the Jodrell Bank Observatory is located in a rural area of northwest England, free from radio interference. One of the world’s leading radio astronomy observatories, it was established in 1945 by Bernard Lovell, a radio astronomer at the University of Manchester, to investigate cosmic rays after his work on radar during World War II. It is still in operation and includes several radio telescopes and working buildings. Jodrell Bank has had substantial scientific impact in fields such as the study of meteors and the moon, the discovery of quasars, quantum optics, and the tracking of spacecraft.

12. Krzemionki Prehistoric Striped Flint Mining Region, Poland

The Krzemionki region comprises four mining sites, dating from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age (circa 3900 - 1600 BCE). These mines of striped or banded flint are located approximately eight kilometers from the mountainous Polish city of Ostrowiec Świętokrzyskie. These mines were dedicated to the extraction and processing of striped flint, which was mainly used for ax-making. With its underground mining structures, flint workshops and some 4,000 shafts and pits, the property features one of the most comprehensive prehistoric underground flint extraction and processing systems identified to date. It provides information about life and work in prehistoric settlements.

13. Landscape for Breeding and Training of Ceremonial Carriage Horses at Kladruby nad Labem, Czechia

Kladruby nad Labem is a village and municipality located in the Stredni Polabi area of the Elbe plain in Czechia. The property consists of flat, sandy soils and includes fields, fenced pastures, a forested area and buildings, all designed with the main objective of breeding and training “kladruber” horses, a type of draft horse used in ceremonies by the Habsburg imperial court. An imperial stud farm was established in 1579 and has been dedicated to this task since then. It is one of Europe’s leading horse-breeding institutions, developed at a time when horses played vital roles in transport, agriculture, military support and aristocratic representation.

14. Le Colline del Prosecco di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene, Italy

The hills in northeastern Italy produce the country’s number one sparkling wine, the Prosecco, and the landscape that produces this wine has an unusual aesthetic appeal. The landscape is characterized by ‘hogback’ hills or the “ciglioni,” which are small plots of vines on narrow grassy terraces spread across forests, small villages and farmland. For centuries, this rugged terrain has been shaped and adapted by man, creating a particular checkerboard landscape consisting of rows of vines parallel and vertical to the slopes. This feature became prominent since the 17th century. In the 19th century, the “bellussera” technique of training the vines contributed to the beauty of the landscape.

15. Megalithic Jar Sites in Xiengkhuang — Plain of Jars, Lao People’s Democratic Republic

The Plain of Jars is a megalithic archaeological landscape in Laos, consisting of more than 2,100 tubular-shaped stone jars scattered around the upland valleys and the lower foothills of the central plain of the Xiangkhoang Plateau. These jars were used for funerary practices in the Iron Age. This serial property of 15 components contains large carved stone jars, stone discs, secondary burials, tombstones, quarries and funerary objects dating from 500 BCE to 500 CE. The jars and associated elements are the most prominent evidence of the Iron Age civilization that made and used them until it disappeared, around 500 CE. It is one of the most important pre-historic sites of Southeast Asia.

16. Mozu-Furuichi Kofun Group: Mounded Tombs of Ancient Japan

This group comprises 49 Kofun (megalithic tombs or tumuli) located on a plateau above the Osaka Plain, between the cities of Osaka and Nara. These burial mounds are of various sizes and shapes such as key holes, scallops, squares or circles. These tombs were for members of the elite, containing a range of funerary objects (such as weapons, armor and ornaments) and represent differences in social classes of the period. They were decorated with clay figures, known as “haniwa,” which could be cylinders or representations of houses, tools, weapons and human silhouettes. These 49 Kofun have been selected from a total of 160,000 in Japan and form the richest material representation of the Kofun period, from the 3rd to the 6th century CE.

17. Ombilin Coal Mining Heritage of Sawahlunto, Indonesia

Sawahlunto in the Sumatra region of Indonesia is the oldest coal mining site in Southeast Asia. It was developed by the Dutch colonial government in the late 19th-early 20th century for the extraction, processing and transport of high-quality coal from this inaccessible region in a valley along the Bukit Barisan mountains. For the workforce, the colonial government recruited from the local population and also employed convict labor from Dutch-controlled areas. The area comprises the mining site and company town, coal storage facilities at the port of Emmahaven and the railway network linking the mines to the coastal facilities. After a golden period of mining when Sawahlunto flourished, the area gradually turned into a ghost town and the population declined drastically.

18. Risco Caido and the Sacred Mountains of Gran Canaria Cultural Landscape, Spain

Risco Caido is an archaeological site located in a vast mountainous area in the center of the Gran Canaria island in Spain. In a landscape of rich biodiversity, the region comprises cliffs, ravines and volcanic formations, and is dotted with a large number of troglodyte settlements — habitats, granaries and cisterns. These settlements date from a pre-Hispanic time on the island. This culture evolved in isolation right up until the arrival of first Spanish settlers in the 15th century. The site also comprises cult cavities and two sacred temples, or almogarenes — Risco Caido and Roque Bentayga — where seasonal ceremonies were held. These temples are thought to be linked to a possible cult of the stars and Mother Earth.

19. Royal Building of Mafra — Palace, Basilica, Convent, Cerco Garden and Hunting Park (Tapada), Portugal

The Royal Building of Mafra, located about 30 km northwest of the capital Lisbon, was conceived by King Joao V in 1711 as tangible representation of the power and reach of the Portuguese Empire. Construction on this quadrangular complex began in 1717 and completed in 1755; it comprises the king’s and queen’s palaces, the royal chapel (shaped like a Roman Baroque basilica), a Franciscan monastery and a library containing 36,000 volumes. The complex is completed by a geometric Cerco garden and the royal hunting park, the Tapada. João V adopted Roman and Italian baroque architectural and artistic models and commissioned works of art that make Mafra an exceptional example of Italian Baroque.

20. Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga, Portugal

Nom Jesus do Monte (Good Jesus of the Mount) is a sanctuary in Tenoes, located on the slopes of Mount Espinho overlooking the city of Braga in northern Portugal. An important tourist attraction, it is well-known for its Baroque stairway climbing to 116 meters, known as the Stairway of the Five Senses. The zigzag stairway inspired many other sites in Portugal and its former colonies such as Brazil and Goa in India. The site evokes Christian Jerusalem, recreating a sacred mount crowned with a church. The sanctuary developed over a period of 600 years, illustrating a European tradition of creating sacred mountains, promoted by the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent in the 16th century, in reaction to the Protestant Reformation. The granite buildings of the complex have whitewashed plaster facade, framed by exposed stonework.

21. Seowon, Korean Neo-Confucian Academies, Republic of Korea

Seowons or Neo-Confucian academies in the central and southern parts of the Republic of Korea are representative of an important phase in the history of Korea, when Neo-Confucianism from China was adapted to Korean conditions. These Neo-Confucian academies were built during the reign of the Joseon dynasty (15th-19th centuries CE). Located near mountains and water sources, the seowons were designed to inculcate the appreciation of nature along with cultivation of mind and body in the scholars. These functions were expressed well in the design of the pavilion-style seowons.

22. The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, USA

American architect and interior designer Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), who pursued what he called “organic architecture,” has left a legacy of iconic buildings that continue to earn applause for their creator. Eight of his buildings in the United States, all designed in the first half of the 20th century, have been inducted in the Unesco World Heritage Sites list, the most famous of which remains the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The other buildings are Fallingwater (Mill Run, Pennsylvania), the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House (Madison, Wisconsin), Unity Temple (Oak Park), Frederick C. Robie House (Illinois), Hollyhock House (California), and Wright’s homes and studios at Taliesin, Wisconsin, and Taliesin West in Arizona (both of which are now home to the School of Architecture, Taliesin).

23. Water Management System of Augsburg, Germany

Augsburg in the state of Bavaria in Germany is one of the oldest cities of the country and is widely considered a pioneer in hydraulic engineering. It’s the city’s water management system that has earned it a place in the Unesco World Heritage Sites list. The city’s water management system has evolved in successive phases from the 14th century to the present day and includes a network of canals, water towers from the 15th-17th centuries that housed pumping machinery, a water-cooled butchers’ hall, a system of three monumental fountains and hydroelectric power stations, which continue to provide sustainable energy today.

24. Writing-on-Stone/Aisinai’pi, Canada

The Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in Alberta, western Canada, is an ancient and sacred cultural landscape where indigenous people have created rock art for millennia. Innumerable petroglyphs (rock carvings) and pictographs (rock paintings) make it the landscape with the greatest concentration of rock art on the Great Plains of North America. These are also the chronicles of the long history of human evolution in North America, recording life as it existed in the earliest times to the era when the indigenous people first came in contact with the Europeans. Writing-on-Stone/Aisinai'pi (“it is pictured/written”) is a sacred place for the Blackfoot people in whose traditions, “Sacred Beings” dwell among the cliffs and hoodoos of the region.

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