Twenty-nine additional extraordinary places in the world have been inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List during the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee that just ended on Wednesday, June 10th, in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan.
Long ago, there was a list of “wonders of the world” memorized by every elementary school student. They were a collection of seven remarkable constructions of the ancient world and included, among others, the Great Pyramid of Giza in Cairo, Egypt (the only one still surviving), the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and the gigantic statue of the Colossus of Rhodes on the Greek island.
Each year, representatives of the 21 states that constitute the World Heritage Committee meet to determine the new sites, cultural or natural, to include on the list that now features 1,121 extraordinary places across 167 countries topped by Italy and China with 55 sites each, followed by Spain (48), Germany (46), France (45), India (38), and Mexico (35).
The “new” places that must be preserved for their “outstanding universal value,” are a “surprise of wonders” stretching from the region that produces Prosecco in northern Italy to eight architectural masterpieces in the U.S. by the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
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The session lasted 10 days and the new listed sites were announced as they were chosen.
Among the first were the natural Migratory Bird Sanctuaries along the coast of the Yellow Sea-Bohai Gulf between China and the Korean Peninsula, the Dilmun Burial Mounds in Bahrain, Australia’s Budj Bim volcano, as well as 10 churches and temples of the city of Pskov in Russia, the oldest dating back to the 12th century, that have influenced Russian architecture for five centuries.
Also Jesus do Monte, a sanctuary in Tenoes, northern Portugal, and the Khan Palace and the historical center of Sheki in Azerbaijan.
Many of the sites were selected to preserve the traces of the height of different civilizations and they will benefit from financial assistance to preserve their history.
Babylon, in Iraq, was chosen after five successive refusals starting in 1982. The city, located 85 kilometers from Baghdad, was the capital 4,000 years ago of one of the most influential empires of the ancient world. It occupies a special place in history and world mythology with its famous Ishtar Gate, Hanging Gardens and the Tower of Babel, emblematic monuments whose location and existence is still debated. Today’s ruins attest to such an important past, despite the ravages of time and war.
The Plain of Jars in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, with its 2,100 megalithic jars in Xieng Khouang destined for funeral practices, is one of the most important remnants of the Iron Age, just as the sacred landscape of Bagan, in Myanmar, is a reminder of the religious fervor of an ancient Buddhist empire.
Among the most-remarked architectural works to enter the prestigious list this year are eight buildings by the American Frank Lloyd Wright, designed in the first half of the twentieth century and that are the only modern American architecture sites on the list.
They include the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1959) in New York. the Fallingwater House (1939) in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House (1937) in Madison, Wisconsin, Unity Temple (1909) in Oak Park, Illinois, the Frederick C Robie House (1910) in Chicago, Hollyhock House (1919), in the East Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles, Taliesin (1911) in Spring Green, Wisconsin, and Taliesin West (1938) in Scottsdale, Arizona
“A villa in Los Angeles and a church near Chicago have been granted the same level of cultural recognition as the pyramids of Giza and the Great Barrier Reef, and have been declared Unesco World Heritage sites,” The Guardian reported.
Wright’s buildings reflect the concept of “organic architecture” represented in open plans, blurring of the boundaries between exterior and interior and unprecedented use of materials like steel and concrete and had a strong impact on the development of modern architecture in Europe.
Another highly noted new site is Le Colline del Prosecco di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene in northeastern Italy, part of the vine growing landscape and Prosecco wine production area. A series of hills with small plots of vines on the edge of narrow terraces (ciglioni), some forests, villages and farmland, the rugged terrain has been cultivated for centuries. Since the 17th century, the use of ciglioni has created a breathtaking checkerboard landscape.
Other selected sites in Europe include:
The Erzgebirge/Krušnohoří Mining Region Czechia, Germany: The Ore Mountain contains a wealth of several metals mined since the Middle Ages, triggering technological innovations, with mining, pioneering water management systems, innovative mineral processing, smelting sites and mining cities.
The Jodrell Bank Observator, Great Britain and Northern Ireland: In a rural area free from radio interference, it’s one of the world’s leading radio astronomy observatories since 1945 and has had substantial scientific impact on the study of meteors and the moon, the discovery of quasars, quantum optics and the tracking of spacecraft.
Krzemionki Prehistoric Striped Flint Mining Region, Poland: An ensemble of four mining sites in the mountain region of Świętokrzyskie, dating from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age (about 3900 to 1600 BCE), dedicated to the extraction and processing of striped flint, which was used mainly for making axes. It’s among the most comprehensive prehistoric underground flint extraction and processing systems identified to date.
Risco Caido and the Sacred Mountains of Gran Canaria Cultural Landscape, Spain: In a vast, mountainous area in the center of the Grand Canary island, Risco Caído comprises cliffs, ravines and volcanic formations in a landscape of rich biodiversity. The landscape includes a large number of troglodyte settlements — habitats, granaries and cisterns — cult cavities and two sacred temples, or almogarenes, where seasonal ceremonies were held and thought to be linked to a possible cult of the stars and “Mother Earth.”
Royal Building of Mafra – Palace, Basilica, Convent, Cerco Garden, Portugal: Northwest of Lisbon, the site was conceived by King João V in 1711 as a representation of his conception of the monarchy and the State. It houses 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. Mafra is considered an exceptional example of Italian Baroque.
Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga, Portugal: On the slopes of Mount Espinho, overlooking the city of Braga in the north of Portugal, evokes Christian Jerusalem. The sanctuary was developed over a period of more than 600 years. The church was built between 1784 and 1811. The celebrated Stairway of the Five Senses, with its walls, steps, fountains, statues and other ornamental elements, is the most emblematic Baroque work within the property.
Water Management System of Augsburg, Germany: The water management system of the city of Augsburg has evolved in successive phases from the 14th century to today. It includes a network of canals and water towers dating from the 15th to 17th centuries. The technological innovations generated by this water management system have helped establish Augsburg as a pioneer in hydraulic engineering.
French Austral Lands and Seas, France: The largest of the rare emerged land masses in the southern Indian Ocean, the Crozet Archipelago, the Kerguelen Islands, Saint-Paul and Amsterdam Islands, as well as 60 small, sub-Antarctic islands. This remote “oasis” in the middle of the Southern Ocean supports one of the highest concentrations of birds and marine mammals in the world, a unique terrain for scientific research.
Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid region, Albania, North Macedonia: The part of Lake Ohrid located in Northern Macedonia and its hinterland, including the town of Ohrid, was first added to the World Heritage List in 1979. Now it has been extended to the northwestern Albanian part of Lake Ohrid, the small Lin Peninsula and the strip of land along the shoreline that connects the peninsula to the Macedonian border. The peninsula is site of the remains of an Early Christian church founded in the middle of the 6th century. In the shallow waters near the shores of the lake, three sites testify to the presence of prehistoric pile dwellings. The lake provides a refuge for numerous endemic species of freshwater fauna and flora dating from the Tertiary period.
The 43th Unesco session also adopted the ‘Baku Declaration’ to emphasize the need to increase efforts towards the preservation and effective protection of monuments, included in the World Heritage List, and their management. It expressed concern over the destruction of natural and cultural monuments in zones of armed conflicts, the conduct of illegal archaeological excavations, the illegal transportation of cultural property and the illegal exploitation of cultural resources.
The Unesco designation means that the selected sites may now enjoy better funding and preservation.