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Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – September 10 to 25, 2023. The 45th session of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where representatives from 21 member states convened to discuss the preservation and recognition of cultural and natural treasures from around the globe. During this pivotal conference, a total of 13 new sites were added to the prestigious World Heritage List, alongside extensions to the recognition of several existing ones. This significant move has profound implications, as it bestows legal protection upon these ancient and unique locations, spanning countries such as China, India, Ethiopia, Iran, Azerbaijan, and the Palestinian Territory of the West Bank. Additionally, the committee designated a number of Ukrainian sites in Kyiv and Lviv as being under threat, further emphasizing the importance of conservation efforts.
Ancient Jericho/Tell es-Sultan, Palestine
Tell es-Sultan, nestled in the Jordan Valley, emerges as an oval-shaped mound brimming with historical significance. Evidence of human activity dating back to the 9th-8th millennium BC is etched into its landscape. Skulls and statues unearthed from this site hint at the religious rituals practiced by its Neolithic inhabitants. The vestiges of urban planning from the Early Bronze Age and the complex Canaanite city-state from the Middle Bronze Age add to its allure.
The Persian Caravanserai, Iran
Caravanserais, once vital to travelers, are brought to life through the recognition of 54 such establishments in Iran. These roadside inns provided shelter, sustenance, and water for caravans, pilgrims, and wanderers. They embody a diverse range of architectural styles, each adapted to climatic conditions and construction materials, showcasing their importance in Iran’s historical landscape.
Cultural Landscape of Old Tea Forests of the Jingmai Mountain in Pu’er, China
The centuries-old cultural landscape of Jingmai Mountain, carved out by the Blang and Dai peoples, unfolds in southwestern China. A treasure trove of traditional villages, tea groves, forests, and plantations, this area thrives with Indigenous communities practicing a unique understory cultivation method. Central to this culture is the Tea Ancestor belief, celebrating the spirits believed to reside in the tea plantations and local fauna and flora.
Cultural Landscape of Khinalig People and Köç Yolu Transhumance Route, Azerbaijan
Northern Azerbaijan’s Khinalig Cultural Landscape is a haven for semi-nomadic Khinalig people. Their unique culture and seasonal migrations along the Köç Yolu (Migration Route) define this mountainous region. Encompassing the Khinalig village, summer pastures, agricultural terraces, winter pastures, and historic routes, this landscape reflects a rich tapestry of ancient traditions, complete with mausoleums and mosques.
Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
The Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor is an integral segment of the Silk Roads in Central Asia, spanning 866 kilometers along the Zarafshan River. From the 2nd century BCE to the 16th century CE, this corridor facilitated extensive trade between the East and the West. Its diverse cultural tapestry emerged from the interactions of people, ideas, and goods from across the world.
Jewish-Medieval Heritage of Erfurt, Germany
Erfurt’s medieval historic center, located in Thuringia, Germany, unfolds through three monuments: the Old Synagogue, the Mikveh, and the Stone House. These monuments bear witness to the life of the local Jewish community during the Middle Ages and their harmonious coexistence with the Christian majority in Central Europe.
Viking-Age Ring Fortresses, Denmark
Five circular forts constructed by the Vikings between 970 and 980 CE stand as archaeological marvels in Denmark. These forts, designed for defense against potential threats, underscore the power and centralized governance of the Jelling Dynasty, reflecting the social and political shifts occurring in Denmark during the late 10th century.
Located along the Yukon River in northwestern Canada, Tr’ondëk-Klondike is a region with historical and archaeological sites bearing witness to the Klondike Gold Rush’s impact on Indigenous communities. These sites commemorate the interactions between Indigenous people and settlers, highlighting their adaptation to unprecedented changes.
Gaya Tumuli, Republic of Korea
A group of archaeological cemetery sites with burial mounds, representing the Gaya Confederacy, offers insight into southern Korea’s unique political system from the 1st to the 6th centuries CE. The evolving landscape and burial practices shed light on how Gaya society transformed over time.
Deer Stone Monuments and Related Sites of Bronze Age, Mongolia
Ancient deer stones, located on the Khangai Ridge in central Mongolia, have a rich history dating from about 1200 to 600 BCE. These ceremonial and funerary structures, often accompanied by large burial mounds and sacrificial altars, offer glimpses into the culture of Eurasian Bronze Age nomads.
Koh Ker: Archaeological Site of Ancient Lingapura or Chok Gargyar, Cambodia
Koh Ker stands as a sacred complex of temples, shrines, and ruins, embodying 23 years of construction and serving as a rival capital to Angkor in the Khmer Empire. Its unique urban planning, artistic expression, and monolithic stone blocks testify to its historical significance.
The Gedeo Cultural Landscape, Ethiopia
Located on the slopes of the Ethiopian highlands, the Gedeo Region is a testament to agroforestry, where farmers cultivate inset, coffee, and other shrubs beneath large sheltering trees. Sacred forests and megalithic monuments enrich the landscape, showcasing the Gedeo people’s traditional knowledge of forest management and cultural heritage.
Founded by Rabindranath Tagore in 1901, Santiniketan in rural West Bengal stands as a beacon of pan-Asian modernity. The boarding school and arts center, along with Visva Bharati, Tagore’s ‘world university,’ draw inspiration from ancient Indian traditions, fostering unity beyond religious and cultural boundaries.
Old Town of Kuldīga, Latvia
Kuldīga’s old town, nestled in Latvia, offers a well-preserved glimpse into the evolution of a traditional urban settlement. Its street layout, log architecture, and foreign influences from the 16th to 18th centuries mirror the rich exchange between local and international craftspeople around the Baltic Sea.
These 13 new additions to UNESCO’s World Heritage List serve as a testament to the world’s diverse cultural and historical heritage. Their inclusion reinforces the importance of preservation efforts and the recognition of these remarkable sites for generations to come.
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