The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designates sites around the world as worthy of preserving as part of humanity’s shared legacy. The factors considered for inclusion are that a site has to be of “outstanding universal value,” and meet these criteria. It has designated several new World Heritage Sites for 2016:
- Sanganeb Marine National Park and Dungonab Bay – Mukkawar Island Marine National Park, Sudan
- Hubei Shennongjia, China
- Lut Desert, Islamic Republic of Iran
- Western Tien-Shan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
- Mistaken Point, Canada
- Archipiélago de Revillagigedo, Mexico
- Ennedi Massif: Natural and Cultural Landscape, Chad
- The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities, Iraq
- Khangchendzonga National Park, India
- Zuojiang Huashan Rock Art Cultural Landscape, China
- Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara (Nalanda University) at
Nalanda, Bihar, India
- The Persian Qanat, Islamic Republic of Iran
- Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia, Federated States of Micronesia
- Stećci Medieval Tombstone Graveyards, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia
- Archaeological Site of Philippi, Greece
- Antequera Dolmens Site, Spain
- Archaeological Site of Ani, Turkey
- Gorham’s Cave Complex, United Kingdom of Great Britain and
- The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement, Argentina, Belgium, France, Germany, India, Japan and Switzerland
- Antigua Naval Dockyard and Related Archaeological Sites, Antigua and
- Pampulha Modern Ensemble, Brazil
You can read about each site in the document (.pdf) detailing the decisions of the 40th session of the Committee, with summary explanations of each site’s criteria for inclusion on the list, and for inclusion on the danger list. For some really nice pictures of some of the new sites, as well as links to more information about them, this article from Smithsonian Magazine is a great place to start. Another place to look is Atlas Obscura (search for “UNESCO”).
World Heritage sites can be either natural, cultural, or mixed (denoted by circles or diamonds on the map in the featured image). And unfortunately, too many are in danger (denoted by red on the map). One site that was destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan was that of the Bamiyan Buddhas — giant statues that were evidence of Afghanistan’s Buddhist past. However, it remains a World Heritage site, and artists and others have resurrected the statues in beautiful and imaginative ways.
Countries around the world are tasked with protecting and defending these sites. Sometimes, as in the Syrian Civil War, that isn’t possible, as when the ruins at Palmyra were looted and destroyed by Islamic State militants. Other countries may be experiencing less violence, but lack the resources or the will to protect these sites. Most, however, are proud of their sites, and do their utmost. And many countries try to incorporate current technology into their sites to make a connection to today’s visitors. For example, Italy has a plan to give its world heritage sites wifi. Imagine being at a site and using the wifi to get augmented reality information about what you’re seeing!
Is there a site on the list near you? Is there a site that you or your students think should be on the list?
Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at http://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/