From the bathing cities of Europe to the desert with the oldest mummies in the world, 34 new sites are now part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Only twice in the program’s 43-year history have more new sites made the prestigious list in a single year. The number may not be unprecedented, but the way the World Heritage Committee deliberated this year is.
Last year, the committee’s annual meeting was postponed due to the global pandemic. Rather than bringing all nominations forward by a year, the committee’s online meeting last month considered nominations for two years – for 2020 and 2021.
It considered nearly 40 geographic and historical landmarks with a 10-point test to find places of “outstanding universal value”.
Of these, 34 locations were added to the list – more than 80% of them in Europe and Asia.
Almost half of the new UNESCO World Heritage Sites are in Europe.
While the city of Bath has been a World Heritage Site since 1987, efforts to create a transnational collection of the Great health resorts in Europe on the list didn’t start until 2012.
In 2021, 11 cities in seven European countries will be recognized – including Vichy in France, Baden Baden in Germany and Spa in Belgium.
According to UNESCO, the cities pay tribute to the early 18th
People gargle in a thermal bath in Vichy, France, around 1915.
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Another of the 16 European websites that made the list is Mathildenhohe Darmstadt, a former artist colony in Darmstadt, Germany. Established in 1897, the property includes 23 elements such as the wedding tower, a Russian Orthodox church, various gardens, and 13 houses and artist studios built for artists and exhibitions.
The wedding tower (left) and the Russian Chapel (right) in the Mathildenhöhe artists’ colony in Darmstadt.
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The slate landscape of North West Wales is the UK’s 33rd site on the World Heritage List. The area was once a thriving site for shale mining and quarrying, turning the area’s agricultural identity into an industrial one. The site is also home to historic settlements, gardens, harbors, and a railroad system.
An abandoned quarry in Snowdonia, Wales, United Kingdom.
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The other newly registered sites in Europe are:
- Colonies of Benevolence, Belgium and the Netherlands
- Cordouan lighthouse, France
- Danube Limes, Austria, Germany and Slovakia
- Padua’s fresco series from the 14th century, Italy
- Paseo del Prado and Buen Retiro, Spain
- Mining landscape of Roșia Montana, Romania
- Colchian rainforests and wetlands, Georgia
- The Low German Limes, Germany and the Netherlands
- Nice, France
- Petroglyphs of Lake Onega and the White Sea, Russian Federation
- SchUM locations in Speyer, Worms and Mainz, Germany
- The Hypostyle Hall of Bologna, Italy
- The works of Joze Plecnik in Ljubljana, Slovenia
More than a third of the newly crowned UNESCO sites are in Asia.
Two sites in India were added to the World Heritage List this year, one of which is the Kakatiya Rudreshwara Temple. The temple complex is located in the southern state of Telangana and was built in the early 13th century over a period of 40 years. The temple has intricately carved walls and pillars and is known for its bricks, which are said to be so light that they can float on the water.
The Kakatiya Rudreshwara Temple in India.
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Fast forward to the 20th century for a masterpiece of modern engineering – the Trans-Iranian Railway. The train connects the Caspian Sea in northeastern Iran with the Persian Gulf in the southwest. The scenic railroad travels over four different geographic features – mountain ranges, highlands, forests, and plains – and was completed in 1938.
According to UNESCO, the 1,394 kilometer route required the construction of 360 bridges and 224 tunnels. The railroad played an important role in the economic, cultural and political development of Iran and became a symbol of development and modernity in the country.
In 1956 a railway bridge is built as part of the Trans-Iranian Railway.
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The other newly registered sites in Asia are:
- Arslantepe Hill, Turkey
- Quanzhou, China
- ima cultural area, Saudi Arabia
- Amami-Oshima, Tokunoshima, Okinawa and Iriomote Islands, Japan
- Wadden Sea Getbol, Republic of Korea
- Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex, Thailand
- As-Salt, Jordan
- Hawraman / Uramanat cultural landscape, Iran
- Dholavira, India
- Jomon prehistoric sites, Japan
That Chinchorro mummies are the oldest purposefully preserved human remains in the world. At over 7,000 years old, they are two millennia older than their better-known Egyptian counterparts.
The mummification process was practiced by a settlement of fishermen and hunters and gatherers where the Atacama Desert in what is now Chile meets the Pacific Ocean.
So far, archaeologists have found more than 300 mummies that pay homage to the complex burial practices of the Chinchorro. In contrast to the Egyptian tradition, in which mummification was reserved for pharaohs and the rich, the Chinchorro preserved remains of people from across the social spectrum. Corpses of men, women and even children were preserved in bandages painted black or red.
Chinchorro mummy of a baby in the San Miguel de Azapa Archaeological Museum in Chile.
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That Atlantis Church – along with its bell tower and underground baptistery – is a complex 45 kilometers (28 miles) from the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo.
Built in 1960 in the Italian paleo-Christian style, the church is a symbol of Latin American architectural achievements. The wave-shaped walls and ceilings are made of exposed brick and the ceiling has accents of colored glass. The most impressive part of the complex is the bell tower; The red brick spiral staircase combines with natural light to create a geometric illusion.
View of the bell tower of the Atlantida Church in Uruguay on July 21, 2021.
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The other newly registered sites in South America are:
Ivory Coast Sudanese style mosques are one of two locations from Africa on this year’s list.
The distinctive architectural style of the mosques pays homage to the trans-Saharan trade that has expanded Islamic culture on the continent. The use of traditional African materials along with Islamic features such as domes represents an amalgamation of the two cultures that have existed since the beginning of trade between them in the 17th century.
Muslim devotees walk past an old Sudanese-style mosque in Kong, Ivory Coast, on January 23, 2019.
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Ivindo National Park is Gabon’s second site on the World Heritage List. The park is one of five “natural” sites added in 2020 and 2021, separate from the “cultural” sites on the list. The equatorial rainforest is home to rapids, black water rivers, waterfalls and wildlife such as elephants, gorillas and pangolins.
An African forest elephant is sighted in Ivindo National Park on April 26, 2019.
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No site in North America was placed on the World Heritage List in 2020 or 2021. However, this year the World Heritage Committee voted to limit the boundaries of a formerly registered North American site – the Popocatepetl Monasteries, Mexico.
Two 16th century monasteries built near the Popocatepetl volcano in central Mexico, the second highest peak in the country, were added to the World Heritage List in 1994. The redrawn lines now encompass a third monastery within their boundaries.
On July 9, 2013, ash spewed out of the Popocatepetl volcano in Mexico.
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Also this year, no locations in Australia or the Antarctic were named.
A total of 1,154 sites are now on the World Heritage List. About 52 of them are on the UNESCO “In Danger” list, including the Old City of Jerusalem and the United States’ Everglades National Park.
The so-called “list of dangers” is the first step towards the abolition of these decorations. Liverpool’s Maritime Mercantile City was removed from the list earlier this year, making it only the third site to suffer this fate since it was introduced on the World Heritage List.