This week, impatience and enthusiasm filled the air at a prestigious conference in Saudi Arabia as UNESCO, the vanguard of global cultural preservation, proudly expands its prestigious list of protected world heritage sites with more than 40 remarkable additions.
42 new world heritage sites were announced this week by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, during a rally in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Committee members selected sites from a list of nominations submitted throughout 2022 and 2023, and for a site to be included on the list, it must represent “outstanding universal value,” meaning that it has importance for everyone, not just for their country of origin.
Including the 42 new sites, the UNESCO World Heritage List now includes 1,100 sites around the world. These exemplary UNESCO World Heritage sites include Machu Picchu in Peru, the ancient Inca mountaintop citadel with exceptional architecture; the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, a unique marine ecosystem; and the ancient center of Rome in Italy, preserving several millennia of cultural heritage.
The Bale Mountains National Park in Ethiopia is a new addition to the UNESCO World Heritage List. (Roger de la Harpe /Adobe/Stock)
Protect cultural and natural sites
The 42 new World Heritage sites include 33 archaeological sites and 9 natural areas of exceptional beauty. Archaeological sites include mystical sites graveyard in Korea, Viking Age Fortresses in Denmark and in cities and towns across Europe, including Kuldīga in Latvia, Erfurt in Germany and Zatec in the Czech Republic. Additionally, several existing archaeological sites have been expanded to include new areas, e.g. Koh Ker temple in Cambodia.
The pyramid of Koh Ker, Cambodia. (thomaswanhoff/ CC BY-SA 2.0 )
Natural sites added to the list include the Bale Mountains National Park in Ethiopia, the evaporitic karst and caves of the Northern Apennines in Italy, the Odzala-Kokoua forest massif (Congo), and the volcanoes and forests of the Pelée mountain and peaks of northern Martinique (France). And current natural sites that have been expanded include Madagascar’s Andrefana Dry Forest and Vietnam’s Cat Ba Archipelago in Ha Long Bay.
Outstanding universal value
For a site to be included in the UNESCO heritage list, it must be considered to have “outstanding universal value” and it must also meet one of 10 criteria. These stipulations include that a site be “an outstanding natural phenomenon” or “an area of outstanding natural beauty” or that it exhibits “a significant exchange of human values, over a period of time or in a cultural area of the world “.
Meeting several of these criteria, measuring 3.96 m tall and carved with deer, the “deer stones” of Mongolia were used as sacrificial altars during the burial rights of the Late Bronze Age (1200 to 600 BC ). Also on the list, and again dated to the Bronze Age, is the Spanish “taylot structure” on the western island of Menorca Mediterranean Sea was included because of the religious significance associated with its “astronomical orientation”.
Norway’s ‘UFO-style Crop Circles’ inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List
In Norway, a group of stone settings, described by Daily Mail like “UFO-type crop circles”, were in fact Viking Age fortresses. Located in Aggersborg, Fyrkat, Nonnebakken, Trelleborg and Borgring, UNESCO noted their “strategic locations next to important land and sea routes”.
Another site that made the list was America’s Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks , on the Ohio River. Built between 2,000 and 1,600 years ago, these eight indigenous ceremonial the structures reflect “precise geometric figures”, as well as hilltops modified to surround vast plazas.
Behind the winners, there are always losers
If more than 40 sites were added to the UNESCO list in 2023, some countries obviously left empty-handed, such as the United Kingdom. Despite the British government announcement in April that he sent “seven sites”, including the city of York, the marine parks and protected areas of Little Cayman and the Iron Age Zenith of Shetland, none of these were added to the list of UNESCO.
Each new inclusion represents a threatened natural site of special scientific interest, or a hand-built beacon of human achievement, which UNESCO promises to safeguard. These unprecedented cultural and natural wonders will now be protected for future generations, and the global history-loving community can sleep easier knowing that their children can also be imbued with awe and respect for the past.
Top image: Viking ring fortress of Fyrkat in Denmark. Source: dudlajzov/Adobe Stock
By Ashley Cowie