26 new sites inscribed in this year’s voting
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — If you ever wondered what Xanadu, the western Ghats of India and the birthplace of Jesus have in common, think about it this way: All three are part of Earth’s shared natural and cultural heritage.
Last week, UNESCO recognized the gobal significance of all three sites, inscribing them on to the ever-growing list of world heritage sites along with 23 other locations around the world. The annual June voting helps spotlight renowned archaeological sites, natural wonders and historic treasures, often boosting preservation efforts and fostering local initiatives to increase sustainable tourism.
Colorado’s only world heritage site so far is Mesa Verde. Others in the U.S. include Redwoods National Park, Carlsbad Caverns, the Everglades and the Grand Canyon. No new U.S. sites were added this year, but the San Antonio missions were nominated and could be added to the list in the next few years, representing the important Spanish influence in the settlement of North America. Learn more about World Heritage sites in the U.S. at this National Park Service website.
And in case you didn’t know, Xanadu encompasses the remains of Kublai Khan’s legendary capital city. The sprawling site in China shows the assimilation of the nomadic Mongolian and Han Chinse cultures. From this base, Kublai Khan established the Yuan Dynasty that ruled over China for more than a century, expanding its boundaries across Asia.
Xanadu also has spiritual significance, playing a role in the spread of Tibetan Buddhism across northeast Asia. The city was planned according to traditional principles of Chinese feng shui, in harmony with surrounding mountains and rivers.
Also added this year were the Lakes of Ounianga in Chad, encompassing 18 interconnected lakes in the hyper-arid Ennedi region of the Sahara Desert.
The striking landscape includes saline, hyper-saline and freshwater lakes supplied by groundwater. Floating reeds cover almost half the surface of the lakes reducing evaporation. With their high quality freshwater, some of these lakes are home to aquatic fauna, particularly fish.
In Israel, the Church of the Nativity, about 10 kilometers south of Jerusalem, has been identified by Christian tradition as the birthplace of Jesus since the 2d century. The earliest church on the site dates back to 339 A.D. and the edifice that replaced it after a fire in the 6th century retains elaborate floor mosaics from the original edifice. The site also includes Latin, Greek Orthodox, Franciscan and Armenian convents and churches, as well as bell towers, terraced gardens and a pilgrimage route.
And India’s western Ghats represent important geomorphic features with unique biophysical and ecological processes. The site’s high montane forest ecosystems influence the Indian monsoon weather pattern by moderating the tropical climate of the region.
The site also has an exceptionally high level of biological diversity and endemism. It is recognized as one of the world’s eight “hottest hotspots” of biological diversity. The forests of the site include some of the best representatives of non-equatorial tropical evergreen forests anywhere and are home to at least 325 globally threatened flora, fauna, bird, amphibian, reptile and fish species.
Following is a list of all the sites. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage website for links and photo galleries of each new listing.
Natural World Heritage Sites:
- Lakes of Ounianga (Chad);
- Sangha Trinational (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo,);
- Chengjiang Fossil Site (China);
- Western Ghats (India);
- Lena Pillars Nature Park (Russian Federation).
Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau) was inscribed as a mixed natural and cultural site.
A total of 20 cultural sites were inscribed during the session:
- Pearling, Testimony of an Island Economy (Bahrain); Major Mining Sites of Wallonia (Belgium);
- Rio de Janeiro, Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea (Brazil);
- The Landscape of Grand-Pré (Canada);
- Site of Xanadu (China);
- Historic Town Grand-Bassam (Côte d’Ivoire);
- Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin (France);
- Margravial Opera House Bayreuth (Germany);
- Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy (Indonesia);
- Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan (Islamic Republic of Iran),
- Gonbad-e Qābus (Islamic Republic of Iran);
- Sites of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel : The Nahal Me’arot/Wadi el-Mughara Caves (Israel);
- Archaelogical Heritage of the Lenggong Valley (Malaysia);
- Rabat, Modern Capital and Historic City: a Shared Heritage (Morocco);
- Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Palestine);
- Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications (Portugal);
- Bassari Country: Bassari, Fula and Bedik Cultural Landscapes (Senegal);
- Heritage of Mercury Almadén and Idrija (Slovenia/Spain);
- Decorated Farmhouses of Hälsingland (Sweden);
- Neolithic Site of Çatalhöyük (Turkey).