The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) selects World Heritage Sites that have cultural or historical value, or some other element of importance to the human race. Once selected, the sites receive international protections, preserving them for study and appreciation.
The World Heritage Committee met recently to select new sites, and their deliberations yielded 19 new sites and expanded the boundaries of one previously established site. Ranging from Japan to Spain, from mountains to industrial cities, the newly inducted World Heritage Sites represent the best of both the natural world and our own creativity. Below each photo is the committee's explanation of the site's value.
Aasivissuit–Nipisat: Inuit hunting ground between ice and sea (Denmark)
Located inside the Arctic Circle in the central part of West Greenland, the site contains the remains of 4,200 years of human history. It's a culturally significant landscape that has borne witness to the hunting of land and sea animals, seasonal migrations and a rich and well-preserved heritage linked to climate, navigation and medicine. The features of the site include large winter houses and evidence of caribou hunting, as well as archaeological sites from Paleo-Inuit and Inuit cultures. The cultural landscape includes seven key localities, from Nipisat in the west to Aasivissuit, near the ice-cap in the east. It bears testimony to the resilience of human cultures in the region and their traditions of seasonal migration.
Al-Ahsa Oasis, an evolving cultural landscape (Saudi Arabia)
In the eastern Arabian Peninsula, the Al-Ahsa Oasis is a serial property comprised of gardens, canals, springs, wells, a drainage lake, as well as historical buildings and archaeological sites. They represent traces of continued human settlement in the Gulf region from the Neolithic to the present, as can be seen from remaining historic fortresses, mosques, wells, canals and other water management systems. With its 2.5 million date palms, it is the largest oasis in the world. Al-Ahsa is also a unique geocultural landscape and an exceptional example of human interaction with the environment.
Ancient city of Qalhat (Oman)
The site, which is located on the east coast of the Sultanate of Oman, includes the ancient city of Qalhat, which is surrounded by inner and outer walls, as well as areas beyond the ramparts where necropolises are located. The city developed as a major port on the east coast of Arabia between the 11th and 15th centuries A.D., during the reign of the Hormuz princes. Today it bears unique testimony to the trade links between the east coast of Arabia, East Africa, India, China and Southeast Asia.
Archaeological border complex of Hedeby and the Danevirke (Germany)
The archaeological site of Hedeby consists of the remains of an emporium — or trading town — containing traces of roads, buildings, cemeteries and a harbor dating back to the 1st and early 2nd millennia A.D. It is enclosed by part of the Danevirke, a line of fortification crossing the Schleswig isthmus, which separates the Jutland Peninsula from the rest of the European mainland. Because of its unique situation between the Frankish Empire of the South and the Danish Kingdom in the North, Hedeby became a trading hub between continental Europe and Scandinavia and between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. Because of its rich and well-preserved archaeological material, it has become a key site for the interpretation of economic, social and historical developments in Europe during the Viking age.
Caliphate city of Medina Azahara (Spain)
The Caliphate city of Medina Azahara is an archaeological site of a city built in the mid-10th century A.D. by the Umayyad dynasty as the seat of the Caliphate of Cordoba. After prospering for several years, it was laid to waste during the civil war that put an end to the Caliphate in 1009-10. The remains of the city were forgotten for almost 1,000 years until their rediscovery in the early 20th century. It features infrastructure such as roads, bridges, water systems, buildings, decorative elements and everyday objects. It provides in-depth knowledge of the now vanished Western Islamic civilization of Al-Andalus at the height of its splendor.
Göbekli Tepe (Turkey)
Located in the Germuş mountains of southeastern Anatolia, this site presents monumental circular and rectangular megalithic structures, interpreted as enclosures, which were erected by hunter-gatherers in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic age between 9,600 and 8,200 B.C. It's likely that these monuments were used in connection with death and burial rituals. Distinctive T-shaped pillars are carved with images of wild animals, providing insight into the way of life and beliefs of people living in Upper Mesopotamia about 11,500 years ago.
Hidden Christian sites in the Nagasaki region (Japan)
Located in the northwestern part of Kyushu island, the 12 components of the site consist of 10 villages, Hara Castle and a cathedral, built between the 16th and 19th centuries. Together they reflect the earliest activities of Christian missionaries and settlers in Japan — the phase of encounter, followed by times of prohibition and persecution of the Christian faith and the final phase of the revitalization of Christian communities after the lifting of prohibition in 1873. These sites reflect the work of hidden Christians in the Nagasaki region who secretly transmitted their faith during the period of prohibition from the 17th to the 19th century.
Ivrea, industrial city of the 20th century (Italy)
The industrial city of Ivrea is located in the Piedmont region and developed as the testing ground for Olivetti, manufacturer of typewriters, mechanical calculators and office computers. It comprises a large factory and buildings designed to serve the administration and social services, as well as residential units. Designed by leading Italian urban planners and architects, mostly between 1930 and the 1960s, this architectural ensemble reflects the ideas of the Community Movement (Movimento Comunità). A model social project, Ivrea expresses a modern vision of the relationship between industrial production and architecture.
Naumburg Cathedral (Germany)
Located in the eastern part of the Thuringian Basin, the Cathedral of Naumburg, whose construction began in 1028, is an outstanding testimony to medieval art and architecture. Its Romanesque structure, flanked by two Gothic choirs, demonstrates the stylistic transition from late Romanesque to early Gothic. The west choir, dating to the first half of the 13th century, reflects changes in religious practice and the appearance of science and nature in the figurative arts. The choir and life-size sculptures of the founders of the cathedral are masterpieces of the workshop known as the "Naumburg Master."
Sansa, Buddhist mountain monasteries in Korea (Republic of Korea)
The Sansa are Buddhist mountain monasteries located throughout the southern provinces of the Korean Peninsula. The spatial arrangement of the seven temples that comprise the site, established from the 7th to 9th centuries, present common characteristics that are specific to Korea — the "madang" (open courtyard) flanked by four buildings (Buddha Hall, pavilion, lecture hall and dormitory). They contain a large number of individually remarkable structures, objects, documents and shrines. These mountain monasteries are sacred places, which have survived as living centers of faith and daily religious practice to the present.
Sassanid archaeological landscape of Fars Region (Iran)
Eight archaeological sites situated in three geographical parts in the southeast of Fars Province: Firuzabad, Bishapur and Sarvestan. These fortified structures, palaces, and city plans date back to the earliest and latest times of the Sassanian Empire, which stretched across the region from 224 to 658 A.D. Among these sites is the capital built by the founder of the dynasty, Ardashir Papakan, as well as a city and architectural structures of his successor, Shapur I. The archaeological landscape reflects the optimized utilization of natural topography and bears witness to the influence of Achaemenid and Parthian cultural traditions and of Roman art, which had a significant impact on the architecture and artistic styles of the Islamic era.
Thimlich Ohinga archaeological site (Kenya)
Situated northwest of the town of Migori, in the Lake Victoria region, this dry-stone walled settlement was probably built in the 16th century A.D. The Ohinga settlement seems to have served as a fort for communities and livestock, but also defined social entities and relationships linked to lineage. Thimlich Ohinga is the largest and best preserved of these traditional enclosures. It's an exceptional example of the tradition of massive dry-stone walled enclosures, typical of the first pastoral communities in the Lake Victoria Basin, which persisted until the mid-20th century.
Victorian Gothic and Art Deco ensembles of Mumbai (India)
Having become a global trading center, the city of Mumbai implemented an ambitious urban planning project in the second half of the 19th century. It led to the construction of ensembles of public buildings bordering the Oval Maidan open space, first in the Victorian Neo-Gothic style and then, in the early 20th century, in the Art Deco idiom. The Victorian ensemble includes Indian elements suited to the climate, including balconies and verandas. The Art Deco edifices, with their cinemas and residential buildings, blend Indian design with Art Deco imagery, creating a unique style that has been described as Indo-Deco. These two ensembles bear testimony to the phases of modernization that Mumbai has undergone in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains (South Africa)
Situated in northeastern South Africa, the site comprises 40 percent of the Barberton Greenstone Belt, one of the world's oldest geological structures. The Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains represent the best-preserved succession of volcanic and sedimentary rock dating back 3.6 to 3.25 billion years, when the first continents were starting to form on the primitive Earth. It features meteor-impact fallback breccias resulting from the impact of meteorites formed just after the Great Bombardment (4.6 to 3.8 billion years ago).
Chaîne des Puys - Limagne fault tectonic arena (France)
Situated in the center of France, the site comprises the long Limagne fault, the alignments of the Chaîne des Puys volcanoes and the inverted relief of the Montagne de la Serre. It is an emblematic segment of the West European Rift, created in the aftermath of the formation of the Alps, 35 million years ago. The geological features of the property demonstrate how the continental crust cracks, then collapses, allowing deep magma to rise and cause uplifting at the surface. The property is an exceptional illustration of continental break-up — or rifting — which is one of the five major stages of plate tectonics.
Located within the Wuling mountain range in Guizhou Province (southwest China), Fanjingshan ranges in altitude between 500 metres and 2,570 metres above sea level, favoring highly diverse types of vegetation and relief. It is an island of metamorphic rock in a sea of karst, home to many plant and animal species that originated in the Tertiary period, between 65 million and 2 million years ago. The site's isolation has led to a high degree of biodiversity with endemic species, such as the Fanjingshan fir (Abies fanjingshanensis) and the Guizhou snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus brelichi), and endangered species, such as the Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus), the forest musk deer (Moschus berezovskii) and Reeve's pheasant (Syrmaticus reevesii). Fanjingshan has the largest and most contiguous primeval beech forest in the subtropical region.
Chiribiquete National Park – 'The Maloca of the Jaguar' (Colombia)
Located in the northwest Colombian Amazon, Chiribiquete National Park is the largest protected area in the country. One of the defining features of the park is the presence of tepuis (the Native American word for table-top mountains), sheer-sided sandstone plateaux that dominate the forest. Over 75,000 paintings, spanning more than 20,000 years to the present, can be seen on the walls of the 60 rock shelters around the bases of the tepuis. Believed to be linked to the worship of the jaguar, a symbol of power and fertility, these paintings depict hunting scenes, battles, dances and ceremonies. The indigenous communities, which are not directly present on the site, consider the region sacred.
Pimachiowin Aki (Canada)
Pimachiowin Aki ("The Land That Gives Life") is a forest landscape crossed by rivers and studded with lakes, wetlands and boreal forest that covers parts of Manitoba and Ontario. It forms part of the ancestral home of the Anishinaabeg, an indigenous people living from fishing, hunting and gathering. The area encompasses the traditional lands of four Anishinaabeg communities (Bloodvein River, Little Grand Rapids, Pauingassi and Poplar River). It is an exceptional example of the cultural tradition of Ji-ganawendamang Gidakiiminaan ("keeping the land") which consists of honoring the gifts of the Creator, respecting all forms of life and maintaining harmonious relations with others. A complex network of livelihood sites, habitation sites, travel routes and ceremonial sites, often linked by waterways, embodies this tradition.
Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley: Originary habitat of Mesoamerica (Mexico)
Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley, part of the Mesoamerican region, is the arid or semi-arid zone with the richest biodiversity in all of North America. Consisting of three components, Zapotitlán-Cuicatlán, San Juan Raya and Purrón, it is one of the main centers of diversification for the cacti family, which is critically endangered worldwide. The valley harbors the densest forests of columnar cacti in the world, shaping a unique landscape that also includes agaves, yuccas and oaks. Archaeological remains demonstrate technological developments and the early domestication of crops. The valley presents an exceptional water management system of canals, wells, aqueducts and dams, the oldest in the continent, which has allowed for the emergence of agricultural settlements.
Bikin River Valley (Russia)
The Bikin River Valley is a serial extension of the existing Central Sikhote-Alin site, inscribed in 2001 on the World Heritage List. It is located about 100 kilometers to the north of the existing property. The extension covers an area of 1,160,469 hectares, three times larger than the existing site. It encompasses the South-Okhotsk dark coniferous forests and the East Asian coniferous broadleaf forests. The fauna includes species of the taiga alongside southern Manchurian species. It includes notable mammals such as the Amur tiger, Siberian musk deer, wolverine and sable.