Forty-three years after the first UNESCO World Heritage Site was anointed as such, pride and accomplishment continue to accompany every new listing. For instance, the World Heritage Committee’s decision to inscribe Telangana’s Ramappa Temple and the ancient site of Dholavira in Gujarat in its recently concluded session, has brought much cheer to India.
The 13th-century temple, located near Palampet in Telangana, was in the body’s Tentative List since 2014, and exhibits “outstanding universal value” with its architectural ingenuity and high art, both reflective of the traditions and customs of the Kakatiyan culture. Dholavira, a sophisticated Harappan city with overseas trade links, too received inscription on the prestigious list, taking the total number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India to 40.
In the recently concluded 44th session of the World Heritage Committee, held in Fuzhou, China, a total of 34 sites (including those for the year 2020) have made it to the prestigious list, including natural sites of “outstanding universal value” in Thailand, Georgia, Gabon, Japan and South Korea. The cultural sites inscribed this time include the Petroglyphs of Lake Onega and the White Sea in Russia; Iran’s Trans-Iranian Railway; northern Cote d’Ivoire’s Sudanese-style mosques; Ljubljana’s iconic buildings designed by the Slovenian architect Joze Plecnik, among others.
Turkey’s Arslantepe Mound, an archeological tel that is said to have been occupied sixth millennium BC onwards, received an inscription. The remote and mountainous region of Hawraman in Iran was given the tag for its agro-pastoral architecture and modes of human habitation that have also supported biodiversity. Seventeen prehistoric sites in northern Japan were inscribed for being one of the earliest examples of pre-agricultural sedentism, where settled hunter-fisher-gatherer communities have existed since 13,000 B.C.E.
Europe’s Cup Runneth Over
While Italy continued to expand its massive tally—the country is home to 58 World Heritage Sites including the recently added Porticoes of Bologna—Gabon’s Ivindo National Park became the country’s second such site. About half of the newly listed sites are from Europe, including spa towns throughout the UK, France, Italy, Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic and Northern Ireland.
These sites were the first of the opulent resorts that sprang up all over Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, and, according to UNESCO, “embody the significant interchange of human values and developments in medicine, science and balneology”. The Darmstadt Artists’ Colony in Germany was also awarded the tag, as was a 200-hectare slice of Madrid’s striking urban landscape comprising the arts and sciences institutions at the Paseo del Prado and Buen Retiro. Romania’s ancient gold and silver mine of Rosia Montana, was also made a World Heritage Site.
Prehistoric Marvels of South America
If the landscape gardens of Burle Marx in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, made the cut, Uruguayan engineer Eladio Dieste’s Church at Atlantida, a modernistic marvel showcasing confluence of architectural styles down the ages, was also designated as a World Heritage Site.
A couple of much-awaited inscriptions finally arrived for two prehistoric sites in South America: the Settlement and Artificial Mummification of the Chinchorro Culture in the Arica and Parinacota Region, and Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex. Mummification in the Atacama Desert has been found to have happened 2,000 years prior to Egypt, and mummified corpses (natural and artificial) have been found in the Chinchorro people of northern Chile; research has suggested the mummies to have been marine hunter-gatherers. The Chankillo Astronomical Complex in Peru comprises natural features and complex constructions assembled into an observatory of sorts that was used to determine dates throughout the year, circa 250 B.C.
Exits and Near-Exits
As the Song-Yuan-era port of Quangzhou, and the merchant city of As-Salt in Jordan, received inscriptions, Liverpool’s famed waterfront, known for its now-fading maritime-mercantile character, was delisted. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which has been undergoing climate-change-related bleaching, narrowly escaped relegation to the Endangered Sites list.
Prannay Pathak dreams about living out of a suitcase and retiring to the island of Hamneskär to watch films in solitary confinement. He is Assistant Editor (Digital) at National Geographic Traveller India.