Exploring Some of UNESCO's Latest World Heritage Sites: A Global Tapestry of Culture, Nature, and History

Madi Costigan
hopewell heritage sites

Newly Inscribed World Heritage Sites
By Madi Costigan

During its 45th session in September, the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO inscribed new World Heritage Sites around the world. The new designations are sparking interest in the sites and countries they are home to while showing how global the interest in World Heritage continues to be. The inscription of individual properties contributes to a large, global network of World Heritage Sites and highlights international efforts towards cultural and historical preservation, as well as environmental conservation.

The Committee inscribed 42 new properties, including 33 cultural sites and 9 natural sites. For just a peek into the new additions, we will explore 4 new sites from around the world.

deer stone monument

Photo Credit: © Ts.Turbat

UNESCO often inscribes historical buildings as World Heritage Sites as they can exemplify historical heritage and are necessary to preserve. Germany’s Jewish-Medeival Heritage of Erfurt is newly inscribed and includes the Old Synagogue, the Mikveh, and the Stone House. These structures commemorate the historical Jewish presence in a predominantly Christian region and offer a glimpse into how the two communities interacted during the Middle Ages.

Another country with a new designated site is Mongolia, as its Deer Stone Monuments and related Bronze Age structures are now inscribed properties. These striking monuments are tall, thin, and finely engraved stones that are organized in congruence with “burial mounds called khirgisüürs and sacrificial altars,” located along central Mongolia’s Khangai Ridge. The structures have significant historical implications, as they were created by groups of nomads that are no longer prominent today, and other variations of the stones have not survived.

As a new natural property, the Forest Massif of Odzala-Kokua in the Republic of the Congo is vital to preserve. With climate change causing natural disasters and affecting habitats, keen attention to the functioning and changes within natural ecosystems are integral to their survival, and World Heritage Site designation promotes awareness for individual sites as well as related areas that could be similarly affected. The Forest Massif establishes a location where three ecosystems and all of their species come together, so it presents the opportunity to protect the occurrence of unique ecological interactions and species, particularly primates and forest elephants. While it is a National Park, the World Heritage Site designation signifies the importance of this property for the entire region of Central Africa and the global protection of unique environments.

photo of a gorilla

Photo Credit: © Fondation Odzala-Kokoua/AP

Finally, here in the United States, the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks along the Ohio River were newly inscribed as World Heritage Sites. Consisting of “eight monumental earthen enclosure complexes,” the site was created by the indigenous community from that area, known as the Hopewell Culture. The earthworks present intriguing geometric formations that relate to the Sun and Moon cycles and were important for rituals and ceremonies more than 1,600 years ago. The property presents an exceptional and overdue opportunity to recognize indigenous history and also marks a unique crossover between nature and human-made structures. The addition of this property brings the United States’ World Heritage Sites count up to 25, and it becomes the seventh American cultural inscription that recognizes indigenous property and history.

The newly inscribed sites are all over the world, from Iran to Canada, Portugal to Rwanda. It is fascinating to see the continual increase in the number of these sites and the commitment that countries have to establishing and maintaining these properties that hold so much history.

Photo credit: © Hopewell Culture NHP/ US National Park Service 

Check out all of the newly inscribed heritage sites

Photo Credit: © INTACH Bengaluru Chapter

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