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Four medieval sites added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List

Medieval sites in Europe, Asia and the Pacific have been added to the World Heritage List this week, as part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Meetings, which have been taking place in Istanbul.

The meeting was shortened because of the situation in Turkey, where a coup attempt by members of the country’s armed forces was defeated by the government. However, the organization did approve of 21 sites to be added to its list for cultural and/or natural importance. Those ones the date from the Middle Ages were:

Archaeological Site of Ani (Turkey)

This site is located on a secluded plateau of northeast Turkey overlooking a ravine that forms a natural border with Armenia. This medieval city combines residential, religious and military structures, characteristic of a medieval urbanism built up over the centuries by Christian and then Muslim dynasties. The city flourished in the 10th and 11th centuries CE when it became the capital of the medieval Armenian kingdom of the Bagratides and profited from control of one branch of the Silk Road. Later, under Byzantine, Seljuk, and Georgian sovereignty, it maintained its status as an important crossroads for merchant caravans. The Mongol invasion and a devastating earthquake in 1319 marked the beginning of the city’s decline. The site presents a comprehensive overview of the evolution of medieval architecture through examples of almost all the different architectural innovations of the region between the 7th and 13th centuries CE.

Stećci – Medieval Tombstones Graveyards (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia)

Radimlja, one of the most valuable and most important necropolis of stećci in Bosnia and Herzegovina - Photo by Litany / Wikimedia Commons
Radimlja, one of the most valuable and most important necropolis of stećci in Bosnia and Herzegovina – Photo by Litany / Wikimedia Commons

This serial property combines 30 sites, located in Bosnia and Herzegovina, western Serbia, western Montenegro and central and southern Croatia, representing these cemeteries and regionally distinctive medieval tombstones, or stećci. The cemeteries, which date from the 12th to 16th centuries CE, are laid out in rows, as was the common custom in Europe from the Middle Ages. The stećci are mostly carved from limestone. They feature a wide range of decorative motifs and inscriptions that represent iconographic continuities within medieval Europe as well as locally distinctive traditions.

Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara (Nalanda University) at Nalanda, Bihar (India)

The Nalanda Mahavihara site is in the State of Bihar, in north-eastern India. It comprises the archaeological remains of a monastic and scholastic institution dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 13th century CE. It includes stupas, shrines, viharas (residential and educational buildings) and important art works in stucco, stone and metal. Nalanda stands out as the most ancient university of the Indian Subcontinent. It engaged in the organized transmission of knowledge over an uninterrupted period of 800 years. The historical development of the site testifies to the development of Buddhism into a religion and the flourishing of monastic and educational traditions.

Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia (Federated States of Micronesia)

Nan Madol is a series of 99 artificial islets off the south-east coast of Pohnpei that were constructed with walls of basalt and coral boulders. These islets harbour the remains of stone palaces, temples, tombs and residential domains built between 1200 and 1500 CE. These ruins represent the ceremonial centre of the Saudeleur dynasty, a vibrant period in Pacific Island culture. The huge scale of the edifices, their technical sophistication and the concentration of megalithic structures bear testimony to complex social and religious practices of the island societies of the period. The site was also inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to threats, notably the siltation of waterways that is contributing to the unchecked growth of mangroves and weakening existing edifices.

The World Heritage List now numbers 1052 sites in 165 countries. The state of conservation of 155 sites was examined during the session. Libya’s five World Heritage sites were inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, as was a site in Uzbekistan and another in Mali.

The next World Heritage Meeting of UNESCO will take place in Cracow, Poland, in July 2017.

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