The 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee has just wrapped up in Baku, Azerbaijan. And it’s big news for us: a whopping 29 new World Heritage Sites for 2019. That’s far more than previous years, and you have to go back to 2004 to find a more prolific session of the WHC. Read on to find out more about the new World Heritage Sites for 2019.
Burkina Faso – Ancient Ferrous Metallurgy Sites
This is Burkina Faso’s first entry on the list, and covers a series of mines and furnaces dating back to the 8th century BC. UNESCO says:
This property is composed of five elements located in different provinces of the country. It includes about fifteen standing, natural-draught furnaces, several other furnace structures, mines and traces of dwellings. Douroula, which dates back to the 8th century BCE, is the oldest evidence of the development of iron production found in Burkina Faso. The other components of the property – Tiwêga, Yamané, Kindibo and Békuy – illustrate the intensification of iron production during the second millennium CE. Even though iron ore reduction – obtaining iron from ore – is no longer practiced today, village blacksmiths still play a major role in supplying tools, while taking part in various rituals.
China – Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City
This new World Heritage Site for 2019 covers archaeological ruins in the Yangtze River basin, dating from 3300-2300 BC. The ruins show evidence of a sophisticated society based around rice production, and are
an outstanding example of early urban civilization expressed in earthen monuments, urban planning, a water conservation system and a social hierarchy expressed in differentiated burials in cemeteries within the property.
Iraq – Babylon
This new World Heritage Site for 2019 is the sixth site added in Iraq, and covers the ancient ruins of the famous city of Babylon. One of the most important cities in the cradle of civilisation, UNESCO says:
Its remains, outer and inner-city walls, gates, palaces and temples, are a unique testimony to one of the most influential empires of the ancient world. Seat of successive empires, under rulers such as Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon represents the expression of the creativity of the Neo-Babylonian Empire at its height. The city’s association with one of the seven wonders of the ancient world—the Hanging Gardens—has also inspired artistic, popular and religious culture on a global scale.
Myanmar – Bagan
Probably the most famous new World Heritage Site for 2019 is Bagan, a collection of Hindu temples on a dusty plain in central Myanmar (Burma). This site has long been considered a large omission from the World Heritage List, mainly due to shoddy repairs done after an earthquake during the 1970s. We absolutely loved this place on our visit in 2016!
The site’s eight components include numerous temples, stupas, monasteries and places of pilgrimage, as well as archaeological remains, frescoes and sculptures. The property bears spectacular testimony to the peak of Bagan civilization (11th–13th centuries CE), when the site was the capital of a regional empire. This ensemble of monumental architecture reflects the strength of religious devotion of an early Buddhist empire.
Australia – Budj Bim Cultural Landscape
This new World Heritage Site for 2019 is a first for Australia – a cultural site entirely dedicated to the culture of Indigenous Australians. It covers a fish farming area that has been used by the local Gunditjmara nation for thousands of years. According to UNESCO, the area:
enabled the Gunditjmara to develop one of the largest and oldest aquaculture networks in the world. Composed of channels, dams and weirs, they are used to contain floodwaters and create basins to trap, store and harvest the kooyang eel (Anguilla australis), which has provided the population with an economic and social base for six millennia.
Russia – Churches of the Pskov School of Architecture
This new World Heritage site covers a series of churches, cathedrals and other monuments in the city of Pskov, located in north-west Russia. Constructed over several centuries, the buildings all have a similar and distinctive style. UNESCO says:
Characteristics of these buildings, produced by the Pskov School of Architecture, include cubic volumes, domes, porches and belfries, with the oldest elements dating back to the 12th century. Churches and cathedrals are integrated into the natural environment through gardens, perimeter walls and fences. Inspired by the Byzantine and Novgorod traditions, the Pskov School of Architecture reached its peak in the 15th and 16th centuries, and was one of the foremost schools in the country. It informed the evolution of Russian architecture over five centuries.
Bahrain – Dilmun Burial Mounds
Bahrain’s second World Heritage Site is the Dilmun Burial Mounds, dating back to around 2000 BC. The site covers seven different archaeological areas, with almost 12,000 burial mounds. Some of them are even royal burial mounds! According to UNESCO:
The burial mounds are evidence of the Early Dilmun civilization, around the 2nd millennium BCE, during which Bahrain became a trade hub, whose prosperity enabled the inhabitants to develop an elaborate burial tradition applicable to the entire population. These tombs illustrate globally unique characteristics, not only in terms of their number, density and scale, but also in terms of details such as burial chambers equipped with alcoves.
Czech Republic / Germany – Erzgebirge/Krušnohoří Mining Region
This new World Heritage Site for 2019 covers a series of mines in south-east Germany and north-west Czech. Historically these mines were used for a variety of metals, mostly silver and tin though uranium was also produced here in the 19th century. Of the site, UNESCO says:
The cultural landscape of the Ore Mountains has been deeply shaped by 800 years of almost continuous mining, from the 12th to the 20th century, with mining, pioneering water management systems, innovative mineral processing and smelting sites, and mining cities.
Azerbaijan – Historic Centre of Sheki with the Khan’s Palace
As often happens, the country hosting the World Heritage Committee meeting ends up getting their site inscribed, and this year is no different! This new World Heritage Site for 2019 focuses on the city of Sheki, located near the Caucasus Mountains in north-west Azerbaijan. According to UNESCO:
Located along important historic trade routes, the city’s architecture is influenced by Safavid, Qadjar and Russian building traditions. The Khan Palace, in the northeast of the city, and a number of merchant houses, reflect the wealth generated by silkworm breeding and the trade in silk cocoons from the late 18th to the 19th centuries.
India – Jaipur City, Rajasthan
We had a great time visiting Jaipur City in early 2019. It’s known as the Pink City, as pink is the colour of hospitality in Rajasthan and all of the buildings around the city’s core are painted a delightful salmon shade of pink. Apparently it was originally done to welcome the Prince of Wales in the late 19th century, and they’ve just kept doing it ever since! For their part, UNESCO says:
The city’s urban planning shows an exchange of ideas from ancient Hindu and modern Mughal as well as Western cultures. The grid plan is a model that prevails in the West, while the organization of the different districts refers to traditional Hindu concepts. Designed to be a commercial capital, the city has maintained its local commercial, artisanal and cooperative traditions to this day.
United Kingdom – Jodrell Bank Observatory
Next up is one of the most unusual new World Heritage sites for 2019! It’s an observatory in the north-west of England, was constructed in 1945 and continues to operate through to the present day. When inscribing the site, UNESCO said:
Jodrell Bank has had substantial scientific impact in fields such as the study of meteors and the moon, the discovery of quasars, quantum optics, and the tracking of spacecraft. This exceptional technological ensemble illustrates the transition from traditional optical astronomy to radio astronomy (1940s to 1960s), which led to radical changes in the understanding of the universe.
Poland – Krzemionki Prehistoric Striped Flint Mining Region
This site is a collection of four Neolithic mines, dating back to around 3900 BC that were historically used to extract striped flint. Flint was of course a super important material, as it was used to make axes and other tools. According to UNESCO:
The site provides information about life and work in prehistoric settlements and bears witness to an extinct cultural tradition. It is an exceptional testimony of the importance of the prehistoric period and of flint mining for tool production in human history.
Czech Republic – Landscape for Breeding and Training of Ceremonial Carriage Horses at Kladruby nad Labem
Another unusual World Heritage Site, this new entry covers buildings and landscapes where kladruber horses were trained and bred. These fine horses were preferred for ceremonies in the Habsburg imperial court, and…
…It is one of Europe’s leading horse-breeding institutions, developed at a time when horses played vital roles in transport, agriculture, military support and aristocratic representation.
Italy – The Hills of Prosecco
This new World Heritage Site for 2019 is located in the north-east of Italy. It’s a wine-growing landscape, characterised by small vineyards and little plots. According to UNESCO:
For centuries, this rugged terrain has been shaped and adapted by man. Since the 17th century, the use of ciglioni has created a particular chequerboard landscape consisting of rows of vines parallel and vertical to the slopes. In the 19th century, the bellussera technique of training the vines contributed to the aesthetic characteristics of the landscape.
Laos – Plain of Jars
This site is a sad near-miss for us. Located in central Laos, it’s a large plateau covered in enormous man-height stone jars. And there’s a lot of them: over 2000 in fact! Although it’s strongly suspected they were part of ancient funeral practices, their purpose still isn’t fully understood. We’ve now visited Laos twice, both north and south, and both times we haven’t managed to see the Plain of Jars!
The jars and associated elements are the most prominent evidence of the Iron Age civilization that made and used them until it disappeared, around 500 CE.
Japan – Mozu-Furuichi Kofun Group: Mounded Tombs of Ancient Japan
This new World Heritage Site for 2019 is a series of almost 50 unusual aristocratic tombs located near Osaka. The tombs all have different shapes and sizes, and were highly decorated too. According to UNESCO:
These kofun [tombs] have been selected from a total of 160,000 in Japan and form the richest material representation of the Kofun period, from the 3rd to the 6th century CE. They demonstrate the differences in social classes of that period and reflect a highly sophisticated funerary system.
Indonesia – Ombilin Coal Mining Heritage of Sawahlunto
This World Heritage Site covers a coal mining town and region in central Sumatra, Indonesia. Built by Dutch colonists in the 19th and early 20th centuries, this site:
.. comprises the mining site and company town, coal storage facilities at the port of Emmahaven and the railway network linking the mines to the coastal facilities. The The Ombilin Coal Mining Heritage was built as an integrated system that enabled the efficient deep-bore extraction, processing, transport and shipment of coal.
Spain – Risco Caido and the Sacred Mountains of Gran Canaria Cultural Landscape
Next up on the list of new World Heritage Sites for 2019 is an area on the island of Gran Canaria, off the coast of Morocco. It covers an unusual and diverse mountain landscape, featuring cliffs and ravines, plus a large amount of biodiversity. UNESCO’s report says:
The landscape includes a large number of troglodyte settlements — habitats, granaries and cisterns — whose age is proof of the presence of a pre-Hispanic culture on the island, which has evolved in isolation, from the arrival of North African Berbers, around the beginning of our era, until the first Spanish settlers in the 15th century.
Portugal – Royal Building of Mafra
This new World Heritage Site is a complex built in the early 18th century on the outskirts of Lisbon, Portugal. Constructed by King Joao V, it comprises of a royal palace, a basilica, monastery, library, a garden, and a hunting park too. According to UNESCO:
The Royal Mafra Building is one of the most remarkable works undertaken by King João V, which illustrates the power and reach of the Portuguese Empire. João V adopted Roman and Italian baroque architectural and artistic models and commissioned works of art that make Mafra an exceptional example of Italian Baroque.
Portugal – Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga
This new World Heritage Site for 2019 is located in northern Portugal. It’s a calvary, or sacred mountain, where pilgrims could carry out a pilgrimage without having to travel all the way to the Holy Land. Covered in exception Baroque architecture, according to UNESCO:
The Bom Jesus ensemble is centred on a Via Crucis that leads up the western slope of the mount. It includes a series of chapels that house sculptures evoking the Passion of Christ, as well as fountains, allegorical sculptures and formal gardens.
South Korea – Seowon, Korean Neo-Confucian Academies
This new World Heritage Site covers nine separate Seowon, or Confucian acadamies, where students could study the teachings of Confucius. According to UNESCO:
The seowons illustrate an historical process in which Neo-Confucianism from China was adapted to Korean conditions.
United States of America – 20th Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright
Continuing the new World Heritage Sites for 2019 is eight buildings designed by the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. These buildings are located in various locations across the USA, including Chicago, New York, Pennsylvania. According to UNESCO:
These buildings reflect the “organic architecture” developed by Wright, which includes an open plan, a blurring of the boundaries between exterior and interior and the unprecedented use of materials such as steel and concrete. Each of these buildings offers innovative solutions to the needs for housing, worship, work or leisure. Wright’s work from this period had a strong impact on the development of modern architecture in Europe.
Germany – Water Management System of Augsburg
This new World Heritage Site covers a series of canals, water pumps, and water towers dating back to the 14th century, located around the German city of Augsburg. Although the site seems quite unusual, UNESCO found Outstanding Universal Value in:
the technological innovations generated by this water management system [that] have helped establish Augsburg as a pioneer in hydraulic engineering.
Canada – Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi
As indicated by the name, this new World Heritage Site is focused on rock art. This area of central southern Canada contains a series of large hoodoos, or rock pillars, which from 1800 BC have been decorated with engravings and carvings from local tribes. When inscribing, UNESCO said:
This landscape is considered sacred to the Blackfoot people, and their centuries-old traditions are perpetuated through ceremonies and in enduring respect for the places.
France – French Austral Lands and Seas
This new World Heritage Site for 2019 is also getting added to our personal “inaccessible” list! It’s a group of islands owned by France, located in the far southern Indian ocean, most of the way to Antarctica. Visiting is only possible via a two-week return boat trip from already-remote Reunion Island, and physically setting foot on the islands is still forbidden!
The remoteness of these islands from centres of human activity makes them extremely well-preserved showcases of biological evolution and a unique terrain for scientific research.
Iran – Hyrcanian Forests
This World Heritage Site covers a large forested area along Iran’s Caspian Sea coast. Part of a wider forest that has existed for millions of years, it contains a wide variety of both plant and animal species. According to UNESCO:
44% of the vascular plants known in Iran are found in the Hyrcanian region, which only covers 7% of the country, [and] to date, 180 species of birds typical of broad-leaved temperate forests and 58 mammal species have been recorded, including the iconic Persian Leopard (Panthera pardus tulliana).
China – Migratory Bird Sanctuaries along the Coast of Yellow Sea
Next on the list of new World Heritage Sites for 2019 is an area considered to be the largest intertidal mudflat system in the world. The marshes and nearby shoals are home to a huge variety of fish and crustaceans, and are an important stop for migrating birds.
The intertidal areas of the Yellow Sea/Gulf of Bohai are of global importance for the gathering of many migratory bird species that use the East Asian-Australasian flyway. Large gatherings of birds, including some of the world’s most endangered species, depend on the coastline as a stopover to moult, rest, winter or nest.
Iceland – Vatnajökull National Park – dynamic nature of fire and ice
Winning the award for the most interesting name among this year’s World Heritage sites, this entry covers a massive 14% of Iceland! It includes both volcanoes and glaciers, hence the unusual Game of Thrones-style name. There’s some super interesting landscapes here, particularly where volcanoes have erupted underneath glaciers!
The interaction between volcanoes and the rifts that underlie the Vatnajökull ice cap takes many forms, the most spectacular of which is the jökulhlaup – a sudden flood caused by the breach of the margin of a glacier during an eruption. This recurrent phenomenon has led to the emergence of unique sandur plains, river systems and rapidly evolving canyons. Volcanic areas are home to endemic groundwater fauna that has survived the Ice Age.
Brazil – Paraty and Ilha Grande – Culture and Biodiversity
Rounding out our list of new World Heritage Sites for 2019 is the only Mixed site for the year. It covers Brazil’s best-preserved coastal town, Paraty, along with four important Brazilian Atlantic forests nearby. The forests are home to many endangered species like jaguar and spider monkeys, while the town was an important historic trading port, mainly trading in gold and unfortunately – slaves.
The historic centre of Paraty has retained its 18th century plan and much of its colonial architecture dating from the 18th and early 19th centuries.
So there you have it! 29 new World Heritage Sites for 2019; well above average for recent years. And there’s definitely some highlights and well deserved inclusions this year, particularly Bagan and Babylon. Of the new additions, we’ve only visited Jaipur City, Budj Bim, the Osaka Tomb Mounds and Bagan, so we’ll eventually be making videos about all of these new sites.