The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem has been made a World Heritage Site, together with three other sites in Israel, Indonesia and Morocco, UNESCO announced today 29 (June, 2012). With the 36th annual session of the World Heritage Committee still in progress in St Petersburg, ‘The Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route […]
Celebrating World Heritage
This year marks the 40th birthday of UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention, which to-date protects almost 1,000 sites of outstanding cultural and natural importance.
In 1855, the young French archaeologist Léon Heuzey found the remains of a magnificent palace, concealed under a ruined chapel. The village nearby was called Palatitsia, a name that hints at its former regal glory. Could this be the palace of the ancient Macedonian kings? In issue #50 Andrew Selkirk told the story of how the tomb of Philip II of Macedon – father to Alexander the Great – was discovered here. Now, he returns to examine the rest of the site and shares its secrets with us.
The former capital of one of the greatest and wealthiest empires of the Indian subcontinent for 300 years until its destruction in 1565 is facing a new and very modern danger: bulldozers. Paul Woodfield visited the site.
Pompeii and its neighbour Herculaneum are among the oldest archaeological sites in the world, but today they risk destruction by exposure to the elements, tourist traffic, and time. Yet these are not new problems. As early as the 18th century, excavators applied varnish to wall-paintings in an attempt to prevent their decay; different types of conservation work have taken place on site ever since. The challenge now is to ensure the preservation of these sites while continuing investigations into the town, its inhabitants, and its history. How can we preserve Pompeii’s past for our future? And what more is there to learn?
The ancient temples of Angkor have endured nearly a millennium of conflict and warfare, but will this new visitor boom, asks Tom St John Gray, be the most deadly threat to their survival? The capital of a flourishing empire between the 9th and 15th centuries, Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South- east Asia. This year Cambodia invited visitors from around the world to enter the ‘Kingdom of Wonder’, and tourists responded in their millions.
Exactly 100 years ago, the explorer Hiram Bingham found Machu Picchu on the eastern slopes of Peru’s soaring Andes mountains. He was not the first to see it since the Incas left centuries before: local farmers were living on the land, and the site appeared on several maps – including that published in 1910 by Inca expert Sir Clements Markham. But he was the first to bring it to the attention of the world. Historian and author Christopher Heaney recounts the events of Hiram Bingham’s expedition that reclaimed Machu Picchu from the jungle.
The sprawling city at Angkor covered, at its peak, an astonishing 1,000km², and formed the heart of a Khmer Empire which spread across present day Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. Banteay Chhmar is one of the crowning glories of King Jayavarman VII’s reign (AD 1181-c.1219). But this magnificent Khmer temple, an architectural tour de force, lies crumbling in forest near the Cambodian border. John Sanday and the Global Heritage Fund must overcome more than just neglect to save this site for posterity.
The sheer scale of Rome’s German frontier is overwhelming. Running for almost 550km, and boasting at least 60 forts, 80 fortlets and over 900 towers, it is the longest archaeological monument in Central Europe. The frontier’s circuitous and occasionally bewildering path carries it from mountain ridges to river pastures, sometimes heeding the limits of fertile farmland, others simply ploughing an arbitrary line across the landscape. This complex barrier is more than just an extended display of Imperial might, it is a physical testament to the way terrain forced the military’s hand.
Fieldwork led by researchers at University College London (UCL) and the University of Manchester has shown that stone figures lying on their backs and faces beside the roads of Easter Island (Rapanui) were not abandoned by clumsy construction workers who dropped and broke the carvings en-route to the coast journey. Instead, each of the fallen statues is associated with a stone platform from which it has toppled with the passage of time. In other words, the roads themselves were not built and used exclusively for the transportation of the figures.
When we asked our readers if they had a favourite World Heritage Site, Mycenae was mentioned again and again. Featured in CWA 28, it was once one of the greatest cities of the Mycenaean civilisation, dominating the eastern Mediterranean from the 15th-12th centuries BC. Today the site boasts remarkable architectural features, such as the famous Lion Gate, as well as royal graves where spectacular artefacts including the gold ‘death mask of Agamemnon’ were found in the 19th century. Andrew Selkirk takes us on a tour of Agamemnon’s capital.
Visitors to the Great Wall of China normally only see one small stretch of the wall – the Badaling section – a showpiece near Beijing. But what is the Great Wall really like? Recently, Paul Woodfield had the opportunity to spend nine days walking the wall. The opportunity was afforded by the Parkinson’s Disease Society who arranged a walk along the wall to raise funds for their Society. So what did he find, and how does the ‘real wall’ compare with the small, carefully conserved section offered to the usual tourist visitor?