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 in Bethlehem, Palestine’ has been inscribed on UNESCO’s list of protected sites. The new entry also includes nearby Latin, Greek Orthodox, Franciscan, and Armenian convents and churches, as well as bell towers, terraced gardens and a pilgrimage route.
Lying 10km outside Jerusalem, Christian tradition has identified the site as the birthplace of Jesus since the 2nd century AD. A church was first built there in AD 339, and the structure that replaced it following a fire in the 6th century still retains elaborate floor mosaics from the original building.
A 54ha network of caves in the Mt Carmel mountain range, Israel, where almost a century of archaeological research has found signs of 500,000 years of human activity, has also been added to the list as ‘Site of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel: The Nahal Me’arot/Wadi el-Mughara Caves (Israel)’. With evidence of burials, early stone architecture and the transition from a hunter-gathering lifestyle to agriculture and animal husbandry, UNESCO says this is one of the key sites for the study of human evolution and the prehistory of the Levant. It also preserves unique traces of Neanderthals and Early Modern Hu,ans coexisting within the same Middle Paleolithic cultural framework, the Mousterian.
In Indonesia, a series of rice terraces and 9th century water temples, as well as the 18th century Royal Temple of Pura Taman Ayun, have been given special protection as the ‘Cultural Landscape of Bali: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy (Indonesia)’, while the city of Rabat has become Morocco’s newest World Heritage Site.
The entry for Rabat includes the new town built under the French Protectorate from 1912 to the 1930s, one of the largest and most ambitious modern urban projects built in Africa in the 20th century and, according to UNESCO, the most complete – including royal and administrative areas, residential and commercial developments and the Jardins d’Essais botanical and pleasure gardens. The protected area also encompasses older parts of the city dating back to the 12th century such as Hassan Mosque (started in 1184).
The Committee will remain in session until 6 July, and further World Heritage Sites are expected to be announced over the weekend.