Situated on the southern shore of the Red River Delta, Trang An is a spectacular landscape of limestone karst peaks permeated with valleys, some of which are submerged, and surrounded by steep, almost vertical cliffs. Exploration of some of the highest altitude caves dotted across the landscape has revealed archaeological traces of human activity dating back almost 30,000 years. They illustrate the occupation of these mountains by hunter-gatherers and how they adapted to climatic and environmental changes. The property also includes Hoa Lu, the old capital of Viet Nam in the 10th and 11th centuries AD, as well as temples, pagodas, paddy-field landscapes, with villages and sacred sites.
Sunday, 28 September 2014
Discovered in 1570 by Diego García de Palacio, the ruins of Copán, one of the most important sites of the Mayan civilization, were not excavated until the 19th century. The ruined citadel and imposing public squares reveal the three main stages of development before the city was abandoned in the early 10th century.
Founded in 1519 by the conquistador Pedrarías Dávila, Panamá Viejo is the oldest European settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas. It was laid out on a rectilinear grid and marks the transference from Europe of the idea of a planned town. Abandoned in the mid-17th century, it was replaced by a ‘new town’ (the ‘Historic District’), which has also preserved its original street plan, its architecture and an unusual mixture of Spanish, French and early American styles. The Salón Bolívar was the venue for the unsuccessful attempt made by El Libertador in 1826 to establish a multinational continental congress.
Magnificent examples of 17th- and 18th-century military architecture, these Panamanian forts on the Caribbean coast form part of the defence system built by the Spanish Crown to protect transatlantic trade.
In the 4th century, a remarkable series of decorated tombs were constructed in the cemetery of the Roman provincial town of Sopianae (modern Pécs). These are important both structurally and architecturally, since they were built as underground burial chambers with memorial chapels above the ground. The tombs are important also in artistic terms, since they are richly decorated with murals of outstanding quality depicting Christian themes.
The Buddhist monastic complex of Takht-i-Bahi (Throne of Origins) was founded in the early 1st century. Owing to its location on the crest of a high hill, it escaped successive invasions and is still exceptionally well preserved. Nearby are the ruins of Sahr-i-Bahlol, a small fortified city dating from the same period.
Timgad lies on the northern slopes of the Aurès mountains and was created ex nihilo as a military colony by the Emperor Trajan in AD 100. With its square enclosure and orthogonal design based on the cardo and decumanus, the two perpendicular routes running through the city, it is an excellent example of Roman town planning.
This famous pilgrimage site in north-west Spain became a symbol in the Spanish Christians' struggle against Islam. Destroyed by the Muslims at the end of the 10th century, it was completely rebuilt in the following century. With its Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque buildings, the Old Town of Santiago is one of the world's most beautiful urban areas. The oldest monuments are grouped around the tomb of St James and the cathedral, which contains the remarkable Pórtico de la Gloria.
Laurel forest covers some 70% of this park, situated in the middle of the island of La Gomera in the Canary Islands archipelago. The presence of springs and numerous streams assures a lush vegetation resembling that of the Tertiary, which, due to climatic changes, has largely disappeared from southern Europe.
The Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine in the south-west of Honshu Island is a cluster of mountains, rising to 600 m and interspersed by deep river valleys featuring the archaeological remains of large-scale mines, smelting and refining sites and mining settlements worked between the 16th and 20th centuries. The site also features routes used to transport silver ore to the coast, and port towns from where it was shipped to Korea and China. The mines contributed substantially to the overall economic development of Japan and south-east Asia in the 16th and 17th centuries, prompting the mass production of silver and gold in Japan. The mining area is now heavily wooded. Included in the site are fortresses, shrines, parts of Kaidô transport routes to the coast, and three port towns, Tomogaura, Okidomari and Yunotsu, from where the ore was shipped.
Bryggen, the old wharf of Bergen, is a reminder of the town’s importance as part of the Hanseatic League’s trading empire from the 14th to the mid-16th century. Many fires, the last in 1955, have ravaged the characteristic wooden houses of Bryggen. Its rebuilding has traditionally followed old patterns and methods, thus leaving its main structure preserved, which is a relic of an ancient wooden urban structure once common in Northern Europe. Today, some 62 buildings remain of this former townscape.
Friday, 12 September 2014
The Orthodox Monastery of St Catherine stands at the foot of Mount Horeb where, the Old Testament records, Moses received the Tablets of the Law. The mountain is known and revered by Muslims as Jebel Musa. The entire area is sacred to three world religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The Monastery, founded in the 6th century, is the oldest Christian monastery still in use for its initial function. Its walls and buildings of great significace to studies of Byzantine architecture and the Monastery houses outstanding collections of early Christian manuscripts and icons. The rugged mountainous landscape, containing numerous archaeological and religious sites and monuments, forms a perfect backdrop to the Monastery.
On the shores of the Bay of Bengal, bathed in the rays of the rising sun, the temple at Konarak is a monumental representation of the sun god Surya's chariot; its 24 wheels are decorated with symbolic designs and it is led by a team of six horses. Built in the 13th century, it is one of India's most famous Brahman sanctuaries.
An Orthodox spiritual centre since 1054, Mount Athos has enjoyed an autonomous statute since Byzantine times. The 'Holy Mountain', which is forbidden to women and children, is also a recognized artistic site. The layout of the monasteries (about 20 of which are presently inhabited by some 1,400 monks) had an influence as far afield as Russia, and its school of painting influenced the history of Orthodox art.
Thursday, 4 September 2014
The Vézère valley contains 147 prehistoric sites dating from the Palaeolithic and 25 decorated caves. It is particularly interesting from an ethnological and anthropological, as well as an aesthetic point of view because of its cave paintings, especially those of the Lascaux Cave, whose discovery in 1940 was of great importance for the history of prehistoric art. The hunting scenes show some 100 animal figures, which are remarkable for their detail, rich colours and lifelike quality.
The capital of the Old Kingdom of Egypt has some extraordinary funerary monuments, including rock tombs, ornate mastabas, temples and pyramids. In ancient times, the site was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The 121,967-ha Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape encompasses an extensive area of pastureland on both banks of the Orkhon River and includes numerous archaeological remains dating back to the 6th century. The site also includes Kharkhorum, the 13th- and 14th-century capital of Chingis (Genghis) Khan’s vast Empire. Collectively the remains in the site reflect the symbiotic links between nomadic, pastoral societies and their administrative and religious centres, and the importance of the Orkhon valley in the history of central Asia. The grassland is still grazed by Mongolian nomadic pastoralists.
The wooden churches of southern Little Poland represent outstanding examples of the different aspects of medieval church-building traditions in Roman Catholic culture. Built using the horizontal log technique, common in eastern and northern Europe since the Middle Ages, these churches were sponsored by noble families and became status symbols. They offered an alternative to the stone structures erected in urban centres.
Founded in the 12th century on a hill site surrounded by the Aare River, Berne developed over the centuries in line with a an exceptionally coherent planning concept. The buildings in the Old City, dating from a variety of periods, include 15th-century arcades and 16th-century fountains. Most of the medieval town was restored in the 18th century but it has retained its original character.