The World Heritage Committee meeting in Brasilia has today has inscribed three new cultural sites, including two in Mexico and one in Brazil. It also inscribed three natural sites in China, Kiribati, Reunion Island (France) and extended a site already on the World Heritage List in Bulgaria.
The cultural sites are (in order of inscription):
Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (Mexico)
Camino Real de Tierra Adentro was the Royal Inland Road, also known as the Silver Route. The inscribed property consists of 55 sites and five existing World Heritage sites lying along a 1400 km section of this 2600 km route, that extends north from Mexico City to Texas and New Mexico, United States of America. The route was actively used as a trade route for 300 years, from the mid-16th to the 19th centuries, mainly for transporting silver extracted from the mines of Zacatecas, Guanajuato and San Luis Potosí, and mercury imported from Europe. Although it is a route that was motivated and consolidated by the mining industry, it also fostered the creation of social, cultural and religious links in particular between Spanish and Amerindian cultures.
Prehistoric caves of Yagul and Mitla in the Central Valley of Oaxaca (Mexico)
This property lies on the northern slopes of the Tlacolula valley in subtropical central Oaxaca and consists of two pre-Hispanic archaeological complexes and a series of pre-historic caves and rock shelters. Some of these shelters provide archaeological and rock-art evidence for the progress of nomadic hunter-gathers to incipient farmers. Ten thousand-year-old Cucurbitaceae seeds in one cave, Guilá Naquitz, are considered to be the earliest known evidence of domesticated plants in the continent, while corn cob fragments from the same cave are said to be the earliest documented evidence for the domestication of maize. The cultural landscape of the Prehistoric Caves of Yagul and Mitla demonstrates the link between man and nature that gave origin to the domestication of plants in North America, thus allowing the rise of Mesoamerican civilizations.
São Francisco Square in the town of São Cristovão (Brazil)
São Francisco Square, in the town of São Cristovão, is a quadrilateral open space surrounded by substantial early buildings such as São Francisco Church and convent, the Church and Santa Casa da Misericórdia, the Provincial Palace and the associated houses of different historical periods surrounding the Square. This monumental ensemble, together with the surrounding 18th- and 19th- century houses, creates an urban landscape which reflects the history of the town since its origin. The Franciscan complex is an example of the typical architecture of the religious order developed in north-eastern Brazil.
The natural sites inscribed are (in order of inscription)
China Danxia is the name given in China to landscapes developed on continental red terrigenous sedimentary beds influenced by endogenous forces (including uplift) and exogenous forces (including weathering and erosion). The inscribed site comprises six areas found in the sub-tropical zone of south-west China. They are characterized by spectacular red cliffs and a range of erosional landforms, including dramatic natural pillars, towers, ravines, valleys and waterfalls. These rugged landscapes have helped to conserve sub-tropical broad-leaved evergreen forests, and host many species of flora and fauna, about 400 of which are considered rare or threatened.
Phoenix Islands Protected Area (Kiribati)
The Phoenix Island Protected Area (PIPA) is a 408,250 sq.km expanse of marine and terrestrial habitats in the Southern Pacific Ocean. The property encompasses the Phoenix Island Group, one of three island groups in Kiribati, and is the largest designated Marine Protected Area in the world. PIPA conserves one of the world's largest intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems, together with 14 known underwater sea mounts (presumed to be extinct volcanoes) and other deep-sea habitats. The area contains approximately 800 known species of fauna, including about 200 coral species, 500 fish species, 18 marine mammals and 44 bird species. The structure and functioning of PIPA's ecosystems illustrates its pristine nature and importance as a migration route and reservoir. This is the first site in Kiribati to be inscribed on the World Heritage List.
Pitons, cirques and remparts of Reunion Island (France)
The Pitons, cirques and remparts of Reunion Island site coincides with the core zone of La Réunion National Park. The property covers more than 100,000 ha or 40 % of La Réunion, an island comprising two adjoining volcanic massifs located in the south-west of the Indian Ocean. Dominated by two towering volcanic peaks, massive walls and three cliff-rimmed cirques, the property includes a great variety of rugged terrain and impressive escarpments, forested gorges and basins creating a visually striking landscape. It is the natural habitat for a wide diversity of plants, presenting a high level of endemism. There are subtropical rainforests, cloud forests and heaths creating a remarkable and visually appealing mosaic of ecosystems and landscape features.
Pirin National Park (Bulgaria) (extension)
Spread over an area of over 27,000 ha, at an altitude between 1008 and 2914 m in the Pirin Mountains, southwest Bulgaria, the site comprises diverse limestone mountain landscapes with glacial lakes, waterfalls, caves and predominantly coniferous forests. It was added to the World Heritage List in 1983. The extension now covers an area of around 40,000 ha in the Pirin Mountains, and overlaps with the Pirin National Park, except for two areas developed for tourism (skiing). The dominant part of the extension is high mountain territory over 2000m in altitude, and covered mostly by alpine meadows, rocky screes and summits.
These sites are in addition to 20 other mixed and cultural sites inscribed or extended during the current session of the Committee in Sri Lanka, the United States of America, United Republic of Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Australia, India, Iran (2), Marshall Islands, Republic of Korea, Viet Nam, China, Tajikistan, France, Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Austria, Romania and Spain.
The 34th session of the World Heritage Committee is being held under the chairmanship of the Minister of Culture from Brazil, João Luiz da Silva Ferreira. The meeting opened on 25 July and will continue through to 3 August. A total of 39 sites are being considered for inscription on the World Heritage List.