Iran's Ancient City of Bam among the 34 new sites inscribed on World Heritage List
The rich archaeological remains of the Iranian city of Bam, where 26,000 lost their lives in the earthquake of December 26, 2003, was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, alongside 12 other new cultural sites listed today by the World Heritage Committee holding its 28th session in Suzhou. This brings to 788 the number of cultural, natural and mixed sites now on the List.
Bam Cultural Landscape was inscribed on the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger. UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, Mounir Bouchenaki, expressed the commitment of UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura to continue efforts to salvage the cultural heritage of this devastated city.
Experts from ICOMOS, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, who presented the Bam Cultural Landscape to the Committee, explained that the rich archaeological remains of Bam had been severely hit by the earthquake but not as badly damaged as the new city.
Situated in the desert on the southern edge of the Iranian high plateau, Bam developed as a crossroads of trade in silk and cotton. Its origins can be traced to the Achaemenid period (6th-4th century BC) and it reached its heyday from the 7th to 11th centuries. Bam grew in an oasis created mainly thanks to an underground water management system (qanāts), which continues to function. The site’s main ancient remains are within a fortified citadel area (Arg), which contains 38 watchtowers, Governmental Quarters, and the historic town with its 8th or 9th century mosque, one of the oldest in Iran. This is the most representative example of a fortified medieval town built in vernacular technique using mud layers. As a result of the destruction, archaeologists have discovered new evidence of the history of the place in the Arg itself and in the surrounding territory. This includes remains of ancient settlements and irrigation systems, dating at least to the Parthian-Hellenistic period, 2nd century B.C.
Bam Cultural Landscape represents an exceptional testimony to the development of a trading settlement where various influences met in a desert environment in Central Asia. It bears an exceptional testimony to the use of mud layer technique (Chineh) combined with mud bricks (Khesht). The qanāts further provide an outstanding representation of the interaction of man and nature in a desert environment.
A total of 34 new sites were inscribed by the 21-member World Heritage Committee during its current session (29 cultural sites and five natural sites). This brings to 788 the number of listed sites (611 cultural sites, 154 natural sites and 23 mixed sites). Iceland had a site inscribed on the List for the first time today. It joined Andorra, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, St. Lucia and Togo as a new entrant on the list.
In addition to Bam, the following new sites were inscribed today:
- Germany - Dresden Elbe Valley. The 18th and 19th century cultural landscape of Dresden Elbe Valley extends some 18-km along the river from Übigau Palace and Ostragehege fields in the northwest to the Pillnitz Palace and the Elbe River Island in the southeast. It features low meadows, and is crowned by the Pillnitz Palace and the centre of Dresden with its numerous monuments and parks from the 16th to the 20th centuries. The landscape also features 19th and 20th century suburban villas and gardens and valuable natural features. Some terraced slopes along the river are still used for viticulture and some old villages have retained their historic structure and elements from the industrial revolution: notably the 147-m Blue Wonder steel bridge (1891-1893), the funicular (1894-1895), and the single-rail suspension cable railway (1898-1901). The passenger steamships (the oldest from 1879) and shipyard (ca 1900) are still in use.
- Germany - The Town Hall and Roland on the Marketplace of Bremen. The Town Hall and Roland on the marketplace of Bremen in northwest Germany are outstanding representations of civic and trading rights as they developed in the Holy Roman Empire in Europe. The old town hall was built as in the Gothic style in the early 15th century, after Bremen joined the Hanseatic League. The building was renovated in the Weser Renaissance style in the early 17th century. A new town hall was built next to the old one in the early 20th century as part of an ensemble that survived the bombarding during the Second World War. The statue stands 5.5m tall and dates back to 1404.
- Germany and Poland - Muskauer Park/Park Muzakowski. A landscaped park of 559.90-ha astride the Neisse River and the border between Poland and Germany, it was created by Prince Hermann von Puckler-Muskau from 1815 to 1844. Blending seamlessly with the surrounding farmed landscape, the park pioneered new approaches to landscape design and influenced the development of landscape architecture in Europe and North America. Designed as a ‘painting with plants’, it did not seek to evoke classical landscapes, paradise, or some lost perfection, instead it used local plants to enhance the inherent qualities of the existing landscape. This integrated landscape extends into the town of Muskau with green passages that formed urban parks framing areas for development. The town thus became a design component in a utopian landscape. The site also features a reconstructed castle, bridges and an arboretum.
- Iceland - Þingvellir National Park. Þingvellir (Thingvellir) is the National Park where the Althing - an open-air assembly, which represented the whole of Iceland - was established in 930 and continued to meet until 1798. Over two weeks a year, the assembly set laws - seen as a covenant between free men - and settled disputes. The Althing has deep historical and symbolic associations for the people of Iceland. Located on an active volcanic site, the property includes the Þingvellir National Park and the remains of the Althing itself: fragments of around 50 booths built of turf and stone. Remains from the 10th century are thought to be buried underground. The site also includes remains of agricultural use from 18th and 19th centuries, the Thingvellir Church and adjacent farm, and the population of arctic char in Lake Thingvallavatn. The park shows evidence of the way the landscape was husbanded over 1,000 years.
- Italy - Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri and Tarquinia. These two large Etruscan cemeteries reflect different types of burial practices from the 9th to the 1st century BC, and bear witness to the achievements of Etruscan culture. They are the first remains of Etruscan culture, which over nine centuries developed the earliest urban civilization in the northern Mediterranean, to be inscribed on the World Heritage List. Some of the tombs are monumental, cut in rock and topped by impressive tumuli (burial mounds). Many feature carvings on their walls, others have wall paintings of outstanding quality. The necropolis near Cerveteri, known as Banditaccia, contains thousands of tombs organized in a city-like plan, with streets, small squares and neighbourhoods. The site contains very different types of tombs: trenches cut in rock; tumuli; and some, also carved in rock, in the shape of huts or houses with a wealth of structural details. These provide the only surviving evidence of Etruscan residential architecture. The necropolis of Tarquinia, also known as Monterozzi, contains 6,000 graves cut in the rock. It is famous for its 200 painted tombs, the earliest of which date from the 7th century B.C.
- Italy - The Landscape of Val d’Orcia is part of the agricultural hinterland of Siena, re-drawn and developed when it was colonized by the city-state in the 14th and 15th centuries to reflect an idealized model of good governance and to create an aesthetically pleasing picture. The landscape’s distinctive aesthetics, flat chalk plains out of which rise almost conical hills with fortified settlements on top, inspired many artists. Their images have come to exemplify the beauty of well-managed Renaissance agricultural landscapes. The inscription covers: a planned colonized agrarian and pastoral landscape reflecting innovative land management systems; towns and villages; farmhouses; and the Roman Via Francigena and its associated abbeys, inns, shrines, bridges etc.
- Lithuania - Kernavė Archeological Site (Cultural Reserve of Kernavė). The Kernavė Archeological Site, in eastern Lithuania about 35 km northwest of Vilnius, represents an exceptional testimony to some 10 millennia of human settlements in this region. Situated in the valley of the River Neris, the site is a complex ensemble of archaeological properties, encompassing the town of Kernavé, forts, some unfortified settlements, burial sites and other archaeological monuments from the late Paleolithic period to the Middle Ages. The site has preserved the traces of ancient land use, as well as remains of five impressive hill forts, part of an exceptionally large defence system. Kernavė was an important feudal town in the Middle Ages. The town was destroyed by the Teutonic Order in the late 14th century, however the site remained in use till modern times.
- Mexico - Luis Barragán House and Studio. Built in 1948, the House and Studio of architect Luis Barragán in the suburb of Mexico City represents an outstanding example of the architect’s creative work in the post-Second World War period. The concrete building, totalling 1161-m2, consists of a ground floor and two upper stories, as well as a small private garden. Barragán’s work integrated modern and traditional artistic and vernacular currents and elements into a new synthesis, which has been greatly influential, especially in the contemporary design of gardens, plazas, and landscapes.
- Portugal - Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture. The 987-ha site on the volcanic island of Pico, the second largest in Azores archipelago, consists of a remarkable pattern of spaced-out, long linear walls running inland from, and parallel to, the rocky shore. The walls were built to protect the thousands of small, contiguous, rectangular, plots (‘currais’) from wind and salt sea water. Evidence of this viniculture, whose origins date back to the 15th century is manifest in the extraordinary assembly of the fields, in houses and early 19th century manor houses, in wine-cellars, churches and ports. The extraordinarily beautiful man-made landscape of the site is the best remaining area of a once much more widespread practice.
- Serbia and Montenegro - Dečani Monastery. The Dečani Monastery - at the foot of the Prokletije mountains, in the western part of the province of Kosovo - was built in the mid 14th century for the Serbian King Stefan Dečanski. It is also his mausoleum. It represents the last important phase of Byzantine-Romanesque architecture in the region and is the largest of all medieval Balkan churches. It contains exceptional, well-preserved Byzantine paintings, which cover practically the entire interior of the church with over 1,000 individual depictions of saints. It also has numerous Romanesque sculptures. The original marble floor is preserved, as is the interior furniture, and the main 14th century iconostasis. The Dečani treasury is the richest in Serbia, with, notably, about 60 exceptional icons from the 14th to 17th centuries. The Monastery represents an exceptional synthesis of Byzantine and Western traditions.
- Sweden - Varberg Radio Station. The Varberg Radio Station at Grimeton in southern Sweden (built in 1922-24) is an exceptionally well preserved monument to early wireless transatlantic communication. It consists of the transmitter equipment, including the aerial system of six 127-m high steel towers. Though no longer in regular use, the equipment has been maintained in operating condition. The 109.9-ha site comprises buildings housing the original Alexanderson transmitter, including the towers with their antennae, short-wave transmitters with their antennae, and a residential area with staff housing. The architect Carl Åkerblad designed the main buildings in the neoclassical style and the structural engineer Henrik Kreüger was responsible for the antenna towers, the tallest built structures in Sweden at that time. The site is an outstanding example of the development of telecommunications and is the only surviving example of a major transmitting station based on pre-electronic technology.
- United Kingdom - Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City. Six areas in the historic centre and docklands of the maritime mercantile City of Liverpool bear witness to the development of one of the world’s major trading centres in the 18th and 19th centuries. Liverpool played an important role in the growth of the British Empire and became the major port for the mass movement of people, e.g. slaves and emigrants from northern Europe to America. Liverpool was a pioneer in the development of modern dock technology, transport systems, and port management. The listed areas feature a great number of significant commercial, civic and public buildings, including St George’s Plateau.
Cultural sites inscribed from June 28 through July 1: Andorra – Madriu-Claror-PerafitaValley; Australia - Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens; China - Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom; Democratic People's Republic of Korea - Complex of Koguryo Tombs. India - Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park; India - Chhatrapati Shivaji Station (formerly Victoria Terminus); Islamic Republic of Iran – Pasargadae. Japan - Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range; Jordan - Um er-Rasas (Kastron Mefa’a); Kazakhstan - Petroglyphs within the Archaeological Landscape of Tamgaly. Mali - Tomb of Askia; Mongolia - Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape; Morocco - Portuguese City of Mazagan (El Jadida); Norway - Vegaøyan – the Vega Archipelago; Russian Federation - Ensemble of the Novodevichy Convent; Togo – Koutammakou, the Land of the Batammariba.
Natural sites inscribed during the 28th session of the World Heritage Committee : Denmark - Ilulissat Icefjord; Indonesia – Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra ; Russian Federation - Natural System of Wrangel Island Reserve; Saint Lucia - Pitons Management Area; South Africa - Cape Floral Region Protected Areas. This brings to 154 the number of natural sites inscribed on the World Heritage List.
The Committee - chaired by Zhang Xinsheng, Vice Minister of Education of China and Chairperson of China’s National Commission for UNESCO - will continue its work through July 7, notably reviewing the state of conservation of properties recognized as being of outstanding universal value. As part of this work, it will update the List of World Heritage in Danger.