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Throne Villages

Date of Submission: 06/06/2013
Criteria: (iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Palestine to UNESCO
Ref.: 5717

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Latitude: 35ْْْ 12'5.123
Longitude: 32ْْْ 2'9.556

Latitude: 35ْْْ 12'7.192
Longitude: 32ْْْ 24'16.615

Latitude: 35ْْْ 12'54.038
Longitude: 32ْْْ 13'51.893

Latitude: 35ْْْ 11'31.679
Longitude: 32ْْْ 18'5.876

Latitude: 35ْْْ 5'49.63
Longitude: 32ْْْ 2'47.195

Latitude: 35ْْْ 8'21.89
Longitude: 32ْْْ 7'49.665

Latitude: 35ْْْ 1'36.752
Longitude: 31ْْْ 30'23.773

Latitude: 35ْْْ 11'56.832
Longitude: 32ْْْ 7'49.412

Latitude: 35ْْْ 5'48.495
Longitude: 32ْْْ 14'5.581

Latitude: 35ْْْ 1'17.655
Longitude: 31ْْْ 56'46.851

Latitude: 35ْْْ 6'9.555
Longitude: 31ْْْ 56'34.723

Latitude: 35ْْْ 11'40.996
Longitude: 32ْْْ 16'33.206

Latitude: 35ْْْ 14'48.024
Longitude: 32ْْْ 21'19.864

Throne villages represent a homogeneous architectural horizon, confined to the central highlands of Palestine. During the 18th and 19th century, these highlands were divided into twenty-four administrative domains (sheikdoms), ruled by sheikhs who belonged to rich or noble families. The villages in which the sheikhs and their clans resided were called "throne villages".

Throne villages reflect the social and political role-played by the local political leadership of sheiks at that period; these "county seats of the local leaders" were remarkable for their architectural style. It was distinctive in its scale and spatial organization. The feudal system in the central highlands was determined by a different approach adopted by the Ottoman government with the decline of its central political power and the rise of the power of city governors and local leadership. Large families, anxious to gain more power, played a crucial role in this system.

The sheikh, who enjoyed great social and political status, was basically the tax collector of his "sheikhdom" on behalf of the Ottoman government from all the villages in his territory. As a result, these sheikhs gained tremendous power and authority, which was reflected in their life style.

In addition the sheiks were closely related, and often allied themselves to urban notables. This also influenced their life style; their mansions had more similarities to urban than peasant architecture, a very distinct style compared to peasant houses.

The above factors influenced the formation, usage and functional division of the sheikhs' residences; significant architectural features emerged: a defensive architectural style, their location on top of the hills surrounded by the peasants small houses, the high fortified walls, the monumental main entrances and decorated wooden gates, the courtyard, open terraces and the bent L-shape entrance hall which provides maximum privacy for the women of the sheikh family, unlike peasant women.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Throne villages are unique due to the historical conditions in which they emerged and the architectural remains and influence they left in the Palestinian social and cultural life. It clearly reflects a significant example of human settlement during the late Ottoman period.

The semi-feudal system in the central highlands of Palestine represents a phenomenon, which was distinctive to this area in particular, "rural feudal leaders taking control instead of government representatives such as Walis (governors), rich urban notables, or city notables". This authority and privilege that rural leaders gained was echoed in the distinctive style of a rich and valuable heritage, which remains until today as a physical witness to their power and prestige.

Criterion (iii): Throne villages, as feudal administrative centers, bear an exceptional testimony to the power of local leaders in the central highlands of Palestine during the late Ottoman rule, which have left behind significant traces of architectural, social and cultural context.

Criterion (iv): As a reflection of the social and cultural role played by the feudal "sheikhs" in the 18th and 19th centuries, a different trend in architectural and rural planning was adopted in the villages to satisfy their needs. An exceptional example of a harmonious integration of urban architecture within rural areas took place, a hybrid between peasant and urban architecture.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Throne villages are viewed as an important category of heritage sites in Palestine. A conservation and management plan is therefore being implemented for some of the mansions in order to protect them accordingly to the new law for the protection of archaeological sites and cultural heritage sites of Palestine.

Comparison with other similar properties

Ottoman rule expanded in "Great Syria" in the nineteenth century, dividing the areas into administrative regions. Lebanon, Jordan and Syria share similar examples of such expansion. However, the local leaders who were in control differed from one region to another and in those countries they were centered mainly in the city centres. Hence the signs of power, during this historical period, were different from place to place, and the Palestinian throne villages are a distinct regional variant.