UNESCO has added over 40 new World Heritage Sites to its list of protected areas and buildings, ranging from the natural wonders of forests and mountains to the culturally significant monuments and memorials of human history.
After deliberations at the 45th World Heritage Committee in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia, the list contains nearly 1,200 sites considered to be of “outstanding universal value”, with natural, cultural, or a mix of both sites featured.
The number may still grow, with talks not set to finish until September 25 – but until then, discover below some of the most recent amazing and intriguing additions to the record of our planet’s heritage.
Pictured above, the Gaya Tumuli are burial mounds built by the Gaya, an ancient confederacy in the south of the Korean Peninsula. The confederacy existed from the 1st to 6th century and, through changes in their distribution and goods found within, the mounds are thought to provide clues about Gaya society.
Evaporitic karst and caves of Northern Apennines
Located in the Northern Apennines of Italy, this rock region represents one of the most well-preserved and studied examples of the evaporitic karst phenomena, where gypsum rock has dissolved to form an extensive and unique terrain.
This includes over 900 densely packed caves, some of which are thought to be the deepest known gypsum caves in the world.
Old tea forests of the Jingmai Mountain
One of the cultural additions to the list, the villages surrounded by the old tea groves of Jingmai Mountain in China reflect over a thousand years of tradition. Tea lies at the heart of this – the unique climate lends itself to tea cultivation, maintained by the Indigenous communities.
According to UNESCO, ceremonies and festivities in the region also center around tea, with the belief that spirits live among the groves.
In the Dutch city of Franeker sits a rather unsuspecting-looking building, containing the oldest working orrery in the world. A real-time, mechanical scale model of the Solar System (or at least what we thought it looked like at the time), the Eisinga Planetarium was built by wool manufacturer Eise Eisinga between 1774 and 1781.
It takes up the entire ceiling of what used to be Eisinga’s bedroom – a much cozier way to sleep under the stars.
Cold winter deserts of Turan
Spanning 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) across Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, the ecosystem of the cold winter deserts of Turan is a biologist’s dream – if it weren’t for the long, dry summers and sharply cold winters.
In spite of the extreme climate, a wealth of diverse flora and fauna live in the arid landscape, including threatened species such as the saiga antelope and goitered gazelle.
Other sites on the list include the mysterious deer stone monuments of Mongolia, the ancient town of Si Thep in Thailand, and Martinique’s imposing active volcano, Mount Pelée.
Which of the new additions would you most like to see?