The ancient Iraqi city of Ashur and Afghanistan's Bamiyan Valley, where towering statues of Buddha were destroyed by the former Taleban regime, have been designated world heritage sites by the United Nations.
The Buddhas had stood for around 1,800 years
They were among 24 sites added to the annual list compiled by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).
Sites in Gambia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Sudan were also recognised for the first time.
The list now includes 754 sites of "outstanding universal value", according to Unesco.
The sites in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have suffered from war and civil unrest, have also been added to Unesco's List of World Heritage in Danger.
The new Unesco heritage sites are:
- Purnululu National Park, Australia: Located in the state of Western Australia, it covers an expanse of nearly 250,000 hectares. The park's Bungle Bungle Range contains sandstone eroded into the shape of bee hives over 20 million years.
- Three parallel rivers of Yunnan protected areas, China: A 1.7 million hectare site in Yunnan province, containing parts of three of the great rivers of Asia: the Yangtze, Mekong and Salween. The rivers run parallel through steep gorges, from 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) to 6,000 metres high.
Monte San Giorgio, Switzerland: A wooded mountain shaped like a pyramid. Contains some of the best fossil records of marine life from about 250 million years ago.
Uvs Nuur Basin, Russian Federation/Mongolia: About a million hectares. Contains a rich diversity of birds and is home to the gerbil, jerboas, the marbled polecat, snow leopard, mountain sheep and the Asiatic Ibex.
- Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam: A dramatic, forested highland which includes underground caves and rivers and is mainly covered by tropical rainforest.
- Bamiyan Valley, Afghanistan: Previously home to two colossal statues of Buddha, which were blown up by the Taleban in February 2001, provoking worldwide condemnation. Unesco says the choice "symbolises the hope of the international community that extreme acts of intolerance, such as the deliberate destruction of the Buddhas, are never repeated again".
- Quebrada de Humahuaca, Argentina: A major trade route over the past 10,000 years. Shows traces of the Inca Empire (15th to 16th Century) and of the fight for independence in the 19th and 20th Centuries.
- Historic Quarter of the Seaport City of Valparaiso, Chile: An interesting example of late 19th Century urban and architectural development in Latin America.
- The Jewish Quarter and St Procopius' Basilica in Trebic, Czech Republic: A reminder of the co-existence of Jewish and Christian cultures in the Middle Ages to the 20th Century. The Jewish Quarter provides an insight into a community of a bygone era, while the St Procopius' Basilica, built in the 13th Century, is an example of the influence of Western European architecture on the region.
- James Island and related sites, Gambia: Significant for its relation to the beginning and abolition of the slave trade. An early gateway to the interior of Africa.
- Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, India: Located in the foothills of the Vindhyan Mountains on the southern edge of the central Indian plateau. Contains five clusters of natural rock shelters, displaying paintings that appear to date from the Mesolithic period right through to the Historical period.
- Takht-e Soleyman, Iran: The archaeological site in north-western Iran includes the principal Zoroastrian sanctuary partly rebuilt in the Ilkhanid (Mongol) period (13th Century) as well as a temple of the Sasanian period (6th and 7th Centuries AD) dedicated to Anahita.
- Ashur (Qala'at at Sherqat), Iraq: The ancient city of Ashur dates back to the 3rd millennium BC. From the 14th to the 9th Centuries BC, it was the first capital of the Assyrian Empire. The city was destroyed by the Babylonians, but revived during the Parthian period in the 1st and 2nd century AD.
- The White City of Tel-Aviv - the Modern Movement, Israel: The White City was constructed from the early 1930s until 1948. The buildings were designed by European-trained architects, who created an outstanding architectural ensemble of the modern movement in a new cultural context.
- Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy, Italy: The nine Sacri Monti (Sacred Mountains) of northern Italy are groups of chapels and other architectural features created in the late 16th and 17th Centuries and dedicated to different aspects of the Christian faith.
- The Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, Kazakhstan: The mausoleum, in the town of Yasi, now Turkestan, was built from 1389 to 1405. It is one of the largest and best-preserved constructions of the Timurid period (1370-1507 AD).
Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda of Querétaro, Mexico: Built during the last phase of the conversion to Christianity of the interior of Mexico in the mid-18th Century. The richly decorated church façades are of special interest as they represent an example of the joint creative efforts of the missionaries and the Indios.
Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland, Poland: The churches represent outstanding examples of the different aspects of medieval church-building traditions in Roman Catholic culture.
- Citadel, Ancient City and Fortress Buildings of Derbent, Russian Federation:
Part of the northern limits of the Sassanian Persian Empire, which extended east and west of the Caspian Sea. The town of Derbent has retained part of its medieval fabric.
Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape, South Africa: An open, expansive savannah landscape situated on the northern border of South Africa joining Zimbabwe and Botswana. Mapungubwe developed into the largest kingdom in the sub-continent before it was abandoned in the 14th Century. The almost untouched remains of the palace sites, a settlement area and two earlier capital sites survive.
Ubeda-Baeza: Urban duality, cultural unity, Spain: The urban morphology of the two small cities of Ubeda and Baeza in southern Spain dates back to the Moorish 9th Century and to the Reconquista in the 13th Century. In the 16th Century, the cities were renovated along the lines of the emerging Renaissance.
- Gebel Barkal and the Sites of the Napatan Region, Sudan: Includes several archaeological sites, over more than 60 km (37 miles) in the Nile Valley, of the Napatan (900 to 270 BC) and Meroitic (270 BC to 350 AD) cultures, of the second kingdom of Kush. Tombs, with and without pyramids, temples, living complexes and palaces are also found on the site.
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom: The historic landscape garden illustrates the art of gardens from the 18th to the 20th Centuries. The gardens house botanic collections (conserved plants, living plants and documents) which have been considerably enriched through the centuries.
Matobo Hills, Zimbabwe: Distinctive rock land forms associated with human occupation from the early Stone Age to early historical times, and intermittently since. They also feature an outstanding collection of rock paintings.
- Central Amazon Conservation Complex, Brazil: Comprises the largest protected area in the Amazon Basin and one of the planet's richest regions in terms of biodiversity.
- Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, China: These tombs were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2000. The property inscribed this year as an extension consists of two distinct burial sites of the Ming Dynasty emperors. Xiaoling, the first emperor of that dynasty is buried there, as are 13 others.
- Archaeological Site of Panama Viejo and the Historic District of Panama, Panama: Panama Viejo covers the location and ruins of the first European settlement on the American mainland and pre-Hispanic remains. It features impressive ruins. Moreover, older remains, dating to up to 1,000 years before the arrival of the Europeans, were excavated on this site.
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