Here are the 25 most endangered cultural heritage sites in the world | Smart News

A view of Teotihuacan, San Juan Teotihuacan, Mexico
Courtesy of the World Monuments Fund

The World Monuments Fund (WMF) announced its biennial watch list of 25 at-risk cultural heritage sites in late February, just before Russia invaded Ukraine. The New York-based organization’s semi-annual list is highly influential in raising awareness and funds for the preservation of vital regions, structures and histories around the world.

Notably, the list was selected by a panel of experts before Russia stepped up attacks on Ukraine in late February, according to NPR. Last week, the WMF released a separate statement expressing “deep concern” over the threat to civilian lives and Ukrainian cultural heritage. Already, the history and local history museum in Ivankiv, north of the capital Kiev, has suffered a serious fire linked to the violence. Authorities also condemned a Russian strike that hit near the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial center in Kiev, according to Nadav Gavrielov of the New York Times.

“Ukraine is home to an extraordinary wealth of cultural heritage sites, all of which are endangered by this conflict,” adds the WMF in its statement against the ongoing violence. “Our experience of post-crisis recovery around the world continues to reveal the lasting consequences of destruction on communities.”

A reddish stone mosque surrounded by palm trees

The Sixty Dome Mosque in Bagerhat, Bangladesh needs climate adaptation to ensure its survival.

Courtesy of the World Monuments Fund

A view of a large thatched roof and a building surrounded by trees

The sacred houses in Praingu Matualang village on Sumba Island, Indonesia will be lost without community training in the traditional knowledge needed to build and maintain these structures.

Courtesy of the World Monuments Fund

WMF President Bénédicte de Montlaur told NPR’s Neda Ulaby that this year’s selection stands out for its focus on the dangers of global climate change. Sites affected by rising temperatures and other climate change issues include the ancient Nubian pyramids of Nuri in Sudan and Hurst Castle in the UK, a coastal fortress built in 1544 by order of King Henry VIII. Last February, a section of the historic artillery fort partially collapsed under the pressure of rising seas in 2021, as Francesca Street reports for CNN.

In Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley, much of the local population depends on running water through traditional public fountains, known as dhunge dhara, Where hitis. Dated in some areas to the 6th century CE, this centuries-old distribution system will require mapping and maintenance as development and changes in the water levels of the aquifer threaten its survival.

“[A] a lot of the work will be not only engineering studies, but also talking to local communities to understand where they get their water from, where their ancestors got their water from, to be able to map these historical systems and then revive them,” de Montlaur told NPR.

An example of a carved public fountain in Nepal

An example of cut stone hiti or public water fountain in Kathmandu valley, Nepal

Courtesy of the World Monuments Fund

The list also includes famous destinations, such as the temples of Teotihuacán in Mexico, and lesser-known gems, including the oldest and largest cemetery in the Maldives, Kolkata’s Chinatown and The People’s House or the African modernist architecture of the Maison du Peuple, in Burkina Faso, according to a WMF statement.

Some sites are vulnerable to ongoing war or violence, while others suffer from too much or too little tourism. In Egypt, for example, the ancient city of Abydos receives very few visitors and far too little government oversight, resulting in the deterioration of one of the oldest and most important sites in history. of the country, according to CNN. Teotihuacán, Mexico, draws throngs of tourists every year, but residents of the nearby town have historically been excluded from the economic benefits of this bustling tourist spot, according to WMF.

Additionally, the list highlights sites that honor underrepresented communities. In the United States, for example, a recent survey found that monuments across the country overwhelmingly honor those who have historically wielded the most power and money, in other words, white men. These patterns also apply globally:[m]all famous historic places and monuments are reflections of power and privilege that do not represent the full human experience,” the WMF noted in its statement.

In this vein, the list aims to raise awareness of stories that are ignored, repressed, or underrepresented, such as those of the historic community of Africatown in Mobile, Alabama.

A bombed-out, empty public square in central Benghazi

Severely damaged by war, the historic Silphium Plaza in Benghazi, Libya is in need of revitalization.

Courtesy of the World Monuments Fund

A richly decorated tomb covered in red and white geometric patterns

Jahangir’s tomb in Lahore is the only Mughal imperial tomb in Pakistan and requires restoration.

Courtesy of the World Monuments Fund

A view of a cemetery surrounded by white sand and palm trees

At Koagannu Cemetery, the oldest and largest cemetery in the Maldives, the site’s distinct coral stone architecture is under threat from rising sea levels due to climate change.

Courtesy of the World Monuments Fund

The descendants of the slaves transported on the Clotilde, the last known slave ship to arrive in the United States, built and founded the colony after the Civil War and continues to live there now. As reported by Lawrence Specker for, the community made headlines in 2019 when archaeologists discovered the remains of the Clotilde in the Mobile River. Africatown resident Lorna Gail Woods, whose great-great-grandfather was on the ship, said Smithsonian Allison Keyes at the time she had heard stories about the Clotilde and his family history since his childhood.

The WMF hopes that the increased visibility of the site will allow residents of Africatown to use this discovery to their advantage, to “protect their homes and call for environmental justice”.

Since the listing’s inception in 1996, the WMF estimates it has raised about $100 million for conservation efforts at more than 300 sites, according to the statement. Readers can explore the full list of 2022 Watchlist sites here, explore photos of previously highlighted sites, and view additional lists on the WMF website.

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