World Heritage List Grows As UNESCO's 40th Session Of The World Heritage Committee Continues

UNESCO just increased the number of amazing places to see before you die, by adding nine more world heritage sites to their eclectic World Heritage List. During the first day of their 10-day meeting, the agency reportedly discussed the cultural significance of certain ancient sites to decide if they were worthy of being mentioned on the World Heritage List. Here are the five places that UNESCO highlighted in their Friday announcement.

Philippi, Greece

It's common for massive structures like the Great Wall of China to make UNESCO's World Heritage List for its function of keeping enemies out in ancient times. But in this case, UNESCO is honoring the city behind a great wall. Philippi, Greece, lies at the bottom of a fortress between two ancient regions, Macedonia and Thrace.

In 356 B.C., the king for whom the city was named, King Philippi II, walled the city to protect it from invaders. What's left today is the ruins of the city of Philippi, which in ancient times was as important as Rome.

Today, many people visit Philippi on spiritual excursions, as the city is the ancient site mentioned in the biblical book of Acts.

Antequera Dolmens — Spain

UNESCO has dubbed the Antequera Dolmens site in Spain, "one of the most remarkable architectural works of European prehistory and one of the most important examples of European Megalithism." With tombs that hide in the Andalusian mountains, Peña de los Enamorados and El Torcal, the Antequera Dolmens are a wonder to behold.

Gorham Cave Complex — Gibraltar, United Kingdom

Within the Rock of Gibraltar lives four caves that served as a home of British Neanderthals for over 120,000 years, according to Business Insider. The Gorham Cave Complex was added to the World Heritage List for its archaeological and paleontological significance.

Ani, Turkey

Ani is a city that flourished from 10th to 11th centuries CE when it was an Armenian kingdom that controlled the Silk Road. The medieval city is home to many religious structures of both historic Christian and Islamic significance. The ancient site also holds many medieval military structures.

[caption id="attachment_3315690" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Ani Cathedral in Kars, Turkey. [Image by Burhan Ozbilici/AP Images] Ani Cathedral in Kars, Turkey.[Photo by Burhan Ozbilici/AP Images][/caption]

Stećci — Medieval Tombstones Graveyards

Stecci is the combination of 30 sites, located in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, and Croatia. The medieval tombstones represent the iconographic skills of Europeans from 12th to 16th centuries CE.

More World Heritage Sites

The first five new World Heritage sites inscribed during the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee are only the beginning. As the gathering of the committee continued into the weekend, four more wondrous sites were added to the World Heritage List. Those other sites are:
  1. Qana aqueducts, Iran
  2. Zuojiang Huashan landscape, China
  3. Nalanda Mahavihara, India
  4. Nan Madol, Micronesia
Perhaps one of the most culturally significant among the second list is Nalanda Mahavihara in India. This historic site was at the heart of Buddhist education for over 700 years. When India won its independence and became the Republic of India, then president Dr. Rajendra Prasad promised to revitalize the religious epicenter. In 1951, India set the first stone on Nalanda Mahavihara for rebuilding. Beside the structure, the following engraving was written in honor of Indian liberation:
"Let the rays of the sun of Nalanda rise from the summit of this rock in order to brighten the vernacularafter the passing away of its nights of darkness."

[caption id="attachment_3315702" align="aligncenter" width="500"]India's Nalanda Mahavihara [Photo by PRASHANT RAVI/AP Images] India's Nalanda Mahavihara[Photo by PRASHANT RAVI/AP Images][/caption]

UNESCO is expected to add even more wonders to the World Heritage List. The 40th World Heritage Committee meeting will run until July 20, in Istanbul, Turkey. The meeting is being chaired by the director general of Overseas Promotion and Cultural Affairs at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lale Ülker.

[Photo by Matt Cardy/Stringer/Getty Images]