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The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has added dozens of new sites to the UNESCO World Heritage List, ranging from ancient Native American mounds in Ohio to Viking forts in Denmark and the Biblical city of Jericho.

Argentina’s Navy School of Mechanics, a military school turned secret detention center, has been named a UNESCO site. Photo by Alessandro Grussu.

A handy guidebook to some of the world’s most significant historical and cultural sites, the UNESCO World Heritage List saw 33 new cultural treasures and nine natural wonders added during this month’s 45th session of the World Heritage Council held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Sites on five continents were selected from a roster of nominees to the permanently inscribed on the World Heritage list.

The sole U.S. site added to the list in 2023 was the Hopewell Ceremonial Monuments in Ohio, a series of eight monumental earthen structures built up to 2,000 years ago. UNESCO called the structures, now reduced to mounds, “the most representative surviving expressions of the Indigenous tradition now referred to as the Hopewell culture.”

The Hopewell Ceremonial Monuments in Ohio. Photo from the National Park Service.

“Their scale and complexity are evidenced in precise geometric figures as well as hilltops sculpted to enclose vast, level plazas,” according to UNESCO. “There are alignments with the cycles of the sun and the far more complex cycles of the Moon. These earthworks served as ceremonial centers and the sites have yielded finely crafted ritual objects fashioned from exotic raw materials obtained from distant places.”

The ring-shaped Viking Age forts of Denmark were constructed between 958 and 987 C.E. under the reign of the Danish Viking King Harald Bluetooth at Aggersborg, Fyrkat and Nonnebakken, and were positioned to defend important land and sea trade and transportation routes. Tel es-Sultan in Jericho, part of ancient Palestine, includes traces of settlements near the perennial ‘Ain es-Sultan spring dating back to the eighth or ninth century B.C.

Other notable additions to the UNESCO list include:

  • Remains of a ninth-century settlement on the Tunisian island of Djerba
  • A secret detention and torture center dating from the 1976-83 military dictatorship in Argentina
  • The Eisinga Planetarium in Franeker, Netherlands
  • World War I cemeteries in Belgium
  • Hoysala-style temple complexes in southern India
  • Monuments and the ancient city of Si Thep in Thailand
  • The Maison Carree Roman temple in Nimes, France

UNESCO World Heritage List