This historic US landmark has just been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List

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A huge prehistoric structure in Ohio has become the 25th US landmark to be awarded a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, which is made up of eight monumental earthworks built around 2,000 years ago, was among the sites to be added on Tuesday as the UNESCO World Heritage Committee continues to review nominations in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The collection of earthen mounds built by Indigenous peoples is described as the “most representative surviving expressions of the Indigenous tradition now referred to as the Hopewell culture,” with some believed to be used as lunar or astral observatories.

“The earth walls of the enclosures are among the largest earthworks in the world that are not fortifications or defensive structures,” says the official UNESCO website.

Historic site

“Their scale is imposing by any standard: the Great Pyramid of Cheops would have fit inside the Wright Earthworks.”

The inclusion of Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks marks the first US addition to the World Heritage List since the nation rejoined UNESCO earlier this year.

“Just three months after rejoining UNESCO, the United States has its 25th site inscribed on the World Heritage List, which illustrates the richness and diversity of the country’s cultural and natural heritage,” says Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO.

“This inscription on the World Heritage List highlights the important work of American archaeologists, who discovered here remains dating back 2,000 years, constituting one of the largest earthwork constructions in the world.

“Inclusion on the Heritage List will make this important part of American history known around the world.”

The US formally quit UNESCO in 2019, citing “anti-Israel bias” after the organization accepted a Palestinian bid for full membership and inscribed sites in Palestinian territories onto the World Heritage List. Israel also withdrew from the organization.

A selection of buildings by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, was inscribed that same year, joining the likes of fellow US landmarks Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon National Park and the Statue of Liberty on the list.

Other new additions

Established in 1978, the World Heritage List has inscribed well over 1,000 sites of “outstanding universal value” in the more than four decades since then.

Only countries that sign the convention creating the World Heritage Committee and list can nominate sites.

Participants from around the world have been examining the 50 contenders nominated to be included since Saturday.

New additions to the list announced over the last few days include the astronomical observatories of Kazan Federal University in Russia; Ethiopia’s Bale Mountains National Park; the Maison Carrée of Nîmes, a Roman temple in southern France; Cambodia’s Koh Ker archaeological site; and Gordion and the capital city of ancient Phrygia in Turkey.

Gaya Tumuli, made up of seven burial mounds built by the Gaya Kingdom, in South Korea, the Viking-Age Ring Fortresses in Denmark and the National Archaeological Park Tak’alik Ab’aj in Guatemala have also been added to the list.

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