The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization added five archaeological and natural sites to its World Heritage List on Friday, including the ancient city of Babylon in Iraq and Iceland’s Vatnajökull National Park.
UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee’s list grants legal protection under international treaties to sites across the world.
UNESCO added the 7th century B.C. ruins of the ancient city of Babylon, the capital of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, as a cultural site. The site includes outer- and inner-city walls, gates, palaces and temples. The organization described the ruins as “a unique testimony to one of the most influential empires of the ancient world.
Babylon has also historically been linked with the Hanging Gardens, one of the seven wonder of the ancient world, though a British academic suggested in 2013 that the gardens were actually in Nineva, 300 miles away.
Another new cultural site includes the ancient ferrous metallurgy sites of Burkina Faso, which comprises five locations in different provinces of the West African country. UNESCO said the site includes 15 standing, natural-draught furnaces, mines and traces of dwellings. The town of Douroula features the oldest evidence of iron production in the country.
“Even though iron ore reduction — obtaining iron from ore — is no longer practiced today, village blacksmiths still play a major role in supplying tools, while taking part in various rituals,” UNESCO said.
Paratyand Ilha Grande is a mixed cultural and natural site in Brazil joining the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is located between the Serra da Bocaina mountain range and the Atlantic Ocean.
The site includes the historic coastal town of Paraty and four protected natural areas in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. The town location is home to threatened wildlife, including the jaguar and the white-lipped peccary. The town was a major shipping hub in the 17th century, shopping gold to Europe and serving as an entry point for goods and African slaves.
UNESCO said Paraty has retained its 18th century plan and much of its colonial architecture.
UNESCO added two natural sites to its World Heritage List this year, including Vatnajökull National Park, which covers 14 percent of southeast Iceland. The land includes 10 volcanoes
“The interaction between volcanoes and the rifts that underlie the Vatnajökull ice cap takes many forms, the most spectacular of which is the jökulhlaup — a sudden flood caused by the breach of the margin of a glacier during an eruption,” UNESCO said. “This recurrent phenomenon has led to the emergence of unique sandur plains, river systems and rapidly evolving canyons.”
The other natural site is the French Austral Lands and Seas, a collection of emerged land masses in the southern Indian Ocean, including the Crozet Archipelago, the Kerguelen Islands, Saint-Paul and Amsterdam Island, as well as 60 small sub-Antarctic islands. UNESCO described it as an “oasis” that covers more than 67 million hectares.
UNESCO said the region contains the largest population of king penguins and yellow-nosed albatrosses in the world.
In addition to naming the five new sites, UNESCO also extended the Ohrid region in Albania.