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2015 UNESCO World Heritage Site Additions

1. Al Maghtas ("Bethany Beyond the Jordan")

Jordan

Al Maghtas is believed by archeologists to be the location of the Baptism of Jesus. Located on the Jordanian banks of the River Jordan, the area encompasses not only riverside baptismal pools, but also nearby churches, former monasteries, and caves frequented by hermits for centuries. The Israeli side of the riverbank, Qasr el Yahud, recently reopened to the public after nearly 45 years.

(image via Cybjorg~commonswiki, CC)

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2. Aqueduct of Padre Tembleque Hydraulic System

Mexico

You might think aqueducts we only used by the ancient Romans, but North America has its own share of these arched architectural features. Built from 1553 to 1570, the Padre Tembleque Hydraulic System travels 28 miles through East-Central Mexico and features the tallest single-level arcade of arches built for an aqueduct in the world.

(image via Carmelita Thierry, CC)

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3. Baekje Historic Areas

South Korea

These historic areas include the sites of ancient Korean capitals, fortresses, and royal tombs. Dating as far back as 475 CE, these new World Heritage Site additions help archeologists and historians better understand one of the oldest kingdoms to exist on the Korean Peninsula, particularly during a time of important interplay between ancient China, Korea, and Japan.

(image via Michael, CC)

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4. Blue and John Crow Mountains

Jamaica

This large national park, covering over 4% of Jamaica's land area, holds national significance as a refuge for the indigenous Caribbean peoples who used to area to escape enslavement by Europeans. Besides the historical significance, the region is also prized for its biodiversity as the only home for numerous endangered endemic animals.

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5. Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale at Palermo

Italy

The architecture of Palermo, Cefalù, and Monreale on the Italian island of Sicily is noteworthy for the way it mixes features from differing cultural styles. The exteriors of the buildings are restrained and typically romanesque, a common style inherited from Northern Europe's Normandy. The interiors, however, drew inspiration from the Byzantine Empire, as can be seen in this gold inlaid mosaic from the Cafalù Cathedral.

(image via Fintan Corrigan, CC)

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6. Champagne Hillsides, Houses, and Cellars

France

We can't thank France enough for this gift to the world. Any sparkling wine labeled as champagne has to be produced in the Champagne region of France. Not only did the U.N. vote to give World Heritage Site status to the fields of grapes, the production sites and distribution centers were also given the historic status. Cheers to that!

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7. Christiansfeld

Denmark

The small Danish village of Christiansfeld is an early example of a completely planned community, dating back to 1773. Conceived by the Moravian Church, a large Protestant denomination, the village buildings are all built around a central church and are based on similar architecture and design features. Next year, maybe Stepford will get the nod.

(image via Villy Fink Isaksen, CC)

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8. Climats and Terroirs of Burgundy

France

It seems the U.N. has an affinity for wine. A second French wine-making was also added to the list of World Heritage Sites, this one in eastern France. Known for their dry red wines, Burgundy is famous for taking into account all the various environmental factors that contribute to subtle varieties of taste in the finished product.

(image via Hedwig Storch, CC)

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9. Cultural Landscape of Maymand

Iran

This small village might only have around 700 inhabitants, but people have been living in this area for over 12,000 years. Stone carvings from 7,000 BCE can be found, but permanent settlements probably weren't established until 800 BCE. Villagers lived in homes carved among the rocks, which inhabitants still occupy to this day.

(image via SM MIRHOSSEINI, CC)

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10. Diyarbakir Fortress and Hevsel Gardens

Turkey

Like many other ancient cities on this list, the eastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir has been home to residents for centuries. Built around 350 CE, the castle fortress was restored multiple times by the many empires that called Turkey home. Still a prominent feature on the city skyline, the walls stretch for over three miles.

(image via Julia Buzaud, CC)

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11. Ephesus

Turkey

Known primarily as the former home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the city of Ephesus was one of the major cities of ancient Greece, yet it's current location is in present-day Turkey. Besides containing many ancient Greek and Roman ruins, Ephesus also holds historical importance for the Christian faith, serving for a time as the home for the apostles John and Paul.

(image via Benh LIEU SONG, CC)

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12. Forth Bridge

United Kingdom

Still the second-longest cantilever bridge in the world, Forth Bridge was completed in 1890 and remains a current symbol of Scotland. The span carries a railway that shaved about three hours off the travel time from London to Aberdeen. Its unique design of gridded supports was the first major steel work in the U.K. In comparison, the Eiffel Tower, erected around the same time, was wrought iron.

(image via Kim Traynor, CC)

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13. Fray Bentos Industrial Landscape

Uruguay

Famous for its meatpacking industry (yes, you read that correctly), Fray Bentos became a world-wide name during the two world wars as a producer canned corned beef. At its peak, the area's main meatpacking plant operated 24 hours a day with 5,000 employees who were able to process up to 400 cows every hour.

(image via peatc, CC)

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14. Great Burkhan Khaldun Mountain

Mongolia

Burkhan Khaldun is the most sacred mountain in Mongolia in a religious tradition influenced by Buddhism and the local shamn culture. Research aslo suggests that the area was Genghis Khan's birthplace and is host to his unmarked tomb. While many archeological expeditions have been undertaken, the search has remained unfruitful. 

(image via Ganzorig Gavaa, CC)

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15. Necropolis of Bet She’arim

Israel

The ancient Jewish cemetary of Bet She'arim is hewn into the local mountainside, and is today an Iraeli National Park. It became the second most-important burial site for Jews after the Mount of Olives. Beyond the religious significance, Bet She'arim also is important archeologically for the many paintings and inscriptions in various languages that dot the cave walls.

(image via Rf~commonswiki, CC)

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16. Par Force Hunting Landscape in North Zealand

Denmark

As the royal hunting grounds of Danish kings sice the the Middle Ages, these forest of North Zealand island (no releation to New Zealand's namesake) serve as examples of Baroque North European landscaping. The road network through the forests consisted of a spoke-and-whell grid that allowed equally easy access to all areas of the land.

(image via .bastian, CC)

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17. Rjukan–Notodden Industrial Heritage Site

Norway

This highly complex industrial landscape was founded in the early 1900s to include a hydroelectric plant and fertilizer factory complete with company-owned apartment buildings. The site's success and high output allowed it to produce the world's most widely-use fertilizer at the time.

(image via David Aasen Sandved, CC)

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18. Rock Art in the Ha'il Region

Saudi Arabia

The Ha'il region's rock art joined Lascaux's in being named a World Heritage Site. Near the ancient Saudi Arabian city of Jubbah, founded around 7,000 year ago, ancient peoples have left rock carvings and other petroglyphs of horses and camels, some dating as far back as 10,000 years old.

(image via Nora Ali, CC)

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19. San Antonio Missions

United States

The newest additions to the United States' growing list of World Heritage Sites are the San Antonio Spanish missions, the most famous of which is the Alamo. These five Franciscan missions dot the San Antonio River and preserve the history of colonial Spain and its influence throughout the region of the modern-day Mexican-American border. Best of all, a visit won't cost you a dime.

(image via valkyrieh116, CC)

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20. Singapore Botanic Gardens

Singapore

Particularly noted for its National Orchid Garden located within the larger Singapore Botanic Garden complex, this new World Heritage Site is only the third botanic garden to be honored with this designation. More than just gardens, the area also promotes biological research and conservation science education. Plus, it shows just how universal the British idea of a "botanic garden" has truly become.

(image via Velela, CC)

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21. Sites of the Meiji Era Industrial Revolution

Japan

The Meiji Restoration brought about rapid industriali growth in Japan, contributing the the country's emergence as a highly modernized nation during the 20th Century. One of the most results of this industrialization is Hashima Island, a coal mining facility that closed in 1974. The concrete apartments buildings on the island are now notable as urban ruins and have made their way into popular culture by being featured in the James Bond film Skyfall

(image via kntrty, CC)

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22. Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District with Chilehaus

Germany

Another densely built urban area that arose as a result of the rapid industrialization of the early 20th Century, the Speicherstadt district remains the largest warehouse district in the world. Occupying a single island in the Elbe River, the uniform architecture of the warehouses are red-brick multi-storey structures that tower over the water.

(image via Thomas Wolf, CC)

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23. Susa

Iran

The ancient city of Susa, located in the middle of Mesopotamia, is one of the oldest known cities in the region. Archeological excavations have uncovered residential, governmental, and royal settlements dating back to the 4000s BCE, some of the earliest examples of organized urban development by humans.

(image via Hansueli Krapf, CC)

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24. Tusi Sites

China

The final World Heritage Site inscription are the tribal areas of ancient Chinese chieftans or Tusi. The sites are an example of an early unifying goverment that tried to unify varying Chinese ethnic groups under a single national banner; however, the Tusi system allowed ethnic minorities to retain their cultural identities and customs.

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