August 2, 2010

World Heritage Status for Two Mexican Sites

UNESCO logoUNESCO today announced that it has inscribed World Heritage status on two Mexican sites. El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro and the prehistoric caves of Yagul and Mitla, in the Central Valley of Oaxaca, were both honored.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is as international a concern as its name implies. The 34th session of the World Heritage Committee met in Brasilia, Brazil, to consider the applications of 39 sites dotted around the globe. Six were added to the World Heritage List, while a seventh received an extension. The list is formed of those places which are deemed to represent humankind's 'cultural and natural heritage', with 'outstanding universal value'.

Mexico already had 25 cultural and 4 natural sites inscribed on this list. These can be explored on-line at the UNESCO World Heritage site. The two new additions boost our number to 27 cultural sites.

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (The Royal Road of the Interior Land) is a long-distance trade route that stretches from Mexico City to Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico, USA. It is 2560 kilometers (1600 miles) long. The American section of it has been on the US National Historic Trail list since 2000.

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro

UNESCO's statement read:

Camino Real de Tierra Adentro was the Royal Inland Road, also known as the Silver Route. The inscribed property consists of 55 sites and five existing World Heritage sites lying along a 1400 km section of this 2600 km route, that extends north from Mexico City to Texas and New Mexico, United States of America.

The route was actively used as a trade route for 300 years, from the mid-16th to the 19th centuries, mainly for transporting silver extracted from the mines of Zacatecas, Guanajuato and San Luis Potosí, and mercury imported from Europe.

Although it is a route that was motivated and consolidated by the mining industry, it also fostered the creation of social, cultural and religious links in particular between Spanish and Amerindian cultures.

UNESCO press release: 'World Heritage Committee inscribes three new cultural sites, three natural sites and one extension on World Heritage List'

There is a virtual tour of the trail on the American Bureau of Land Management site. However, it should be noted that, for some, the road actually extends as far as Veracruz. John Todd has written all about that on his site.

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro is a very scenic route to travel along. It would take several days to thoroughly enjoy its views and the wayside attractions. A good place to start might be the National Museum of Viceroyalty, in Mexico City, where the 'Plata. Forjando México' (Silver. Forging Mexico) runs until October 2010. This exhibition shows the historic silverware that was such a mainstay of those using the trail. Other major urban stops along the way are Zacatecas, Durango, Parral and Chihuahua, before crossing into America.

Prehistoric Caves of Yagul and Mitla

There are around 100 caves and rock shelters in the Central Valley of Oaxaca, around Yagul and Mitla, which contain evidence of pre-historic human habitation. Many contain cave paintings, ceramics or stone tools dating to around 8000 BCE. The site has been on Mexico's Lista Indicativa de México since 1998.

Prehistoric Caves of Yagu

UNESCO's statement read:

This property lies on the northern slopes of the Tlacolula valley in subtropical central Oaxaca and consists of two pre-Hispanic archaeological complexes and a series of pre-historic caves and rock shelters. Some of these shelters provide archaeological and rock-art evidence for the progress of nomadic hunter-gathers to incipient farmers.

Ten thousand-year-old Cucurbitaceae seeds in one cave, Guilá Naquitz, are considered to be the earliest known evidence of domesticated plants in the continent, while corn cob fragments from the same cave are said to be the earliest documented evidence for the domestication of maize.

The cultural landscape of the Prehistoric Caves of Yagul and Mitla demonstrates the link between man and nature that gave origin to the domestication of plants in North America, thus allowing the rise of Mesoamerican civilizations.

UNESCO press release: 'World Heritage Committee inscribes three new cultural sites, three natural sites and one extension on World Heritage List'

Entrance to the vicinity of the caves is free, as it is maintained by the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National Institute of Anthropology and History). Nearby are the ruins of a later settlement, where the Zapotec founded their great city, in Yagul, around 500 BCE. The nearest modern city is Tlacolula de Matamoros.

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