Two new sites in the Greater Mekong Subregion have been inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage List. This makes it 27 sites in the six member countries of the Mekong Region.
The new sites are:
- Bagan, Myanmar
- Plain of Jars, Lao PDR
The proposal to list Bagan was approved by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee at a meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Saturday. This marks Myanmar’s second entry to the list after World Heritage Status was granted to the ancient Pyu cities of Sri Ksetra, Halin and Beikthano in 2014.
The Myanmar government has pledged to remove all hotels from the existing archaeological sites to a dedicated hotel zone by 2028. Fulfilling this promise, and meeting other conservation targets, will be a key criterion for Bagan to sustain its World Heritage status.
The ancient city has more than 3500 surviving stupas, temples, monasteries, fortifications and other monuments, according to the Department of Archaeology and National Museums. It also has archaeological sites and the remains of an ancient water-management system. Many structures were damaged in the 2016 earthquake.
Lao PDR has received confirmation that the Plain of Jars will be inscribed as a World Heritage Site later this year. Laos has been working for 20 years to have the Plain of Jars, known locally as Thong Hai Hin, listed as a World Heritage Site. When UNESCO announces the site’s inscription, it will be the third such site in Laos.
Director General of the Heritage Department, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism Thongbay Phothisane, said on Facebook on May 14 that Thong Hai Hin has been accepted as a World Heritage Site and its listing is expected to be officially announced at the The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) meeting in Azerbaijan.
The Plain of Jars World Heritage proposal involves 11 separate places where the ancient stone jars are located in the province’s districts of Paek, Phaxay, Phoukoud and Kham. The mysterious jars were carved from sandstone and granite, and their size ranges from very small to about 3.5 metres in height. They are thought to be more than 2,000 years old. The Plain of Jars comprises about 80 distinct sites but only 11 are included in the listed area as they have the highest concentration of stone jars.
The Plain of Jars, located on a plateau in central Laos, gets its name from more than 2,100 tubular-shaped megalithic stone jars used for funerary practices in the Iron Age. This serial site of 15 components contains large carved stone jars, stone discs, secondary burials, tombstones, quarries and funerary objects dating from 500 BCE to 500 CE. The jars and associated elements are the most prominent evidence of the Iron Age civilization that made and used them until it disappeared, around 500 CE.
Lying on a bend of the Ayeyarwady River in the central plain of Myanmar, Bagan is a sacred landscape, featuring an exceptional range of Buddhist art and architecture. The site’s eight components include numerous temples, stupas, monasteries and places of pilgrimage, as well as archaeological remains, frescoes and sculptures. The property bears spectacular testimony to the peak of Bagan civilization (11th–13th centuries CE), when the site was the capital of a regional empire. This ensemble of monumental architecture reflects the strength of religious devotion of an early Buddhist empire.