Antequera Dolmens & El Torcal Mountains of Andulusia, Spain

 

Antequera Dolmens & El Torcal Mountains of Andulusia, Spain

Added to UNESCO World Heritage List in 2017

About the Site:

The site comprised three megalithic monuments: the Menga and vVera dolmens and the Tholos of El Romeral. Pictured above, is the entrance to the Menga Dolmen and below the interior.

These monumental stone tombs were constructed in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. The Structures contain chambers with lintelled roofs or cupolas and are buried beneath their original earth tumuli. They comprise some of the best examples of their kind.

The site, in addition, includes two mountains: The mountains known as El Torcal, below:

and La Peña, de los Enamorados, a mountain known as “Lover’s Leap,” below:

 

 

Libya Remains on UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Danger

All five of Libya’s World Heritage Sites were put on the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites in Danger in 2016 and they remain there. The reason is the high level of instability in Libya and damage due to looting and armed conflucts in and around the sites. These include: the Rock Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus, the archaological sites of Leptis Magna, Cyrene and Sabratha and the Old Town of Ghadamès.

The Rock Art of Tadrart Acacus

These sites are found in the Acacus Mountains, a rocky compact mountain range that is part of the Sahara Desert. The rock art found here exhibits a variety of styles dating from 12,000 BCE to 100 C.E. (See photo below by Roberto D’Angelo). The various rock art within the site suffered under Muammar Gaddafi and the endangered status of the site encompassed this era of neglect and included past looting along with vandalism that continues.

Picture of a cave painting

The Archaeological Site of Sabratha

Sabratha was a Phoenician trading post eventually rebuilt by the Romans during the 2nd and 3rd C.E. It is notable for its numerous temples, including one dedicated to the goddess Isis, who was considered to be the protector of ships and sailors. The Mausoleum of Bes is another notable sacred site within the ancient city. There is an excellent gallery of phots on the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Archeaological Site of Cyrene

picture of Cyrene and a crumbling edifice

Cyrene, founded in the 7th C BCE, was one of the prominent Greek cities of the Hellenic world. Later, it became Romanized until a large earthquake destroyed it in 365 c BCE. O

ver a thousand years of history can be found at this site (Photo above, The Temple of Zeus, by Giovanni Boccardi). The Temple of Zeu is almost as large as the Parthenon in Athens.

 

 

The Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna

picture of Leptis Magna and crumbling edifices

Leptus Magna, founded by Septimius Severus, the first Emperor from Libya, was an important city in the Roman Republic from about 111 BCE. The emperor used his wealth to erect elegant buildings, including temples (See photo below of the Severan Basilica by Sasha Coachman), throughout the city. Statues of Medusa, a fertility goddess, were found in public squares all over the city.

 

 

Burro Flats

The Site:

Burro Flats Rock Shelter and Cave Paintingspicture of a cave painting

The Location:

Undisclosed Location, Ventura County, California, U.S.A.

The Site’s Status:

National Register of Historic Places, 1979

Who considers it sacred?

The ancestors of the Chumas and the Gabrielino Tribes, and the Fernandeno Tatavian Band of Mission Indians.

Why is it sacred?

The Burros Flat is a calendric site that marks the Winter Solstice

Description:

It is on 2,849 acres of land that once was owned by Boeing for what was known as the Santa Susana Field Lab; leased to Rocketdyne aerospeace company, along with another tenant, the U.S. Department of Energy. The site was used as a nuclear research facility and for testing rocket engines. The Chumas sacred site was closely guarded and even employees did not know its location, making it one of the best-preserved rock paintings in the country.

The U.S. Department of Energy & NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) had to do extensive cleanup to rid the site of nuclear waste from nuclear meltdowns, carcinogenic dioxins, and heavy metals. The cleanup by the North American Land Trust and is protected as open space. The 2300 acres of land is restricted from farming, hunting, housing along with ranching and any other kind of development.

The Santa Ynez Chumash tribe manages the site and its location; they strictly control who may visit this sacred site. It is a ceremonial site and is only visited by Chumash head holy healers and tribal leaders.

 

Standing Rock Sioux Indian Burial Grounds

The Site:

Standing Rock Sioux Indian Burial Grounds, Stone Prayer Rings and Ancient Cairns

The Location:

North Dakota, U.S.A.

The Threat:

The 1,200 mile long Dakota Access Oil Pipeline traverses part of Standing Rock Sioux tribal lands located in North Dakota. Lawyers for the Standing Rock Sioux filed a request to stop the project, when it became apparent that the pipeline would destroy a recently identified burial ground, along with stone prayer rings and ancient rock cairns. In addition, the pipeline travels beneath the Missouri River, a primary source of drinking water for the tribe and other people downstream. Any leak in the pipeline would contaminate the drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux.Banner reads: Defend the Sacred - picture of a protest against the pipeline

Background:

See the Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! Story: Did the Dakota Access Pipeline Company Deliberately Destroy Sacred Sioux Burial Sites?

A large camp was established on the pipeline site, the Oceti Sakowin Camp. It was a historic gathering of tribes and allies who were expressing solidarity in stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline, Calling themselves, The Water Protectors’. The Oceti Sakowin Camp will be a place for future indigenous meetings.

To learn how the encampment began, read the New York Times Magazine article about the young people who first camped out at the site: “The Youth Group that Launched a Movement at Standing Rock.”

Also, read this article from the New Yorker, “Holy Rage: Lessons from Standing Rock,” by the American novelist, Louise Erdrich, a member of the Turtle Mountin Band of Chippewa Indians. Ms. Erdrich was born in Little Falls, Minnesota.

Who Considers the Site Sacred?

Standing Rock Sioux and other Sioux Tribes including other Indians throughout the U.S.

The Site’s Status:

The Standing Rock Sioux have sued the Army Corps of Engineers saying they violated the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA). NHPA requires the agency to consider the cultural significance of federally permitted sites and NEPA to consider the possible consequences associated with waterways – putting a pipeline under the Missouri River. The litigation is ongoing and a court has rejected arguments that the construction be halted while the case is in litigation.

Oil started flowing through the pipeline in the spring of 2017.

McDonnell Hall

The Site: 

McDonnell Hall

The Location:

Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, San Jose, California, U.S.A.

The Site’s Status:

National Historic Landmark, 2017

Who considers it sacred?

The Mexican American Community, the United Farm Workers Union and civil rights communities, and Catholic Diocese of San Jose.

Why is it sacred?

McDonnell Hall is where Cesar Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers Union and civil rights pioneer, began his lifelong efforts in community organization.

Description:

The modest one-story, stucco clad building, was moved to the outskirts of San Jose in 1953, and first served as a parish church for the growing Spanish-speaking Catholic community in the area. It was a place of worship as well as a social hall used by the community for meetings, celebrations, and education classes.

It was in this capacity that a young Cesar Chavez met Father Donald McDonnell and community organizer, Fred Ross. McDonnell befriended Chavez, bringing to him exposure to the teachings of Ghandi, the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the growing awareness of non-violent protest to bring out social change. Ross mentored Chavez and he began to apply these strategies to improve the plight of his friends, family, and neighbors.

It was in McDonnell Hall that Chavez began to involve himself more fully in the organization of the primarily poor and migrant community around him toward improving their treatment and status. This is where his rallying cry, ¡Si, Se Puede! (Yes! We Can!) was developed. Throughout his career, he returned to this building, to his original community, to find strength and solace.

As the parish and the population of the community expanded, the building was moved to another portion of the original site in the 1970s, when it became a parish hall to support the activities and efforts of the newly constructed Lady of Guadalupe Parish Church. The original building was re-stuccoes and modified at that time to better serve its new purpose. Plans are currently underway to restore the building to its appearance in 1953, when Chavez first began his connections to structure.

The recognition of this simple, imperfect building with the Unites States Secretary of the Interior’s highest honor emphasizes the growing the growing awareness of the National Park Service of minority and marginalized community contributions to the cultural significance of the country. The McDonnell Hall National Historic Landmark joins the Cesar Chavez National Monument in Keene, California and the Forty Acres National Historic Landmark Site in Delano, California in celebrating and continuing the work that Cesar Chavez started in 1953 in this humble former-church building in San Jose.

Nan Madol: Sacred City of Micronesia by Carol Nervig

Nan Madol rises dramatically and unexpectedly out of the Pacific Ocean. This majestic ancient city filled with sacred centers is located off the island of Pohnpei in the U.S. Micronesia. It is the largest archaeological site in the Pacific region. Nan Madol is comprised of an intricate system of waterways that crisscross 92 human constructed islets and structures. The black stone buildings are completely unique in their construction. There is no other architecture of this kind known in the world. The building of Nan Madol was an impressive engineering feat that withstood strong waves and ocean currents. The city’s construction also required divine assistance and spiritual intent when heavy megalithic stones were moved into place. Now, after standing for over 1500 years, the survival of this sacred city is threatened by deterioration.

The site was constructed on an area called, “The Reef of Heaven.” The building took place over a period of one thousand years, between 500 and 1500 A.D. Many of the islets are dominated by megalithic structures comprised of long, naturally prismatic, log-like basalt stones. Some of these rocks weigh 50 to 60 tons. Evidence suggests that some of the islets played an important roles in the religion of a thriving Pacific Ocean culture. Upper Madol, “Madol Powe,” was the priests’ town and Lower Madol, “Madol Pah,” was occupied by high-ranking rulers. Both sections included important sacred sites.

According to Pohnpeian oral history, initial construction of Nan Madol was begun by two brothers, Ohlosohpa and Olosihpa.

These holy men sailed from a land in the west searching for a place to build a sacred center where they could worship a presence called the “honored spirit of the land.” After several attempts they found a suitable location. With the assistance of gods and their companions, they first erected a rock on the reef to serve as a transit for laying the islets’ foundations. Strong waves made building nearly impossible. Finally an important man arrived on a magical rock to assist with the project. He cast a spell and the rock turned into an outer foundation wall that protected the islet structures from ocean forces. This wall has the only gate providing entrance to Nan Madol from the ocean. It is believed that this gate leads to an honored underground city, Kahnimweiso.

Islets

Just beyond the entry gate stands the most impressive of the site’s structures. The islet is called Nan Douwas, which means “in the mouth of the high chief.” It was a place to pray to “the honored spirit of the land,” as well as a refuge and meeting place for tribal chiefs. This islet consists of an immense double-walled stone burial vault that housed the remains of ancient rulers. Its impressive construction contains 13,500 cubic meters of coral fill, 4,500 cubic meters of basalt and has twenty-five-foot high walls. Because of its spectacular appearance, Nan Douwas is the most frequently visited islet.

The main religious center of Nan Madol was the islet of Idehd. Every year, at a time determined by divination and change in the agricultural seasons, the high priests performed extended rituals of homage, supplication and atonement. The rituals ended with the offering of a turtle to the great saltwater eel that acted as a medium between the people and the ruler’s god. The eel’s acceptance of the turtle indicated that, “the honored spirit of the land,” was pleased with human conduct on Pohnpei.

Other islets had important sacred ceremonial sites. Darong was symmetrically constructed around a natural reef pool. Eleven tunnel-like channels ran through the coral fill. These were constructed with carefully cut coral bricks set between rows of basalt columns. It is believe that these channels were used to keep sacred eels, Legends indicate that the pool was also used for seasonal ritualistic clam fishing. A remarkable two-ton pounding stone found on this islet suggests a ceremonial structure of priest’s house.

The islet of Peikapw had two sacred pools. One probably held the turtles used on Idehd. The other was a magical pool where rulers could see all events taking place on neigh boring islands. IN addition, there are two sacred trees and stones said to have once been women who neglected a famous giant god.

Kohnderek was the most important islet for burial rituals. When a person dies their body was perfumed with coconut oil and wrapped in a mat along with flowers, fish bones, and some of their belongings. They were taken to visit all the islets, finally stopping at Kohnderek. The most important funeral dancing and drinking occurred on this islet before the burial on one of the other islets.

Preservation

As the end of the 20th century grows closer, Nan Madol is in danger of destruction from the ravaged of tie and from increased tourism. Immediate preservation needs are the stabilization of the islets’ retaining walls and the walls of the structures, vegetation removal and maintenance and proper management of eco-tourism.

The protection and preservation of Nan Madol was provided for in 2986 in its proclamation as a U.S. National Historic Landmark. The site is being nominated to the World Heritage List of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO because of its “outstanding universal value from the historical, aesthetic and anthropological points of view.” (See Site Saver, Vol. II, No. 3 on UNESCO World Heritage Sites.)

The state of Pohnpei is passing its own preservation legislation, which will further protect the site’s integrity and aesthetic qualities.

The importance of the site has also attracted a group of private individuals who have formed the Nan Madol Foundation. This non-profit group is dedicated to researching, preserving, and protecting the area. They are developing a master plan for education and economic development.

Tourists are increasing at this unique site. Their numbers are expected to increase exponentially when the National Geographic Society releases its new book Mysteries of Mankind  later this year. Approximately 600,000 copies will be produced, featuring such sacred sites as the Pyramids, Stonehenge, Easter Island, and Nan Madol.

In anticipation of more visitors, the Nan Madol Foundation is working to preserve the site and its culture by building small family-owned traditional-style hotels. They envision a strong educational component for visitors, which will emphasize traditional island arts, crafts, dances, and story telling. By such forward thinking it is hoped that this site can be preserved for future generations before overdevelopment and overuse destroy its integrity.

 

Carol Nervig is a former Peace Corps volunteer who served on the island of Pohnpei. Sacred Sites International first published this story in 1992. It took over 25 years for Nan Madol to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

 

Nan Madol – Sacred City of Micronesia

Nan Madol

The Site:

Nan Madol, The Federated States of Micronesia.

The Location:

Offshore along the eastern coast of Pohnpei Island.

Description:

Nan Madol is a series of more than 100 human constructed islets made of artificual basalt and coral boulders. The islets are home to the megalithic ruins of temples, tombs, palaces and residences built between 1200 and 1600 CE. It was the sacred ceremonial center of the Saudeleur dynasty. It represents a dynamic manifestation of the chiefly structure of this Pacific Island culture that continues today under the control of the traditional management of the Nahnmwarki.

The Threat:

Siltation of the seawater is causing overgrowth of mangroves, which are engulfing the structures and some are threatening the integrity of the monuments.

Why is it Sacred?

The very fact that this complex of temple structures and their sheer number exist is a testament to the elaborate religious practices that have been and continue to be practiced at these sites.

What is its Status?

The site is listed, according to the Kaselehile Press in July of 2016, on the U.S. Registry of Historical Sites. The Federated States of Micronesia legally protected the site, as did the Pohnpei Historic Preservation Office. The site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016 and places on the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger.

Editor’s Note: Sacred Sites International first learned of this site in 1992 and covered it in our newsletter, Site Saver, because it was endangered. 

Bears Ears National Monument, Utah

Bears Ears National Monument

The Site:

Bears Ears National Monument

Map of Bears Ears location in Utah

The Location:

Utah, U.S.A., in San Juan Country in Southeastern Utah on public land. The Bureau of Land Management, United States Forest Service, oversees the sites.

 The Threat:

President Donald Trump approved the U.S. Secretary of the Interior recommendation for a significant downsizing of the land included in this National Monument in October of 2017. As reported in the Washington Post, Trump plans to reduce the monument to two or three small places. Such a reduction of the monument’s land leaves vast areas open to oil and mineral drilling and cattle grazing. This has the potential of destroying the sacred qualities of the place along with sacred sites and artifacts.

Who Considers It Sacred?

The major American Indian groups in Utah: Diné Nation (Navajo), Hopi Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Unitah & Ouray Ute Tribe and the Pueblo of Zuni.

In addition there are numerous tribes and pueblos who have cultureal ties to the land in and around Bears Ears: the White Mountain Tribe, the San Juan Kaibab & Utah Paiute Tribes, Hualapai Tribe, and the Pueblos of Acoma, Cochiti, Isletta, Jemez, Laguna, Nambé, Ohkay Owingeh, Picuris Pojoaque, Sandia, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Taos, Tesuque, Ysleta Del Sur and Zia.

Why is it Sacred?

The Indian tribes who regard Bears Ears as sacred have oral histories about the ears of a bear, manifest as two prominent towering forms looming above the mesa.

It is estimated that there are over 100,000 significant cultural and sacred sites which can be found throughout the extensive monument. These include ancestral cliff structures, ancient surface structures built from rock and ancient Diné Hogans. There are also hunting and gathering territories used to gather sacred plants for ceremonies, and incised rock sites that tell the history of the Native Peoples who have inhabited the lands included in the Bears Ears National Monument.

The Inter-Tribal Coalition website has information about the various regions of Bears Ears and photo slideshows.

What is its Status?

In mid-September 2017, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, delivered his “Final Report Summarizing Findings of the Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act.”

Zinke’s report states, “It appears that certain monuments were designated to prevent economic activity such as grazing, mining and timber production, rather than to protect specific objects.”

 

West Berkeley Shellmound, Village & Burial Site

Picture of West Berkeley Shellmound

The Site:

West Berkeley Shellmound & Ceremonial & Burial site, CA-ALA-307, USA.

Contact:

Corrina Gould, Sogorea Té Land Trust

The Location:

1990 Fourth Street, Alameda County, Berkeley, CA, opposite Spenger’s Fish Grotto. It is located on private land.

The Threat:

A mixed-use development of shops, apartments and an underground parking garage that would destroy what remains of the West Berkeley Shellmound and its associated burials.

Who Considers the Site Sacred?

Descendants of the Chochenyo Ohlone people.

Why is it Sacred?

The Chochenyo Ohlone people lived here from 3700 B.F.C to 800 C.E. Where people lived, they buried their dead and conducted ceremonies. It is considered to be the oldest of more than 425 shellmounds that once ringed the shore of the San Francisco Bay.

It evolved over centuries of use, spanning hundreds of generations, around the mouth of Strawberry Creek where it flowed to the Bay. The Ohlone, principally ate shellfish and they discarded the shells and added soil until the site become a mound. The mound or midden eventually grew to approximately 20 feet in height and several football fields long.

What is its Status?

It was chosen to be a Berkeley City Landmark in 2002. In 2003, it was found to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The following year, it was deemed eligible for the California State Register of Historic Places.

 

Pahne Maritime Village, California

picture of a body of water in a marsh

Part of the Pahne Village Complex, a Traditional Cultural Property and Sacred Site, is known by its designation as CA-SDI-13325. It is currently endangered by US Marine Corps military operations that are degrading the site.


Who Considers the Site Sacred?

Descendants of Pechanga and Juaneño Acjachemen tribes. Pachanga and Juaneño Acjachemen tribal representatives made an inspection of the site in May of 2017. Even though the Sierra Training Program had not begun, heavy track vehicles had made deep ruts throughout the site, displacing the decomposed granite and the underlying geocloth and exposing the cultural midden.

The mitigation is not sufficient to protect the site from vehicles weighing in excess of 30,000 lbs. The Marines have promised to put more decomposed granite on the site after each use. However, each time they use the site, they will have  grade and compact it.

This will eventually cause impacting erosion on the site and the destruction of the intact cultural deposits, including possible human remains.

“Military training operations by the U.S. Marine Corps

degrade parts of the Pahne Village Site – a significant

ceremonial and burial site.”

picture of a part of the Pahne Village Site which has been damaged by U.S. Marine Corps' machinery

Damage to part of Pahne Village Site by U.S. Marine Corps

Why is it Sacred?

 It is considered to be culturally significant and a sacred site. As such, it has ceremonial significance and as a village site it may contain burials.

What is its Status?

 It was listed as eligible on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. It is    also listed on the California Native American Heritage Commission’s Sacred Lands Inventory.

The Location

Located in San Mateo Valley, this U.S. Marine Corps Installations West Marine Corps Base is known as Camp Pendelton, CA. It is on Federal land owned by the Marines.

 

The Threat

Part of the Pahne Village Complex is used for heavy track vehicles by the U.S. Marine Corps in a program known as the Sierra Training Program. The top 50 cm has been disturbed by heavy track vehicles and sites plowed in this manner contain significant cultural materials. The Marine Corps mitigation of decomposed granite is not sufficient protection.