The 2008 Sacred Sites International List of Sites strives to bring
The 2008 List of Sacred Sites includes a host of finalists from numerous
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Quicklist of Sites
Location: Montignac, France
Official Listings: UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1979
Description: Lascaux cave, discovered in 1940, is a horizontal, wet cave covering 325 meters over its various galleries. Over 17,000 years old, it is one of the greatest concentrations of prehistoric rock paintings, pictographs, and petroglyphs in the world. The grotto consists of a series of limestone walled chambers: the Hall of the Bulls, Axial Passage and Shaft are covered with a hard limestone forming an irregular textured surface that exhibits only paintings. Other chambers have softer walls and were easier to work into engravings, although they do contain some paintings.
The cave depicts the animal world of prehistoric people and is filled with images of galloping bulls, horses and deer. The paintings are particularly notable because of their compositional and technical complexity. Several techniques were used including the use of sharpened sticks darkened with color for outlining animals, direct application of iron and manganese, daubing pigment using moss to produce a dappled aspect on horses, and blowing oxide through a hollow reed to provide an ephemeral quality that suggests the breath of the animal.
Significance: The cave is often referred to as the Sistine Chapel of Prehistoric Art because of its profound beauty and skill with which it was executed. Shortly after its discovery, Abbé Henri Breuil, a French archaeologist, and ethnologist, theorized that the site was used as a spiritual place. Joseph Campbell called Lascaux a “temple cave.” He also believed that Lascaux was associated with initiation and with the magic of the hunt. The paintings are especially remarkable for the sophisticated images that suggest the artists understood and used perspective in their compositions, a technique that did not resurface until the Renaissance. The natural contours on the walls enhance movement and lend perspective to the great herds of running bison.
Threat to the Site: The cave has been under attack since 1998 from mold, fungi and bacteria. A new air conditioning system put into place in 2000 involved many workers coming in and out of the cave and it is believed that they did not properly disinfect their shoes upon entering, thereby bringing a common local mold into the cave. Authorities began spraying massive doses of antibiotics and fungicides in an effort to stop the rapidly spreading organisms. The foreign organisms continued to advance so most of the air conditioning system was shut down raising the temperature of the cave.
In 2001, authorities aggressively poured quicklime over the floor of the cave in an effort to stop the fungus. Compresses soaked in a mixture of fungicides and antibiotics were then applied directly on the paintings.
By 2002, the fungi and mold retreated, but the bacteria were still causing large dark spots to grow in the cave. An invasive and highly labor intensive, mechanical removal treatment was then tried. This involved the removal of the bacterias’ roots and proved to be damaging because crews were constantly inside physically removing the spots. Furthermore, the brown bacterial spots that remain are highly visible.
By 2006, colonies of black spots, some as large as human hands, were quickly proliferating, spreading over painted and unpainted surfaces. The spots have yet to be identified by a microbiologist. Some of the paintings are in critical condition and color tones are fading.
The cave, in addition, is currently very wet and water can be seen running over the face of paintings. The limestone which gave the cave a remarkable brilliance, has turned gray. Current managers have found no treatment and the spots continue to spread.
Poor management of the site, lack of independent oversight, and piecemeal treatments indicates the extremely urgent need for a board of scientific experts to develop a workable protocol for the protection of this site.
Nominated By: The International Committee for the Preservation of Lascaux
How You Can Help: Please sign the on-line petition to Save Lascaux: www.petitiononline.com/Lascaux
You can also send tax-deductible donations to: The International Committee for the Preservation of Lascaux, 322 Lewis Street, Oakland, CA 94607. The Committee is in the process of forming an independent group of scientists such as microbiologists and people working in biofilm, a relatively new science devoted to the flora and fauna of walls, to help formulate a policy and plan for the cave’s restoration and management.
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Location: California, USA; the watershed ranges from Mount Shasta down to Shasta Lake.
Description: The watershed extends from the McCloud River’s origins from a natural spring in the Panther Meadows on the flanks of Mount Shasta, to the river’s confluence with the Sacramento River. Various federal and private agencies and entities own and manage the watershed.
Significance: The McCloud River watershed is home to the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. They Winnemem are water people, caretakers and guardians of the entire watershed. Since time immemorial they have prayed at their sacred sites along the river; they sing to the water and dance for its wellbeing. Like many tribes the Winnemem were devastated by contact with European settlers. Only 125 Winnemem survive out of over 14,000 and they struggle to maintain their traditions and their culture. Initiated by Florence Jones, and carried on by current leader Caleen Sisk-Franco, they have undertaken a spiritual revitalization. Crucial to the maintenance of their ability to practice their sacred traditions is the preservation of their sacred places throughout the McCloud River watershed. Without their ceremonial sites such as Puberty Rock, and the sacred spring at Panther Meadows on Mount Shasta, they will be lost as a people and as a culture.
Threat to the Site: The U. S. Bureau of Reclamation has proposed a plan to raise the Shasta Dam from between 6 feet to 200 feet. Any expansion would flood many of the Winnemem’s last remaining sacred sites, as well as much of the McCloud River. This would force the Winnemem to dig up the remains of their ancestors and rebury them elsewhere, just as they did when the dam was originally constructed. Ceremonial sites such as Puberty Rock would be entirely submerged. The government is expected to release an Environmental Impact Report in the Spring of 2009.
The watershed includes 33 sacred sites, ranging from burial grounds to village sites to ceremonial places still in use by the Winnemem Wintu. These include sites such as Puberty Rock, where coming-of-age ceremonies for young women are held; this sacred place is located next to a former Winnemem village where former leader and healer Florence Jones grew up. The village site, now a US Forest Service campground, is also where the largest Winnemem massacre occurred at the hands of European gold seekers in the 1800s.
Nominated By: The Sacred Land Film Project; http://www.sacredland.org/
How You Can Help: Please join an Urgent Action Letter-Writing Campaign. Send polite letters to Senator Barbara Boxer asking her to save the Winnemem Wintu’s remaining sacred places by working to prevent Shasta Dam from being raised at any level. To raise the level of Shasta Dam would cause an environmental disaster, flooding fragile ecosystems and flooding tribal cultural and sacred lands. In addition, ask Senator Boxer to restore federal recognition to the Winnemem Wintu Tribe to ensure that their sacred sites, their religious ceremonies practiced at these sites and their culture will not be lost.
Senator Barbara Boxer
Location: Wisconsin, USA (exact location not disclosed for the protection of the site)
Official Listing: National Register of Historic Places, 1991
Description: A panel of 33 petroglyphs on a seam of andalusite schist. The iconology of the panel ranges from Early Archaic (8,000 BPE) to Mississippian (900-1400 BPE). In addition, there is an occupational component under excavation.
Significance: Very few cases of rock art excavation have occurred in North America and it is hoped that articulation may be established between the petroglyphs and habitation site. It is also a very old site, exhibiting iconography patently Archaic, with potential for even earlier horizons. The pecked image of a lanceolate projectile point with a concave base suggests Paleo-Indian origin (10-11,000 BPE).
Threat to the Site: The site lies within a privately owned working quarry. Occasional blast rubble falls on the site, but has so far not caused any noticeable damage. Trees have grown up around the site, and produced a lot of shade, which in turn, causes substantial leichen growth that is invading the petroglyphs. There is also substantial abrasive run-off.
Nominated By: Mid-America Geographic Foundation, http://webpages.charter.net/magf/index.htm
Location: Murujuga, Australia
Official Listing: Australian National Heritage List, 2007
Description: The Dampier Rock Art precinct, covering many square miles, has the largest concentrations of Aboriginal petroglyphs in the world and Australia’s largest collection of megalithic stone arrangements, some dating to 10,000 BPE. The site contains in excess of one million petroglyphs of which 400,000 have been surveyed. The petroglyphs contain cultural and spiritual elements embodying a worldview tied to the landscape.
The Dampier Rock Art is the largest cultural heritage site of Australia, and the only surviving patrimony of the Yaburara people. Site Update: This site was listed on the 2005 Sacred Sites International Most Endangered Sites’ List.
Petrochemical development has destroyed up to 24% of the petroglyphs. A multi-billion dollar petrochemical plant has been added to already existing industries. At that time it was estimated that there would be an increase in the atmospheric pollution emissions by about 300%. Since the SSIF 2005 listing, it is predicted that some of the industrial emissions have been reduced to roughly 200%. It is estimated than an additional 520 petroglyphs have been removed or destroyed, first 159 and in 2007 another 180 by Woodside Energy, the rest by Rio Tinto. As a percentage of the Murujuga rock art complex, this is not significant, being about 0.1% of the original total, but this slowing down in destruction is a result of the vigilant campaign mounted by the International Federation of Rock Art’s Robert Bednarik.
The main concern remains the acidification of the atmosphere, which has yielded acid ran for the past several years; it is down from pH 7.2 to pH 4.5 in October 2008. Acidity on the actual rock face has been recorded as low as pH 2.0, equal to battery acid. In these conditions, all rock art will have been bleached off by the end of this century. In July of 2007, IFRAO, succeeded in getting Dampier listed on the Australian National Heritage List. IFRAO is in the process of securing UNESCO World Heritage listing for Dampier. Another plan is to render the polluters legally liable for the destruction of Dampier and to sue them.
The Threat: The Australian government has located the country’s largest tonnage harbor next to the petroglyphs. In addition, the site is under pressure from residential encroachment, industrial and petrochemical development. It is especially at risk from mono-Nitrogen Oxides produces during combustion resulting in toxic smog that erodes the petroglyphs. In the fall of 2008, the Australian government gave permission to the Woodside Company for the removal of 941 rock art engravings to make way for a Liquified Natural Gas Plant known as the Pluto LNG plant. The Friends of Australian Rock Art have mounted a campaign to stop the removal of petroglyphs. See below to help.
Nominated By: International Federation of Rock Art Organizations (IFRAO)
How You Can Help: You can sign an on-line petition to Save Dampier. Please go to this web address and click on Petition at http://mc2.vicnet.net.au/home/dampier/web/index.html
Please sign another petition to stop removal of petroglyphs: www.standupfortheburrup.com Read more about this site under the Preservation section, 2005 Most Endangered Sites List at www.sacred-sites.org and at http://www.heritage.gov.au/cgi-bin/ahpi/record.pl?NHL105727
Location: New York City, New York
Official Listing: National Register of Historic Places, 1980; National Historic Landmark, 1996
Significance: The Eldridge Street Synagogue was built in 1887 as the first house of worship built by Eastern European Jews on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. From time of its 19th century opening, it has been a symbol of the religious freedom and economic opportunity sought by so many immigrants in America. It served as the center of social and religious life for thousands of immigrants during the peak of Eastern European migration to the United States. It was where people came to learn English, find a job, get a meal, talk to a friend, and generally assimilate into the American way of life. It is the most significant remaining marker of the huge Jewish community that flourished on New York’s Lower East Side from the 1850s to the 1940s. It is also an active place of worship with an unbroken line of congregations dating to 1887.
Description Pre-Restoration: As described by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker, December 10, 2007, “Decades of enforced neglect had left the sanctuary sealed off and with pigeons roosting in its rafters.” “…like the Twilight Zone. The room was covered with dust. There were prayer shawls strewn about, and ceramic spittoons on the floor…In the ark were thirty Torahs, in various stages of decomposition.”
The main sanctuary had been boarded up for almost forty years. Stairways collapsed, rain leaked through the roof and damaged walls and fixtures. Stained glass windows were broken and their leading had softened causing the glass to fall out. The interiors had been painted over, the plaster was delaminating and it was infested with mold.
Description Post-Restoration: The exterior of the synagogue has been restored to its 1887 appearance with Gothic, Moorish and Romanesque elements and the interior brought back to its 1918 state of opulence. It exhibits the ornate style of the larger European synagogues and also echoes the great cathedrals, with a huge rose window, displaying a Jewish resonance. The twelve roundels of the rose window are thought to represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the five keyhole windows, to symbolize the five books of Moses. Stars of David decorate the windows and other elements of the façade.
The interior has undergone a $20 million restoration, completed in 2007, and spearheaded by the Friends of the Eldridge Street Synagogue that is now known as the Eldridge Street Project. The restoration has brought back the color and grandeur of the original hand-painted walls and ceiling, the delicate stained glass windows and myriad of murals throughout the traditional (men downstairs and women upstairs) seating arrangements. Special artifacts include the hand-carved walnut ark, the reader’s platform centered in middle of the synagogue in the old European fashion, and the opulent brass lanterns.
Nominated By: Sacred Sites International Foundation
For More Information: www.eldridgestreet.org
Location: Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Official Listing:National Register of Historic Places, 1997; Hawaii State Register of Historic Places, 1994
Significance: The site is sacred to Native Hawaiians as a burial site, ceremonial site, and religious site. The site is considered a piko or omphalos of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Moku'ula, was the powerful center from which the Hawaiian Kingdom maintained its legitimacy, its cultural and its spiritual traditions. King Kamehameha III built his royal resident and a mausoleum on Moku’ula for his sister Princess Nahienaena. Over time, the iwi or bones of many royal Hawaiians were interred on the sacred site, adding to its mana. The site was selected for its proximity to the life-giving waters of Mokuhinia Ponds and its surrounding 17-acre wetlands filled with taro fields and fishponds. It was also chosen for its association with the sacred lizard goddess, Kihawahine, who resided in the waters.
In the 14th C, Maui’s Pi’ilani lines of chiefs were recognized for their inherited mana or power and they carried the kapu, a system of prohibitive and sacred laws. The chiefess, Kala’aiheana, was born at Moku’ula to the High Chief Pi’ilani. The familial lines of Pi’ilani had for centuries been tied to the powerful Mo’o Akua, large lizard-like gods. As a result, at the death of Kala’aiheana, the sacred rite of deification was performed and she became a Mo’o Akua, known as the sacred goddess Kihawahine. She became the guardian for the sacred Moku’ula Island and Mokuhinia ponds, where she lived. She was revered by many, but most notably by King Kamehameha I and his successors.
Pre-Restoration Condition: The seat of the Hawaiian government had moved to Honolulu in 1845, so Kamehameha III spent less time at Moku’ula. When he died, the island and its structures fell into disrepair and by the 1880s, the royal remains were moved to the Christian cemetery at Wainee Church. At that time, the rise of sugar plantations began to divert the water from the Mokuhinia wetlands, rendering the site a stagnant swamp. In 1914, the site was packed full of coral, sand and dirt and Mokuhinia Ponds and Moku’ula disappeared from sight. Atop the sacred grounds sat Malu-ulu-o-lele Park and a sports’ playing field, a parking lot and buildings.
The Restoration Project: In 1986, the Kā’anapali Beach Hotel started its outstanding Po’okela program to teach employees about Hawaiian culture and history so they could share this information with their guests. Akoni Akana, then an employee of the hotel and now Executive Director of Friends of Moku’ula, took a special interest in Moku’ula and Mokuhinia Ponds. He and his colleagues were instrumental in urging the Bishop Museum to survey the site in 1992 where they found remains of the Royal Mausoleum, retaining walls, stone foundations, a wooden dock, tools, broken china and other artifacts dating to the period of Kamehameha III. Three years later, the non-profit Friends of Moku’ula was formed to undertake the restoration of this sacred site. They have been successful in not only having recreational activities halted at Malu-ulu-o-lele Park, but in having the land deeded to them. They have done several archeological surveys of the site, demolished all structures that were on the site, graded the land and reconsecrated it. They have also succeeded in having the site listed on the Register of Historic Places at both the State and National levels. It is expected that the restoration will continue for another 10 to 15 years and cost more than $24 million.
Nominated By: Sacred Sites International Foundation
How You Can Help: Please visit The Friends of Moku’ula website: www.mokuula.com and become a member, helping to support their outstanding work.
For More Information on Tours: Take The Friends of Moku’ula’s cultural tour of Moku’ula and other Native Hawaiian sites in Lahaina: email@example.com, phone: 808-661-3659
Location: California, USA; the watershed ranges from Mount Shasta down to Shasta Lake
Official Listing: The Upper McCloud River: California Wild & Scenic River
The Threats: To Mount Shasta, Panther Meadow and its sacred spring: a ski resort was proposed in the 1980s. Florence Jones, leader of the Winnemum Wintu at that time, led the Tribe in organizing and forming alliances to protect their sacred sites, like Mount Shasta’s Panther Meadow and its sacred spring. The ski resort was ultimately defeated.
To Mount Shasta’s Medicine Lake Highlands: several geothermal energy plants were proposed in 2000. A recent Ninth Circuit Court decision achieved protection from these plants.
To the McCloud River: a Nestle water bottling plant was defeated after intense local organizing.
Nominated By: The Sacred Land Film Project; http://www.sacredland.org/
For more information:
Location: San Juan Capistrano, California
Official Listing: National Register of Historic Places (pending)
Description: Putiidhem was the original “mother” village of the people now known as the Juaneno/Acjachemem people. It had survived as archaeological site CA-ORA-855 and archaeological data indicates that the site was a substantial village in California’s Late Prehistoric Period. The quantity of tool types, other artifacts and ecofactual remains provide evidence of a variety of procurement system and adaptive strategies and a complex social and religious life. Today, the site occupies 29 acres approximately ½ mile north of Mission San Juan Capistrano. The cemetery contains original prehistoric burials and those that were disturbed by off-site modern development and reburied at the site by Juaneno/Acjachemem with ceremony.
Significance: As an archaeological site, the property no longer has the physical features that could be recognized as a prehistoric village/cemetery, yet the Juaneno/Acjachemem recognize the site as their mother village and cemetery and attribute a feeling of spiritual renewal at the property. The site evokes a sense of tribal life that was disturbed by the European incursion and the induction of the Acjachemem into the Spanish Mission of San Juan Capistrano. They associate the site with cultural practices and beliefs that are rooted in their cultural history and they regard access to and use of the site as important to maintaining their continuing cultural identity.
Attempts to Preserve the Site: The California cultural Resources Preservation Alliance (CCRPA), a non-profit organization, along with Juaneno/Acjachemem tribal members and the Sierra Club Sacred Sites Task Force worked to try and save the site. They worked with the developer, Pueblo Serra, decision makers and the public to present an alternate plan that would preserve the site. When that failed, they joined in an unsuccessful lawsuit against the permitting agency, the Army Corps of Engineers and the developers.
Current Condition: The site has completely disappeared. Remnants that escaped excavation lie beneath the recreation facilities for a private Catholic High School, which ironically is named after Junipero Serra, the priest who established the missions that led to the destruction of the California Indians, including the Juaneno who were named after Mission San Juan Capistrano. The portion of the site containing burials is covered with fill and developed into a ball field and running track. The remainder of the site was excavated to make way for a gymnasium, swimming pool, theater, roads, parking lot and landscape. Today, the Juaneno/Acjachemem no longer have access to the graves of their ancestors and the place of their cultural and tribal roots.
Nominated By: The California Cultural Resources Preservation Alliance
For More Information Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Location: Redding, California
Description: The McCloud River is home to the Winnemem Wintu Tribe and they and their ancestors have always been water people, caretakers and guardians of the entire watershed. The lower reaches of the McCloud River were flooded in 1941 with the completion of the Shasta Dam, the eighth largest dam in the United States. Over 90% of the Winnemem’s ancestral lands were flooded when the dam was completed, including many portions of the McCloud watershed. The river provided a critical salmon spawning habitat and salmon runs have been destroyed by the dam.
Significance: The Shasta Dam was constructed to supply water to fertile, but arid, parts of California, and in doing so, it wreaked havoc on the Winnemem as a people and as a culture. They were forced to exhume the bodies of 183 of their elders and re-bury them in a government-created cemetery. The cemetery, to this day, is not in the Winnemem name, and is a segregated cemetery that is part of another cemetery in Shasta City. The Winnemem lost 4480 acres of Indian allotment land when the dam was built. While the Winnemem were promised land and compensation for all they lost, they have not received any of these things to this day.
Attempts to Preserve the Site: Since the construction of Shasta Dam, the Winnemem have traveled countless times to Washington, D.C., to receive the land and private cemetery promised them and to advocate for better protection of remaining sacred sites. In 2004, after years of futile advocacy, the Winnemem made a more dramatic stand: they held a war dance on Shasta Dam to declare their opposition to the government’s efforts to raise the dam. Today, they carry on this fight through an intensive, strategic advocacy and organizing campaign designed to provide some compensation for all that was lost with dam construction and pave the way for future preservation of their sacred and cultural sites.
Current Condition: The lower McCloud River and all the cultural and sacred sites in the area are completely under water today, covered by the Shasta Reservoir. The Shasta Dam has changed the rest of the river ecosystem, altering river water temperatures and flows, and destroying wildlife habitat. Most dramatic has been the decimation of salmon runs, which were part of the spiritual and nutritional basis for Winnemem’s lifeways. Recreation on Shasta Lake and at associated campgrounds has further impacted cultural and ceremonial sites. While some parts of the upper watershed remain in pristine condition, due to environmental protections or private preservation, conservation has come at the expense of tribal access to ancestral lands.
Nominated By: The Sacred Land Film Project; http://www.sacredland.org/
Location: Emeryville, California
Official Listing: California State Register of Historic Places, 1939
Description: The Emeryville Shellmound was a highly remarkable historic, cultural, and sacred site established by Ohlone Indians over centuries of use from 500 B.C. to approximately 1700 A.D. when the Spanish missionaries imprisoned the Ohlone. The Ohlone built their villages on the mound and buried their dead there, creating over the centuries, a sixty-foot high mound with a diameter of about 350 feet; it was the largest of nearly 400 mounds ringing what is now called the San Francisco Bay. The mound in addition, to its large central cone, had several smaller cones.
These mounds, referred to as shellmounds or shell middens, were comprised of abalone, mussels, and clamshells, staples of the Ohlone diet, along with sediment, ash, and rocks. Over time the mounds grew larger and taller from successive use with an accumulation of shells, animal and human remains, ceremonial burial objects, artifacts from everyday use, and architectural remains.
The Site's Significance: The Emeryville Shellmound, like others in the Bay region, was a significant cultural site infused with sacred as well as secular meaning. The mound functioned as a mortuary for long-term burials. Excavations by archaeologists in 1924 reported over 700 burials that they removed from the site. Most of these remains have been housed at the University of California at Berkeley and have not been repatriated for reburial. In addition,"...physical remains (houses, artifacts and other materials) of past people who were probably revered as ancestors by the living. The repeated construction and use of the mounds forged a direct link between the living and the dead. Bay Area peoples dwelled on top of mounds whose cores encapsulated the sacred remains of their ancestors going back many generations..." (Lightfoot:1997) The cultural significance of the shellmound was also very important. Burials functioned in a cultural way to establish genealogies and therefore territorial rights. Another cultural function of the mounds was as cultural markers. Villages situated on top of the mounds were highly visible and therefore distinguished the different Ohlone communities throughout the bay. The mound's significance to Ohlone descendents remains of central importance, even if the site has been altered over time. Very few sacred and cultural sites remain, especially one as great as the Emeryville Shellmound.
Condition: The Emeryville Shellmound was in private hands from the late 18th C to the first quarter of the 20th C. The city of Emeryville had begun to grow and industry began to overtake the landscape. The shellmound was leveled in 1924, when an amusement park and dance platform on top of the mound was closed. Steel mills, paint factories, canneries and insecticide plants occupied the site for 70 years.
During the past 20 years, the city of Emeryville shifted to a high-density retail and residential development model. A retail project came under consideration for the land where the shellmound once stood. When grading the site for a shopping center, burials were discovered amid the toxic soup leftover from earlier industrial use. It appeared that nearly 8 feet of the mound still existed, filled with hundreds of Ohlone burials, despite the fact that it was thought to have been destroyed in 1924.
Attempts to Save the Site: Sacred Sites International, scholars, and city of Emeryville residents sought to preserve the site as a natural memorial park. The site could have been “capped off” with cement, topsoil brought in, landscaping developed and an official memorial and educational center built on the site. The city of Emeryville declared that such a plan was not possible because the site had been toxic and, therefore, had to be “capped off” and built upon. A scaled-back memorial was proposed when it appeared that leaving the entire site in a natural state was not possible. It was stipulated that the developer scale back the shopping center and invest $800,000 to build a small natural memorial at the entrance to the shopping development. The memorial consists of a granite timeline of Ohlone history, a small symbolic mound and sculpture based on Ohlone baskets.
Nominated By: Sacred Sites International Foundation