Tell Al Sultan, Iran’s caravanserais added to world heritage list

Published September 18, 2023
A VIEW of the pre-historic site of Tell Al Sultan, near the Palestinian city of Jericho in the occupied West Bank.—AFP
A VIEW of the pre-historic site of Tell Al Sultan, near the Palestinian city of Jericho in the occupied West Bank.—AFP

JERICHO: The United Nations’ cultural organisation inscribed the pre-historic site of Tell al-Sultan, near the Palestinian city of Jericho in the occupied West Bank, on its World Heritage List on Sunday.

Tell al-Sultan, which predates Egypt’s pyramids, is an oval-shaped tell, or mound, located in the Jordan Valley that contains the prehistoric deposits of human activity.

The Unesco decision, which was posted by the organisation on X, formerly Twitter, was taken at its 45th world heritage committee meeting held in Riyadh.

“The property proposed for nomination is the prehistoric archaeological site of Tell al-Sultan, located outside the antique site of Jericho,” Unesco’s assistant director general, Ernesto Ottone, said at the session.

The decision was taken at Unesco meeting in Riyadh

The site was inscribed following a three-year candidacy “during which no state party raised any objections”, said a diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

“There are no Jewish or Christian remains found at the (Tell al-Sultan) site. It’s a place of pre-historic remains,” the diplomat said.

Israel quit the UN organisation in 2019 over accusations it fosters an anti-Israel bias, but sent a delegation to this year’s meeting in Saudi Arabia.

Caravanserais

Unesco added many of Iran’s caravanserais, roadside rest stops for travellers along the country’s ancient trade routes, to its World Heritage List.

The decision to register the 56 caravanserais, just a small percentage of the structures built in Iran. Caravanserais provided “shelter, food and water for caravans, pilgrims and other travellers,” Unesco said on its website.

Iran boasts more than 200 caravanserais on historic trade routes that traverse the country linking Asia and Europe, including the Silk Road.

“They are considered to be the most influential and valuable examples of the caravanserais of Iran, revealing a wide range of architectural styles, adaptation to climatic conditions, and construction materials, spread across thousands of kilometres and built over many centuries,” the agency said.

‘Great importance’

The Palestinian Authority, acknowledged by the United Nations as a non-member observer state, welcomed the listing of Tell al-Sultan site.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said he considered the decision to inscribe Tell al-Sultan “a matter of great importance and evidence of the authenticity and history of the Palestinian people”.

He vowed that the Palestinian authorities would “continue to preserve this unique site for all humanity”, according to a statement from his office.

Unesco’s listing shows that the Tell al-Sultan site is “an integral part of the diverse Palestinian heritage of exceptional human value”, Pales­tinian tourism minister Rula Maayah, who was attending the meeting in Riyadh, said in a statement.

Given Tell al-Sultan’s “importance as the oldest fortified city in the world... it deserves to be a World Heritage Site,” she said.

“A permanent settlement had emerged here by the 9th to 8th millennium BC due to the fertile soil of the oasis and easy access to water,” Unesco said on its website.

Unesco said the “skulls and statues found on the site” testify to cultic practices among the neolithic population there, while the early bronze age archaeological material shows signs of urban planning.

“Vestiges from the middle bronze age reveal the presence of a large canaanite city-state occupied by a socially complex population,” Unesco added.

The Tell al-Sultan site has been under excavation for over a century and is billed as the oldest continuously inhabited settlement on the planet, Palestinian official Wafa news agency reported.

It is the fourth Palestinian site to be listed on Unesco’s world heritage list, alongside the Church of the Nativity and the Old City of Hebron.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

Price bombs
17 Jun, 2024

Price bombs

THERE was a time not too long ago when the faces we see sitting in government today would cry themselves hoarse over...
Palestine’s plight
Updated 17 Jun, 2024

Palestine’s plight

While the faithful across the world are celebrating with their families, thousands of Palestinian children have either been orphaned, or themselves been killed by the Israeli aggressors.
Profiting off denied visas
17 Jun, 2024

Profiting off denied visas

IT is no secret that visa applications to the UK and Schengen countries come at a high cost. But recent published...
After the deluge
Updated 16 Jun, 2024

After the deluge

There was a lack of mental fortitude in the loss against India while against US, the team lost all control and displayed a lack of cohesion and synergy.
Fugue state
16 Jun, 2024

Fugue state

WITH its founder in jail these days, it seems nearly impossible to figure out what the PTI actually wants. On one...
Sindh budget
16 Jun, 2024

Sindh budget

SINDH’S Rs3.06tr budget for the upcoming financial year is a combination of populist interventions, attempts to...