The UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are located around the world serve to signify that a landmark, where natural or man-made, is a site that has some type of important cultural, historical, religious or other significance that deserves to be preserved for the collective interest of the human race. The sites are also legally protected by international treaties that all countries of the United Nations (UN). There are currently 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites located in the country of Slovenia, the Skocjan Caves, Prehistoric Pile Dwellings in the Alps, and the Idrija Mercury Mining Sites.
What Are The UNESCO World Heritage Sites Of Slovenia?
The Skocjan Caves, part of the Skocjan Caves Regional Park, is located on the Kras Plateau in the central European country of Slovenia. The Skocjan Caves were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986, making them the first World Heritage Site in the country. The caves are currently the only natural World Heritage Site in Slovenia. The Skocjan caves make up one of the largest underground karst wetlands in Europe along with the Reka River's underground stream and are also one of the largest underground river canyons in the world. The known length of the caves is 3.85 miles (6,200 meters), and the caves are encompassed in a 984 foot (300 meter) thick wall of limestone. The underground channel that flows through the Skocjan Caves is around 2.17 miles (3.5 kilometers) long and is anywhere between 32.8 to 196.85 feet (10 to 60 meters) wide.
The Skocjan caves are also unique for their huge underground chambers, with the largest and most notable being Martel's Chamber which is one of the largest in the world. The caves are also unique for the endemic and rare species that live there, like the cave salamander. Archaeological studies done in the cave have suggested that the area has been used for human settlements and as a burial and ritual site since prehistorical times, with the first known written source coming from the 2nd century B.C. from the Greek polymath Posidonius of Apamea (135-51 B.C.). Modern tourism to the Skocjan Caves started in 1819 since that is when the first known visitors' book was introduced. In 2011 the first part of the caves that tourists can visit was renovated, and in recent years the site has averaged around 100,000 visitors a year who flock to see the natural beauty and scenery that the Skocjan Caves offer.
Prehistoric Pile Dwellings In The Alps
The Prehistoric Pile Dwellings in the Alps are prehistoric stilt house settlements that were built in and around the Alps mountain range in Central Europe on the edges of various bodies of water or marshy land. There is a total of 111 sites that are located throughout Switzerland, Italy, Germany, France, Austria and Slovenia. The collection of Prehistoric Pile Dwellings in the Alps were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, with it being the second UNESCO World Heritage Site in Slovenia and the first cultural site. Slovenia is the location of two of the piles, which are both located in the settlement of Ig, in the municipality of Ig. The oldest site which is believed to have been occupied between 5000 to 2500 B.C. is called Kolišča na Igu, južna skupina, while the younger site is believed to have been occupied between 3000 to 1500 B.C. and is called Kolišča na Igu, severna skupina. While the site does not get much tourism, it has been a boon for archaeologists due to the sites well-preserved status. The site has given researchers a lot of detailed information about the perception of the early agrarian socialites in Alpine Europe from the Neolithic (10,200 to 4,500-2,000 B.C.) and Bronze Age (3200 to 600 B.C.) on their agriculture and animal husbandry practices, as well as how metallurgy developed.
Idrija Mercury Mining Sites
The Idrija Mercury Mining Sites are actually a joint UNESCO World Heritage site officially known as the Heritage of Mercury: Almadén and Idrija, which is made up of the mercury mining sites in the towns of Almadén, Spain, and Idrija, Slovenia. The Idrija Mercury Mining Sites were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012, making the location the third and to date, the last UNESCO World Heritage site designated in the country of Slovenia. The mercury mining site in the Idrija was first founded in 1490 A.D. and mercury was then extracted from the site until recently. The Idrija Mercury Mining Sites was one of the largest mercury mines in the world, and the site represents when the trade of mercury was important in trading between Europe and America as well as the sociotechnical systems that rose around mercury mining. Tourists that visit the site at Idrija can be given a tour to see the infrastructure of the mine and the site around it. They can visit the living quarters that the miners once inhabited, as well as the miner's theater and the location where the mercury was once stored.
The Status And Preservation Of Slovenia's World Heritage Sites
The Skocjan Caves is an example of how human presence in an area can co-exist with natural conservation as the construction that has taken place in the caves to facilitate the presence of tourists, archaeologists and researchers have been done with the cave system in mind to preserve the overall integrity of the caves and prevent damage. Since 1991, when Slovenia gained independence, the country has worked to protect and manage the caves, with tourism, access, and lighting being carefully monitored and controlled so as to not affect the fragile ecosystem of the caves.
The Prehistoric Pile Dwellings in the Alps that were chosen to be UNESCO sites were those that are still largely intact, but these sites face a variety of threats like the encroachment of human settlements and agricultural lands around these sites. The Idrija Mercury Mining Sites have been very well preserved so far in terms of the mine itself, the infrastructure surrounding it and in the authenticity of the mining materials and artifacts at the site. The management that governs the site must work to ensure that urban or rural planning around the site does not affect the area or impact it visually.