HUFFINGTON POST
10/15/2015 06:25 pm ET

Photographs May Be All That's Left Of These Historical Sites In A Year

Some of the world's most culturally significant places are being destroyed before our eyes.
The Abu Sir Al Malaq archeological site in Egypt is one of the endangered world heritage sites listed on the World Monum
World Monuments Fund
The Abu Sir Al Malaq archeological site in Egypt is one of the endangered world heritage sites listed on the World Monuments Watch list for 2016. It's a "heavily looted site that's emblematic of everything happening throughout the region," said WMF President Bonnie Burnham.

The World Monuments Fund released its biennial World Monuments Watch list of treasured sites around the world on Thursday, offering a sobering reminder that natural disasters and a lack of funding are destroying the world's cultural heritage sites.

The 2016 list identifies 50 endangered sites in 36 countries, down from 67 sites in 41 countries in 2014. The number of sites that require urgent attention hasn't diminished, but "We determined we could be more successful if we were focusing on fewer sites," explained Bonnie Burnham, WMF's president.

WMF launched the Watch in 1996 to highlight culturally significant sites that are at risk or have experienced severe decay. "As anchors in our ever-changing built environment, our architectural heritage forges an inextricable link between past and future," the organization said when it published its 2014 list.

The different sites include historic urban areas, religious structures and complexes, archeological sites, civic buildings, industrial heritage sites and places of conscience. WMF has raised over $245 million for reconstruction efforts since the program began.

Syria's ongoing civil war has made it a major focus of discussions about cultural destruction. In the past, WMF has featured the entire nation on its list, as well as 10 individual sites across the country.

Yet no Syrian sites were added to the WMF's 2016 list. Most notably, Palmyra is absent. It's a former caravan oasis that dates back to 2000 B.C., and Islamic State militants have been detonating explosives there for months, causing an international outcry.

The WMF decided to exclude Palmyra because "there's nothing that we can do to immunize that situation right now," Burnham said. "Other organizations are monitoring these catastrophes as they occur, and the damage is so widespread, it's not just confined to Syria."

Another factor in WMF's decision, she explained, was the conscious choice to avoid playing into the Islamic State propaganda machine. "These atrocities by ISIS are publicity stunts. It's propaganda, and people in the field are becoming concerned about playing into their hand [by] publicizing this every time it happens."

View some of the 2016 sites below:

Peru's La Ermita de Barranco church, built in 1901, was closed after an earthquake damaged it.
World Monuments Fund
Peru's La Ermita de Barranco church, built in 1901, was closed after an earthquake damaged it.
Shukhov Tower in Russia is a feat of modern engineering, but it risks being dismantled.
World Monuments Fund
Shukhov Tower in Russia is a feat of modern engineering, but it risks being dismantled.
The Moseley Road Baths in the United Kingdom are Edwardian public baths still in use today, but government spending cuts may
World Monuments Fund
The Moseley Road Baths in the United Kingdom are Edwardian public baths still in use today, but government spending cuts may shut them down.
Greece's Pavlopetri is an ancient underwater city threatened by pollution and large ships.
World Monuments Fund
Greece's Pavlopetri is an ancient underwater city threatened by pollution and large ships.
Concentration camps in Italy are falling into ruin as the country eschews its painful history.
World Monuments Fund
Concentration camps in Italy are falling into ruin as the country eschews its painful history.
The Ladeira da Misericórdia is an important historic street connecting the upper and lower sections of the World Herit
World Monuments Fund
The Ladeira da Misericórdia is an important historic street connecting the upper and lower sections of the World Heritage city of Salvador da Bahia in Brazil. It hasn't benefited from the reconstruction efforts that are taking place elsewhere in the city.
The San Esteban del Rey mission, located in the U.S. state of New Mexico, was built in the 17th century and is falling i
World Monuments Fund
The San Esteban del Rey mission, located in the U.S. state of New Mexico, was built in the 17th century and is falling into decay.
Bo-Kaap is a town in South Africa recognized for its distinctive architecture and its enduring Muslim culture, but it's
World Monuments Fund
Bo-Kaap is a town in South Africa recognized for its distinctive architecture and its enduring Muslim culture, but it's under threat due to economic forces and social change.
The hilltop city of Amedy, located in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, has absorbed an upswell of refugees due to vio
World Monuments Fund
The hilltop city of Amedy, located in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, has absorbed an upswell of refugees due to violence and instability across Iraq and the region.
The earthquake that struck Nepal's Kathmandu Valley in April 2015 damaged dozens of cultural and historical landmarks. T
World Monuments Fund
The earthquake that struck Nepal's Kathmandu Valley in April 2015 damaged dozens of cultural and historical landmarks. The 2016 Watch List placed a special focus on Nepal.

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