A road that is 3,000 years old and spans the length and breadth of the Andes mountain range in six countries finally got the recognition it was seeking as a heritage site protected by UNESCO, the U.N. Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The governments of Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile were on the ballot jointly this year to designate the ancient Inca road a World Heritage site by the organization, which every year adds new cultural and natural treasures to the list.
The Andean Road System, known locally as Qhapac Ñan (quechua for ‘great road’), was among the favorites to enter the list, along with the Decorated Cave of Pont d'Arc in Southern France, and the Ancient Maya City and Protected Tropical Forests of Calakmul in Mexico's Campeche state, which were named "mixed natural and cultural" World Heritage Sites.
There are currently more than 1,000 sites that have been designated as a Heritage Site.
The network known as Qhapac Nan extends nearly 37,000 miles and includes 273 component sites, many of them with religious significance, according to Peru's Culture Ministry. It was constructed by the Incas over several centuries and partly based on pre-Inca infrastructure.
While parts of it pre-dated the Inca Empire, the network reached its maximum expansion in the 15th century as the culture celebrated for architectonic prowess used it to exert dominance over the Andes.
Much of the system today is in disrepair, covered by vegetation.
“This extraordinary network through one of the world’s most extreme geographical terrains linked the snow-capped peaks of the Andes – at an altitude of more than 6,000 meters – to the coast, running through hot rainforests, fertile valleys and absolute deserts. It reached its maximum expansion in the 15th century, when it spread across the length and breadth of the Andes,” the UNESCO explains on its website.
The World Heritage Committee is currently holding its 38th session in the city of Doha, Qatar, and is expected to continue deliberating until June 25. A total of 30 new sites are being considered this year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.