UNESCO World Heritage Site Distribution

The United Nations has designated several hundred sites throughout the world as World Heritage Sites. These sites are determined to have “special cultural or physical significance.” However, these sites are not evenly distributed throughout the world. In fact, when we control for the area of a country, we see that Europe disproportionately has many more heritage sites than other regions of the world:A map showing the distribution of UNESCO sites.This is further clarified if we plot the same data and display the UNESCO region of each point:Dotplot of UNESCO Site DistributionWhat are the causes of this Eurocentrism? An article in Geographical magazine suggests a few possibilities. Eurpoean nations joined the U.N. earlier and thus have had more time to apply for World Heritage Sites. Or perhaps the idea of a “site” that shows heritage is itself Eurocentric–many cultures may consider traditions and art more culturally significant than buildings. Another possibility is simply that these countries have more money[PDF]. Whatever the reason, it may be wise to consider the UNESCO site list as merely a sample of the world’s cultures.

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