Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains has been inscribed as South Africa's 10th UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Photo: UNESCO)
The Makhonjwa Barberton mountain range in Mpumalanga has been inscribed on the list of World Heritage Sites on Monday, alongside three other sites in Mexico, China and France.
The geological marvel is one of the oldest natural structures in the world, its volcanic and sedimentary rock dating back 3.6 to 3.25 billion years. This has led to some amazingly preserved fossils from the time when life first started on the planet.
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This means this mountain range, also known as the 'Genesis of Life', was around when the first continents started forming to shape the world we know today.
Another significant feature of the mountain range was the recent discovery of the largest meteor impact on Earth, billions of years ago, bigger than the one that is thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs, according to AGU100.
This is South Africa's 10th World Heritage Site, while last year the ‡Khomani Cultural Landscape became the country's 9th site. Other sites in South Africa include the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Robben Island, the Cradle of Humankind, Maloti-Drakensberg Park, Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape, the Cape Floral Region, the Vredefort Dome and Richtersveld. Read more about them here.
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The three other new sites inscribed as World Heritage Sites:
Mexico: Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley: Originary Habitat of Mesoamerica
Inscribed as a mixed site, the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley has the richest biodiversity in North America, specifically the endangered cacti family. Besides its natural importance, it also has a strong archaeological heritage where exceptional signs of early agricultural activities and water management systems in the form of man-made canals are found.
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Another mountain range, the Fanjingshan ranges are situated within the Wuling mountain range in south-west China, and made it onto the list because of its raree endemic species like the Fanjingshan fir, Guizhou snub-nosed monkey, Chinese giant salamander, the forest musk deer and Reeve's pheasant. It also has one of the largest primeval beech forests in the world.
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France: Chaîne des Puys–Limagne
This new UNESCO site includes the Limagne fault line, the alignments of the Chaîne des Puys volcanoes and the inverted relief of the Montagne de la Serre - all part of the West European Rift created when the Alps formed. UNESCO cite it as "an exceptional illustration of continental break-up".
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