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World Heritage Sites: Exploring the World’s Greatest Places

Encounter some of the most astounding treasures of our world, both man-made and natural, in this tour of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

World Heritage Sites: Exploring the World’s Greatest Places is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 20.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting, educational and a great history lesson on the various sites.
Date published: 2022-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Course is a Delight. Erudite, fluent and enthusiastic, Prof. Jacobs delivers twenty-four fascinating lectures on a selection of sites. Of these, my wife and I have visited Teotihuacán, Luxor, the Valley of the Kings, Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Acropolis of Athens. The photography illustrating these cultural locations, particularly the aerial views, is excellent. HWF & ISF, Mesa, AZ.
Date published: 2022-01-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from We enjoy each episode. We love the Great Courses, this one included. There are technical problems with the streaming - the voice and video get out of sync two or three times an episode.
Date published: 2022-01-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from We couldn’t wait to watch each night In this time of restricted travel it was a delight to virtually experience the fascinating locations that Professor Jacobs chose from the over 1000 World Heritage Sites. The course offered a good mix of the best known (Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, Easter Island, Angkor Wat) and ones we weren’t as familiar with or didn’t know about at all. Justin Jacobs is an amiable and knowledgeable tour guide. Our only quibble was that sometimes he would mention a fascinating architectural, artistic, or geographical detail and no image was shown. We wished for visuals of all the features he mentioned, rather than having so much camera time being devoted to him speaking. But all in all we found the series inspiring and actually very moving at times.
Date published: 2021-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great for exploring during Covid! This course gave me exposure to several Heritage Sites I didn't know existed! And, beautiful places around the world to visit are included. But even those Sites that I HAVE visited, were brought to life MORE through the Course's thrilling background & insights about the history, origins, & construction of these landmarks. I enjoyed it so much, I shared this course w/a few friends, after getting an OK from the people at TheGreatCourses.com. In addition, this course is very valuable in those cases in which the landmark has been destroyed or eroded away. I had visited Teotihuacan in Mexico, this course gave me much more of the history. Same with Pompeii, much has changed & been learned since I visited in 1975. My kids have visited Machu Picchu & China's Forbidden City, so I enjoyed "visiting" those sites myself, through this course!
Date published: 2021-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Understated but Excellent I think this was one of the most pleasant surprises among Wondrium's new look and feel offerings. The subject matter made gave the presenter wide berth in what and how to cover. The universe of sites covered spanned a broad range: from natural wonders, to iconic majestic structures in anyone's must see list, to less well known sites with a message to deliver. At a basic minimum, each lecture provides great travelogue/visitor's guide to the attraction -- a great resource for those planning a visit or simply enjoying a virtual immersion. But each lecture delivered more than the visual show and tell: i.e., reasonably informative coverage of history, culture, science, whatever best supported the experience. I was pleased to confirm that no matter how famous a site, there was always something more I could learn about it's history and origin. I was even more pleased to find myself thinking that I had watched a thoughtful presenter, carefully checking the usual academic biases surrounding hot button issues. I was impressed with the way that the tradeoffs of tourism and and preservation were covered -- the Viruga National Park was a great example of that. I was even more impressed with the way that the comprehensive discussion of the environmental threats facing some sites -- the Great Barrier Reef lecture was a example of that, where the drumbeat of Global Warming was toned down to accommodate discussion of other more imminent and damaging threats.
Date published: 2021-12-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Overview At first I found the instructor's voice and speed irritating until I got used to it. It did a good job of going over the backgrounds but at times I wished he would have shown more of the sites, noone buys this to watch him lecture.
Date published: 2021-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from World Heritage Sites This is a GREAT COURSE!! We own many wonderful courses, but this one visited some places we have been to and many we haven't. It makes us plan new travel adventures. PLEASE make this a continuing series of World Heritage Sites with this engaging lecturer!! Great focus on the sites history, art, architecture, cultural significance, etc!
Date published: 2021-12-23
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Overview

Since 1972, UNESCO has designated World Heritage Sites across the globe, marking locations of outstanding value to humanity. This course tours 24 of the foremost UNESCO sites, highlighting marvels of human culture, such as India’s Taj Mahal, Egypt’s Thebes, and Uzbekistan’s Samarkand, plus natural wonders of our planet, such as the Great Barrier Reef, Japan’s Mount Fuji, and Africa’s Virunga National Park.

About

Justin M. Jacobs
Justin M. Jacobs

I've spent my life studying places that help tell us what it is to be human, where we have come from, and where we're going.

INSTITUTION

American University

Justin M. Jacobs is an Associate Professor of History at American University. He studied English and Chinese at the University of Washington before earning his PhD in History at the University of California San Diego. Between degrees, he traveled widely throughout the world, including extended stays in China and Taiwan for research. At American University, he teaches courses on Chinese and Japanese history, the history of archaeology, the Silk Road, voyages of exploration, and global history.

Justin has published articles on the history of the Silk Road and served as editor of The Silk Road, a journal sponsored by the Silk Road House. He is the author of three books on history and archaeology: The Compensations of Plunder: How China Lost Its Treasures; Indiana Jones in History: From Pompeii to the Moon; and Xinjiang and the Modern Chinese State. His work on the history of archaeological expeditions in China has also been translated into Chinese.

Justin is regularly interviewed by prominent media outlets and has written articles for major newspapers such as The Washington Post. More than 60 of his lectures on East Asian history have been recorded for the podcast Beyond Huaxia: A College History of China and Japan. He also gives frequent public lectures for lifelong education programs such as Smithsonian Associates, Profs and Pints, and Live & Learn Bethesda.

By This Professor

World Heritage Sites: Exploring the World’s Greatest Places
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World Heritage Sites: Exploring the World’s Greatest Places

Trailer

Paleolithic Cave Art of Spain and France

01: Paleolithic Cave Art of Spain and France

In this first lecture, discover the oldest paintings in the world, in the extraordinary cave art of Altamira, Lascaux, and Chauvet. Explore details of the imagery, principally depicting large animals, taking in the richness and sophistication of the artwork. Contemplate the mysteries of what the paintings mean and how they show us the cognitive tools on which human civilization was built.

30 min
The Taj Mahal of Agra

02: The Taj Mahal of Agra

The Taj Mahal is widely considered one of the world’s most beautiful buildings and an enduring symbol of love. Learn about the builder of Taj, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, and his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, for whom it was built. Study the stunning features of this incredible funerary monument, as it serves as an architectural expression of the culture and politics of Shah Jahan’s empire.

29 min
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

03: Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s natural wonders, drawing travelers to its shimmering, multicolored coral reefs, teeming with fascinating marine life. Relive the dramatic discovery of the Reef in 1768, and learn about its complex, layered ecosystem, the largest structure ever built by living organisms. Witness the huge diversity of its wildlife and assess man-made dangers to the Reef.

29 min
The Mogao Grottoes and Manuscripts

04: The Mogao Grottoes and Manuscripts

The Mogao Grottoes are a series of nearly 500 caves, dug out of cliffs in the desert of northwestern China, containing one of the most dazzling collections of Buddhist art anywhere in the world. Learn how the caves were created and see the sublime statues and lush paintings within them. Also take account of the legendary depository of Buddhist literature and historical texts within Cave 17.

28 min
Persepolis, the Great Persian Capital

05: Persepolis, the Great Persian Capital

The citadel of Persepolis was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire for nearly 200 years. Take the measure of the vast empire of the builders of the complex, the kings Darius I and Xerxes. Explore the palace, taking in its Gate of All Nations, monumental stairways, and superb friezes. Sample some of the many inscriptions and texts found at the site, which reveal fascinating glimpses of those who lived there.

31 min
Easter Island and the Moai

06: Easter Island and the Moai

The extraordinary moai, the colossal statues of Easter Island, are a testament to human innovation and resilience. Begin with the amazing story of how this exceedingly remote island was colonized by Polynesian seafarers and how they subsisted there. Study the building techniques of the great statues, how they were transported across the island, and what they mean within the island’s culture.

29 min
Canada’s Rocky Mountains

07: Canada’s Rocky Mountains

The Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks contain an astonishing spectrum of mountain ranges, ice fields, glaciers, pristine lakes, archaeological sites, and a superabundance of plant and animal life. Learn the natural history of the region and its settlement. Explore highlights such as the Burgess Shale; the Columbia Icefield; and other phenomenal features of Jasper, Banff, and Yoho national parks.

30 min
Teotihuacán, Largest City of Mesoamerica

08: Teotihuacán, Largest City of Mesoamerica

Teotihuacán, one of the most sophisticated cities of the ancient world, sits northeast of Mexico City. With no written records, assess what archaeologists have deduced about the city’s people and their cosmology. Visit the imposing Sun and Moon Pyramids, Temple of the Feathered Serpent, and other monuments. Also, study the remarkable art objects and colossal statues found at the site.

29 min
Samarkand, Crossroads of Central Asia

09: Samarkand, Crossroads of Central Asia

Samarkand, among the oldest and greatest cities of Central Asia, contains a wealth of historical and cultural treasures. Trace the history of this fascinating icon of the Silk Road, and the Islamic transformation of the region. Take in the splendor of Samarkand’s monuments, highlighting the glorious Bibi Khanum mosque, the Gur-i Emir tomb, and the spectacular madrassahs of the Registan.

30 min
Ancient Egyptian Thebes

10: Ancient Egyptian Thebes

Thebes, modern-day Luxor, is an archeological treasure trove, representing the height of ancient Egyptian wealth and power. Begin at the extraordinary temple complexes of Karnak and Luxor, which held huge religious and political significance. Then visit the memorial temples that glorified individual monarchs and, finally, see the Valley of the Kings, the site of more than 60 royal tombs.

30 min
The Forbidden City of Beijing

11: The Forbidden City of Beijing

The majestic palace complex called The Forbidden City was the primary residence for 24 Chinese emperors over a period of 500 years. Track its history during the Ming and Qing dynasties, and study its elaborate mix of residential palaces, religious shrines, pavilions, gardens, and administrative buildings. Visualize a day in the life of the Qianlong Emperor within the palace precincts.

29 min
Mount Fuji, the Symbol of Japan

12: Mount Fuji, the Symbol of Japan

Mount Fuji was granted World Heritage Site status in recognition of its deep association with Japanese history and culture. Take the measure of this iconic picturesque mountain and learn about its presence in Japanese religion, poetry, and folklore, as well as its tradition as a pilgrimage site. Take note of its depiction in art and its role in the definition of the modern Japanese nation.

30 min
Timbuktu, Islam’s Center by the Sahara

13: Timbuktu, Islam’s Center by the Sahara

Beginning in the 16th century, the Malian trading city of Timbuktu became a center of learning, literature, and Islamic knowledge, famous throughout the Muslim world. Follow the great flourishing of intellectual culture there, as seen in hundreds of thousands of ancient Arabic manuscripts that remain from the era, now preserved in libraries and attracting international attention from scholars.

31 min
The Ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum

14: The Ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum

Pompeii and Herculaneum were famously buried in 79 AD by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, leaving two ancient Roman cities frozen in time. At Herculaneum, assess the treasures discovered at the Villa di Papyri. Then see how the mansions, streets, and bathhouses of Pompeii bring daily Roman life viscerally alive, through preserved artifacts and vestiges that rarely survive in the historical record.

28 min
Virunga National Park, Gorilla Sanctuary

15: Virunga National Park, Gorilla Sanctuary

Virunga is one of Africa’s great national parks, home to a vast spectrum of wildlife. Learn about the most extraordinary of large primates, the mountain gorilla, which is only found here. Take in the stunning beauty of Virunga’s forests, string of dormant volcanoes, and biodiversity. And take account of the poignant political situation in the region, as it affects the park’s future.

30 min
Angkor Wat, the Great Khmer Temple

16: Angkor Wat, the Great Khmer Temple

The jungles of Cambodia are home to the largest religious monument in the world: the massive temple complex of Angkor Wat. Grasp how the culture of Hinduism and Sanskrit influenced the Khmer people and the building of the temple. Tour the temple’s courtyards, galleries, towers, and the exquisite decoration of friezes evoking Hindu gods and legends, unmatched in Southeast Asia.

30 min
Earliest China: Yinxu and the Oracle Bones

17: Earliest China: Yinxu and the Oracle Bones

The site of Yinxu contains the remains of the earliest Chinese dynasty: the Shang. Among Yinxu’s astonishing features, learn about the mysterious “oracle bones,” inscribed ox bones used in divination to obtain information from the netherworld. Then visit the vast royal necropolis, with sumptuous tombs containing bronze and jade treasures, and which bear evidence of substantial human sacrifice.

30 min
The Inca Estate of Machu Picchu

18: The Inca Estate of Machu Picchu

Delve into the culture of the Inca, within which the sky palace of Machu Picchu functioned as a royal retreat. Take in the topography of the site and how the Inca integrated the estate with the landscape. View the royal residences and religious structures, and note the masterful stonework, hydraulic engineering, and the breathtaking setting that mark this beloved symbol of Peru.

28 min
Iceland’s Great Assembly at Thingvellir

19: Iceland’s Great Assembly at Thingvellir

Thingvellir marks the site of the Althing, an Icelandic open-air parliament that met for more than 300 years. Relive the story of the settling of Iceland, and the phenomenon of the Althing, which allowed the islanders to resolve local grievances and disputes. Study the procedures and methodology of this unique medium of conflict resolution, an intangible yet deeply significant cultural tradition.

30 min
Afghanistan’s Lost Bamiyan Buddhas

20: Afghanistan’s Lost Bamiyan Buddhas

The Bamiyan Buddhas, destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban, bore witness to a remarkable Buddhist kingdom that flourished between the 6th and 9th centuries. Study the features of these mammoth statues, the unusual techniques of their construction, and their extraordinary adornments. Visualize the culture, rituals, and splendor that characterized this little-known trading crossroads.

30 min
The Acropolis of Athens

21: The Acropolis of Athens

The glorious Acropolis, beloved symbol of ancient Greece, has a complex and unusual history. Trace how the site came into being and evolved. Study the iconic structures of the Propylaea, the Erechtheion, and the Parthenon, and their decoration. Then follow the Parthenon’s Roman conversion into a Christian church, and the Acropolis’s later fortunes under other empires and civilizations.

30 min
Tibet’s Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple

22: Tibet’s Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple

These beloved monuments are the most sacred sites of Tibetan Buddhism. Learn how Buddhism came to Tibet as you explore the Jokhang Temple complex, its Great Courtyard, Central Inner Sanctum, and traditional rituals. Continue with the vast Potala Palace, the highest palace in the world, and grasp its political and religious significance as the seat of the Dalai Lamas.

29 min
Palmyra, Oasis in the Syrian Desert

23: Palmyra, Oasis in the Syrian Desert

The desert site of Palmyra flourished as a caravan crossroads for 250 years, giving rise to a diverse and fascinating culture and economy. View the extraordinary architecture of the city, from its Roman monuments, Great Colonnade and Tetrapylon to its Babylonian-inspired temples of Bel and Baalshamin. And trace its colorful history, ending with the site’s tragic destruction by ISIS in 2015.

30 min
The Redwood Forests of California

24: The Redwood Forests of California

Known throughout the world as marvels of nature, the California redwoods are the world’s tallest trees, able to reach the age of 2,000 and beyond. Learn about the features of these amazing giants, the conditions for their growth, and the surprising ecosystems that exist in their upper canopies. Finish with the remarkable story of their contact with humanity, and how they came to be protected.

35 min