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Vanishing Histories: 100 Endangered Sites from the World

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Review

Monuments Watch By Colin Amery. Abrams, 2001. 208pp. £40

Pictured is the extraordinary 18th century Church of the Transfiguration on Kizhi Island, Karelia, reckoned to be among the finest surviving wooden churches in Russia, but long without funds for necessary maintenance and repairs.

Hence its inclusion on the list of endangered places compiled by the World Monuments Watch, which, since its establishment in 1995, has drawn attention to some 300 sites. This book presents 100 examples from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and the Americas, and they are eclectic - rock carvings in the Sahara Desert from the sixth millennium BC (only discovered in 1997), and two dozen funiculars from the early 20th century in Valparaiso, Chile, beside such household names as Petra, and the Valley of the Kings.

(New additions to the list, including Stowe, were announced last month. ) The threat of tourism is a recurrent theme, whether to the Old Town of Prague or the 9m high carved-stone heads of the gods on Mount Nemrut in Turkey. There are surprises here: who would expect Vienna's 18th-century Belvedere Gardens to be 'in a disastrous state'?

Just who is the book aimed at, though? It is well enough illustrated but not quite 'coffee table' in appearance. The introduction is upbeat: 'Being placed on the Watch is a call to arms, ' it says. 'It enlists governments, the private sector and individuals. The process begins with awareness. By reading this book, you are helping us to achieve our goal.'

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