Cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado
A 50-year balancing act

50 years of World Heritage Sites

At its World Heritage Convention on November 16, 1972, UNESCO adopted an international treaty that for the first time linked the concepts of nature conservation and preservation of cultural properties. The World Heritage Sites program was sparked by Egypt's planned construction of the Aswan High Dam, which would have flooded a large swath of the Nile Valley and thousands of archeological treasures.

Mesa Verde National Park, where Ancestral Puebloans lived for seven centuries, was among the first World Heritage Sites chosen by the UNESCO committee, in 1978.