1. David Gareji Monasteries and Hermitage in eastern Georgia

The Significant Seven

The dozen heritage sites and buildings shortlisted for Europa Nostra's '7 Most Endangered' subjects for 2018 are nothing if not eclectic, ranging from havens of paleolithic art to 20th-century industrial sites. The oldest are some 300 caves and shelters that have been identified across a wide area in the province of Cádiz in southern Spain. Some have motifs (below) attributed to hunter-gatherer groups from 20,000 years ago.

'In this exceptional ensemble, a crucial stage in the development of human beings is shown in a vivid way through paintings and engravings, the style and theme of which are unique,' says Hispania Nostra, the Spanish arm of the NGO that put forward the citation. It wants to see a detailed inventory and management plan of the sites, which have suffered from human as well as elemental depredation.

Concerns for later cave art are voiced too about the David Gareji Monasteries and Hermitage (above) in eastern Georgia on the border with Azerbaijan, Here, 22 rock-hewn monasteries and more than 5000 sanctuaries and cave-cells have long been central to the nation's culture, but they suffered at the hands of the military in both Soviet and post-independence times when their strategic position led to armies taking up positions nearby.

2. Motifs attributed to hunter-gatherer groups from 20,000 years ago.

Saint David Gareji was one of the 13 Assyrian Fathers from Mesopotamia who, in the 6th century, founded monasteries in Georgia. They became an important artistic centre, with a distinct school of monastic painting developed during the 9th and 10th centuries. Christian pilgrims who visited left inscriptions in Greek, Arabic, Persian and Armenian still visible on the walls. The site of this complex has been occupied since the Bronze Age.

'The combination of rock architecture, medieval murals, prehistoric archaeology and paleontological fields makes the entire ensemble a masterpiece of Georgian culture,' says the citation. It is also a living monument, belonging to the Patriarchate of Georgia, and services are regularly held here. Only 25km from the capital, Tbilisi, it is looking for means of protection from the increasing number of tourists who visit, as well as proposals for conservation.

The other contenders for the '7 Most Endangered' include: the historic centres of Vienna and Gjirokastra and churches in Voskopoja and Vithkuqi in Albania; the romantic castle of Sammezzano in Tuscany, Italy; the Casino in Constanta, Romania, and the Greek Orphanage on the Princes Islands, Turkey.

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Roger Williams