Even as major discoveries were made throughout the year, important sites worldwide were threatened with imminent destruction. Our list is just a sampling of those that will be lost without intervention on an international scale.
A botched reconstruction of the Akapana Pyramid at Bolivia's Tiwanaku is putting the ancient city's inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List in doubt. Local officials decided to rebuild the 60-foot-tall pyramid with adobe bricks rather than stone, which was used in the initial construction between A.D. 300 and 700. The project was put on hold in the wake of international criticism, but the lower sections of the structure are now in danger of collapse.
During the Taliban's rule over Pakistan's Swat Valley, militants destroyed sites like the 27- foot-tall stone Buddha relief at Jahanabad. But the Pakistani army's recent effort to retake the valley may now be bad news for sites such as Barikot, a fortified Hellenistic city founded in the second century B.C. The Taliban vandalized a medieval Hindu altar at the site in 2001, but experts now fear the recent offensive will expose Barikot to heavy looting.
Thousands of tiny tree roots are putting the Paleolithic rock art of Gouy Cave at serious risk. The northernmost decorated cave in France, Gouy's limestone walls are covered with intricate engravings of horses and abstract symbols. But an unchecked network of roots has now grown through the fragile walls of the cave's entrance chamber and threatens to destroy the art.
The 11th-century A.D. Hindu temple complex of Preah Vihear on the border of Cambodia and Thailand was recently named a World Heritage Site. In 1962, the World Court awarded the site to Cambodia, but Thailand still maintains that it is the rightful owner. This year, the Thai military launched an offensive to seize control of Preah Vihear. At least seven soldiers have died in the fighting, and the temple has been damaged by small-arms fire.
Signal Hill Mound
During construction of a Sam's Club Walmart megastore in Oxford, Alabama, contractors stripped earth from a nearby hill, destroying a stone mound that was built in the Late Woodland Period, around A.D. 1000. Archaeologists have only recently begun to realize the significance of stone-mound networks in the eastern United States so few have protected status. After public outcry over the site's destruction, Walmart halted the project.