27 January 2017

Unique Greenlandic cultural landscape nominated for World Heritage


An enormous and unique cultural landscape in West Greenland is nominated as World Heritage. The Greenlandic minister of Cultural affairs, Education and Science, the Mayor of Qeqqeta Municipality and the Danish minister for Cultural Affairs has signed the application “Aasivissuit-Nipisat – Inuit Hunting Ground between the Inland Ice and the Sea” for UNESCO. This puts an end to an extensive and thorough preparation work carried out by researchers at Ilisimatusarfik, The University of Greenland and The Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen.

Aasivissuit-Nipisat is a unique hunting area which covers approximately 4000 square kilometers – almost twice the size of Luxemburg. The area contains numerous prehistoric resources which tell the story of Inuit use of nature throughout 4.500 years. The living resources in the area are still being used and the old tradition of fishing and hunting is still alive.

Photo: Jens Fog Jensen

If the nomination is accepted by UNESCO it will be the first World Heritage site based on Inuit cultural heritage and tradition in the Arctic. For Professor Morten Meldgaard from the Natural History Museum of Denmark and the University of Greenland the finalization of the application is particularly joyful:

"Back in 1978 I participated as a student worker in the excavation of the reindeer-hunter-settlement of Aasivissuit and it is a great pleasure for me to see that this amazing place and its hunting facilities has now become the cornerstone in the application to be nominated. I am very happy that in this way I have been able to contribute to showcasing the unique cultural heritages of Inuit and at the same time contribute to the development of the tourism industry in Qeqqata Municipality."

Within a few years, visitors to the area will be able to experience the unique nature and culture in an area covering 200 kilometers of West Greenland with the Inland-ice in the east, plains with reindeers, rushing streams full of trout and vast lakes, coastal areas and an ocean full of seal, whale and fish. Hiking trails, canoe routes and cabins will make it possible to discover the landscape and to follow the trails of Inuit culture. Visitor’s centers in Kangerlussuaq, Sarfannguit and Sisimiut will provide the guests with further insight and contact with local knowledge.

Director of the Natural History Museum of Denmark, Peter C. Kjærgaard says:

"The nomination the World Heritage site in Qeqqata Municipality builds on knowledge gathered by local informants and researchers throughout hundreds of years. In the collections and archives of the museum this treasure of data and material about hunters and fishermen and their use of nature throughout history is stored. It is a great pleasure to see how this research is being activated in order to benefit the Greenlandic society."

Photo: Jens Fog Jensen

The research which has layed the grounds for the application has been done by archeologist Jens Fog Jensen and museum inspector emeritus Claus Andreasen with Morten Meldgaard as a coordinator and in a close collaboration with partners from Qeqqata Municipality. The work has been carried out under the auspices of the Greenland Perspective initiative which is a collaboration between the University of Greenland and the University of Copenhagen.

Rector Tine Pars from the University of Greenland is happy to see the results of the Greenland Perspective initiative:

"When we started the Greenland Perspective initiative a couple of years ago it was exactly to activate the research of the universities in order to make the unique cultural and natural resources of Greenland known worldwide and contribute to a sustainable diversification of industries in Greenland. I would like to congratulate Qeqqata Municipality on the finalization of the nomination."