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GREENLAND   & WORLD HERITAGE

  What is World Heritage?
The objective of the UNESCO Convention concerning World Heritage is to help protecting irreplaceable expressions of former cultures and of natural landscapes of great importance and beauty. The foundations for two international conventions were laid in the mid-1960´s and later, in 1972, merged into one, the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. The five Nordic countries, among others, ratified the convention between 1977 and 1995. As Greenland is not a sovereign state, in these matters Greenlandic interests are upheld through the Danish govenment.

The Greenlandic involvement
After a request by the Danish Ministry of the Environment in 1988, the Greenland government has selected natural heritage areas and cultural monuments in Greenland for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List. This work was properly organised in 1995 when co-operation was established between the Greenland Department of Culture, Education and Ecclesiastical Affairs, the Department of Health, Environment and Research, the Greenland National Museum & Archives, and the Greenland Institute of Nature. The Greenland National Museum selected culturally significant historical objects and the Institute of Nature pointed out areas of special interest for the natural environment. Subsequently, these proposals comprised sites of both natural and cultural history.

Click for detailed area map   The Greenlandic proposals

Proposal 1 covers 2,952 square kilometers in the southernmost part of West Greenland. The area has the fjord of Tunulliarfik (formerly Eriksfjord) at its center, and spans over 100 kilometers through the municipalities of Narsaq and Qaqortoq. This is the center of the former Eastern Settlement and comprises historical highlights such as the famous church ruin of Hvalsey. Furthermore, the remains of the episcopal residence of Garder (today's Igaliku) and the sites of Brattahlid (today's Qassiarsuk) must not be missed.
The area also presents traces of the Inuit culture which are mainly found along the coast and in the archipelago. These are mainly the remains of turf houses, stone tent foundations, stone-built meat depots and graves. On the north side of the islands of Tuttutooq and Illutalik, opposite the town of Narsaq, large clusters of ruined winter houses can be seen. These were in use from the Middle Ages until the beginning of the 20th century. Some have been investigated by archaeologists in the 1930´s and, in recent years, some have been restored.
Even though the area of the former Eastern Settlement today includes both urban and rural zones, it largely presents itself in its original form. The many remains of both Norse and Inuit origin are seen here in an undisturbed context, providing a fine impression of the ways in which the different cultures utilised the landscape, not least seen in relation to present-day sheep farming.

Click for detailed area map   Proposal 2 covers 10,210 square kilometers on the Midwest coast between the international airport of Kangerlussuaq/Sondre Stromfjord and the town of Sisimiut on the coast. The region is divided naturally into three parts: Aasivissuit and Arnangernup Qoorua (the Paradise Valley) in the east, the area close to the icecap and the outer coast in the west. This area is a huge cultural landscape made by the Inuit, containing a wide range of constructions such as 'inussuk' cairns, designed to scare reindeer when they were being driven toward a trap, stone meat depots, stone fox traps, graves, stone and turf foundations for temporary, overnight shelters, rows of jumping stones used when playing games, blocking walls, hearths, tent rings and tent foundations. Thus, this cultural landscape has all the elements which the Inuit hunter and his family used. Admirably, the area of Aasivissuit and Arnangernup Qoorua testify the way the Inuit used the inland region for hunting and fishing. In the coastal region, on the other hand, we can see the winter dwellings of the Inuit.
All in all, this area has a culturally historic depth of more than 4,000 years, manifested by the various ruins and other structures. Together with the variety of the landscape, it is a testimony to the diversity of the annual cycle and the conditions which were so special for the Inuit hunting culture.

Click for detailed area map   Proposal 3 covers an area of 796 square kilometers with the dominant feature being the icefjord of Ilulissat/Jakobshavn. The icefjord contains the Jakobshavn Glacier, which is a floating, calving ice cap glacier. The glacier is presently located about 40 km east of the town of Ilulissat. Because of the relatively easy access to the glacier from the settlements in the immediate vicinity, the fjord and glacier are well known. The glacier is particularly famous for its high speed of 1 meter per hour and its production of calving ice which amounts to about 30 cubic kilometers a year. This is more than any other glacier and comprises about 10% of the entire production of calving ice from the Greenland ice cap.
Inside this area two important paleoeskimoic sites are situated, Sermermiut and Qajaa. The Sermermiut at the mouth of the fjord is a locus classicus for the study of Eskimo prehistory. The stratification of this site proved the chronological sequence of the Saqqaq, Dorset and Thule cultures. The site is situated above a high, steep cliff facing the fjord, and on its surface are the remains of 24 winter houses from the last few centuries of the existence of the settlement. This settlement was abandoned around 1850 because of the advancing glacier which led to the blocking of the bay by icebergs.
Qajaa lies on the south side of the fjord and this settlement was also abandoned in the 19th century due to the same reasons. This site goes back 4,000 years to the Saqqaq culture and the thick layers of refuse have given important information of the Greenlandic prehistory.
The wishes for the Greenlandic World Heritage sites are now being examined closely. Further information on the subject can be found in 'Nordic World Heritage, Tema Nord 1996:31' which can be ordered from agents appointed by the Nordic Council of Ministers. In Greenland: Atuagkat Boghandel, Postboks 1009, 3900 Nuuk Greenland, Phone +299 321337/322444 or Fax +299 323378.
 
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