Activating Arctic Heritage: Exploring UNESCO World Heritage in Greenlands

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Bjarne Grønnow


The National Museum of Denmark


DKK 26,857,243




Semper Ardens: Advance


Recently, two unique landscapes in Greenland were appointed UNESCO World Cultural Heritage: Kujataa in the south is a preserved sub-arctic Norse (Medieval) agricultural landscape, and Aasivissuit-Nipisat at the Arctic Circle includes remains of Inuit settlements and hunting grounds through 4,500 years. The appointments have resulted in increased cultural awareness and provide a potential for interdisciplinary research. The project ‘Activating Arctic Heritage’ aims at providing - novel theoretical approaches to the concept of ‘cultural heritage’ - new multi-disciplinary methods to extract information on changing environments and human life conditions from archaeological sites - new cultural historical insights through investigations of Inuit and Norse sites in the UNESCO landscapes.


‘Activating Arctic Heritage’ offers a research program that provides new empirical knowledge about small-scale societies, which subsisted through millennia in extreme environments. Such novel insights into human perseverance are of universal importance in times of drastic climatic and geo-political change. The project is relevant to the Greenland society of today: It strengthens awareness on the value of cultural heritage in the local communities and in entire Greenland. The new theoretical, methodological and cultural historical insights enrich the UNESCO properties and provide stepping stones for Greenland’s and the international community’s efforts to conduct pro-active and sustainable management of cultural landscapes.


The project is a joint venture by the national museums of Denmark and Greenland. Together with their international partners they hold profound expertise in arctic archaeology, paleo-environmental studies and preservation science. New theoretical approaches to cultural heritage are explored via citizen science activities and dialogues engaging local community members and other stakeholders. Researchers from a multitude of natural science disciplines collaborate with archaeologists on excavations of selected Inuit and Norse sites in the UNESCO areas followed up by comprehensive laboratory analyses of finds and samples and comparative studies. Taking advantage of the UNESCO network, the results of the project will be disseminated and published worldwide.

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