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Aasivissuit - Nipisat, Inuit Hunting Ground between Ice and Sea

Date of Submission: 29/01/2003
Criteria: (iii)(v)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
National Cultural Heritage AgencySlotsholsgade 1 DK- 1216 Copenhagen KE-mail: kuas@kuas.dk
State, Province or Region:
Manitsoq and Sisimiut, West Greenland
Coordinates: Area: 10,210 km2 (Arnangarnup Qoorua 90 km2)
Ref.: 1782
Word File

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This region divides naturally into 3 parts, Aasivissuit and Arnangarnup Qoorua (the Paradise valley) in the east, close to the ice cap and the outer coast in the west. The inland areas chiefly consist of hill ranges intersected by broad river valleys. Further west, towards the ocean, the terrain initially becomes more alpine before finally ending in a highly dissected fjord and archipelagic landscape. Aasivissuit and Arnangarnup Qoorua; Aasivissuit and Arnangarnup Qoorua are entirely Eskimo cultural landscapes, containing a wide range of constructions, such as inussuk cairns (designed to scare reindeer when they are being driven towards a trap), hides, stone meat caches, stone fox traps, graves, stone and turf foundations for temporary, overnight shelters, rows of jumping stones used when playing games, blocking walls used when driving reindeer towards traps, hearths, tent rings and tent houses. This cultural landscape, thus, has all the elements which the Eskimo hunter and his family used. The graves near the base camp show that the older generation was part of the family group, too. Aasivissuit and Arnangarnup Qoorua admirably testify to the way the Eskimos utilised the inland region for hunting and fishing for several thousands of years, archaeological investigations having shown that this utilisation lasted from the Palaeo?Eskimo Saqqaq and Dorset cultures, through the Neo?Eskimo Thule culture to the people living during the colonial era. Aasivissuit and Arnangamup Qoorua can thus be said to have been the summer territory of reindeer hunters and trout fishermen from about 2150 BC until around AD 1950. Several hundreds of structures have been recorded, the most characteristic of which are those associated with the base camps and the wide range of hunting structures and systems, including rows of cairns, blocking walls and hides. Arnangamup Qoorua was, moreover, the scene for a short?lived, but very special, religious revival late in the 18th century. The stretch towards the coast and the coastal region; The approximately 170 km long Kangerlussuaqfjord cuts diagonally through the area that has been defined. This large fjord was the waterway along which people sailed to their summer hunting and fishing areas. Archaeological reconnaissance has shown that this stretch of fjord and the district surrounding it has been the domain of hunters and fishermen for as long as people have lived on the west coast of Greenland. Their winter quarters were close to the ocean on the outer coast, particularly the stretch north of Kangerlussuaq and south of Sisimiut where there is a huge archipelago consisting of thousands of islands that form a biotope for a rich fauna of marine mammals, fish and birds, i.e. the basis for a hunting economy. The ruins of the winter quarters of the Eskimos, and later the Greenlanders, are in this archipelago, often so many together that they form small communities. Archaeological investigations show that the archipelago was populated by hunters right back to the 3rd millenium BC, and today, too, many seek their living out among the islets and skerries. All in all, this area has a historic depth of more than 4000 years, manifested by the ruins of houses, various kinds of structures and graves, which, together with the diversity of the landscape, testify to the annual cycle and the conditions which were so special for the Greenland hunter culture.