Vegaøyan -- The Vega Archipelago

Vegaøyan -- The Vega Archipelago

A cluster of dozens of islands centred on Vega, just south of the Arctic Circle, forms a cultural landscape of 103,710 ha, of which 6,930 ha is land. The islands bear testimony to a distinctive frugal way of life based on fishing and the harvesting of the down of eider ducks, in an inhospitable environment. There are fishing villages, quays, warehouses, eider houses (built for eider ducks to nest in), farming landscapes, lighthouses and beacons. There is evidence of human settlement from the Stone Age onwards. By the 9th century, the islands had become an important centre for the supply of down, which appears to have accounted for around a third of the islanders’ income. The Vega Archipelago reflects the way fishermen/farmers have, over the past 1,500 years, maintained a sustainable living and the contribution of women to eiderdown harvesting.

Vegaøyan – Archipel de Vega

Ce groupe d’une douzaine d’îles autour de Vega, au sud du cercle arctique, constitue un paysage culturel de 103 710 ha dont 6 930 ha de terres. Les îles attestent d’un mode de vie frugal fondé sur la pêche et la collecte du duvet d’eider (une espèce de canard) dans un environnement hostile. On y trouve des villages de pêcheurs avec des quais, entrepôts et bâtiments servant de nichoirs pour les canards eiders, ainsi que d’un paysage agricole, des phares et des balises. Les traces de peuplement humain remontent à l’âge de la pierre. Au IXe siècle, les îles étaient devenues un grand centre d’approvisionnement du duvet, lequel représentait probablement un tiers des revenus des îliens. L’archipel de Vega illustre la façon dont les pêcheurs/agriculteurs subsistaient depuis 1 500 ans et le rôle des femmes dans la collecte du duvet d’eider.

فيغاويان – أرخبيل فيغا

تشكّل هذه المجموعة المؤلّفة من 12 جزيرة حول فيغا في جنوب الدائرة الشمالية، طبيعةً ثقافيةً تصل إلى 103.710 هكتارات من بينها 6930 هكتارًا من الأراضي. وتشهد هذه الجزر على طريقة حياة زهيدة بُنيت على صيد الأسماك وتجميع زغب العيدر (نوع من البط) الناعم في بيئة باردة. أما قرى الصيادين، فهي تتألف من أرصفة بحرية ومرافئَ ومبانٍ تحضن بط العيدر، بالإضافة إلى طبيعة زراعية ومنارات وشاخصات إذاعية. وتعود آثار سكن الإنسان إلى العصر الحجري. وكانت هذه الجزر في القرن التاسع مركزًا كبيرًا لتخزين الزغب الذي كان يمثل ثلث مداخيل سكان هذه الجزر على الأرجح. ويجسد أرخبيل فيغا الطريقة التي كان يعتاش منها الصيادون/المزارعون منذ 1500 عامٍ ودور النساء في تجميع زغب العيدر.

source: UNESCO/ERI

维嘎群岛文化景观

在北极圈的南部维嘎群岛有几十个岛屿,该地区总面积达103 710公顷,其中岛屿面积6 930公顷。这些岛的遗迹反映了当地居民在不适宜生存的环境中,依靠捕鱼和加工鸭绒毛为生的特有的俭朴生活方式。岛上的渔村、码头、仓库、鸭房(为绒鸭栖息而建)、农庄和灯塔与周围的自然景色相得益彰,构成一幅独特的北极民俗图。这里也拥有早在石器时代人类生存和居住遗留下的痕迹。9世纪时,维嘎群岛已成为当地重要的鸭绒毛供给中心,此项收入约占岛上居民收入的三分之一。维嘎群岛文化景观反映了在过去1500年间渔民/农民始终如一的古朴生活方式,以及妇女对绒毛加工业发展做出的贡献。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Вегаэйн - архипелаг Вега

На архипелаге Вега, расположенном немного южнее Полярного круга и состоящем из дюжины островов, сформировался культурный ландшафт. Общая площадь объекта – 103,7 тыс. га, включая 6,9 тыс. га суши. Этот ландшафт иллюстрирует суровый образ жизни местного населения, которое в неблагоприятных природных условиях занималось рыболовством и сбором гагачьего пуха. Здесь сохранились рыбацкие поселки, причалы, склады, искусственно созданные места для гагачьих гнездовий, обрабатываемые земли, маяки и бакены. Есть свидетельства существования здесь человеческого поселения, начиная со Средних веков. В IХ в. острова стали важным поставщиком пуха, который давал около трети суммарного дохода жителей островов. Архипелаг Вега – это свидетельство традиционного уклада рыбаков и фермеров, существовавшего на протяжении последних 1500 лет.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Vegaøyan - Archipiélago de Vega

Formado por decenas de islas agrupadas en torno a la isla principal de Vega, este archipiélago cercano al círculo polar ártico forma un paisaje cultural de 103.710 hectáreas, de las cuales 6.930 son de tierra firme. El sitio, que constituye un testimonio del modo de vida frugal típico de estas latitudes inhóspitas, basado en la pesca y la recolección del plumón del pato ártico eider, abarca aldeas de pescadores, embarcaderos, almacenes, faros y balizas marítimas, así como tierras cultivadas e instalaciones acondicionadas para el anidamiento de los patos. Existen vestigios de asentamientos humanos desde la Edad de Piedra. A partir del siglo IX, el archipiélago se convirtió en un centro importante del comercio de plumón, que probablemente llegó a representar una tercera parte de los ingresos de los isleños. El archipiélago de Vega es un exponente del modo de vida compatible con el medio ambiente de una población de pescadores y cultivadores desde hace quince siglos, así como del papel desempeñado por la mujer la recolección del plumón.

source: UNESCO/ERI

ヴェガオヤン-ヴェガ群島
北極圏の南にほど近いヴェガを中心とした数十の群島では、厳しい環境の中、人びとは漁業やケワタガモの羽毛採取を主とした独自の質素な生活を営んできた。10万3710ha(陸地は6930ha)におよぶ地域には、漁村や波止場、倉庫やケワタガモ飼育場、農業景観や灯台などが自然に解け込んだ文化的景観が広がる。また、ここには石器時代の住居跡も残る。9世紀には、群島は羽毛の重要な供給地となり、島民は羽毛で収入の3分の1ほどを得ていた。ヴェガ群島では、1500年以上にわたって、魚師や農夫の生活が伝えられ、女性の採取するケワタガモの羽毛の恩恵を受け続けているのである。

source: NFUAJ

Vegaøyan – de Vega archipel

Een cluster van tientallen eilanden rond Vega – net ten zuiden van de poolcirkel – vormt een cultureel landschap van 103.710 hectare, waarvan 6.930 hectare land is. De eilanden getuigen van een sobere levenswijze gebaseerd op visserij en vergaren van het dons van eidereenden. Men vindt er vissersdorpjes, kades, pakhuizen, eiderhuizen (gebouwd voor eidereenden om in te broeden), landbouwlandschappen, vuurtorens en bakens. Er is bewijs van menselijke bewoning vanaf de steentijd. De Vega archipel weerspiegelt zowel de manier waarop vissers en boeren de afgelopen 1.500 jaar goed in hun levensonderhoud konden voorzien, als de bijdrage van vrouwen aan de opbrengst van eiderdons.

Source: unesco.nl

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© Nomination File
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The Vega Archipelago is a shallow-water area just south of the Arctic Circle, on the west coast of Norway – an open seascape and coastal landscape made up of a myriad of islands, islets and skerries. A cluster of low islands centred on the more mountainous islands of Vega and Søla bear testimony of how people developed a distinctive, frugal way of life centred around fishing, farming and the harvesting of eider down (the down of the eider duck) in an extremely exposed seascape. The property covers a cultural landscape of 103,710 ha, of which 6,930 ha is land.

Fishermen and hunters have lived on the islands of Vega and Søla, where peaks tower to nearly 800 m, for more than 10,000 years. As numerous new islands gradually rose from the sea, the characteristic landscape became shaped by the interaction between fishermen-farmers and the bountiful nature in this exposed area. The Vega Archipelago now stands as a testimony to people who have developed unique, simple ways to live in and interact with nature.

They lived as fishermen-farmers, making the tending of eider ducks the centre of their way of life. The local peoples also built shelters and nests for the wild eiders that came to the islands each spring. The birds were protected from any unnecessary disturbance throughout the breeding season. In return, the people could gather the valuable eider down when the birds left their nests with their chicks. As early as the 9th century, tending eiders was reported to be a way for people in Norway to make a living, and the Vega Archipelago was the core area for this tradition. Women played a key role in this lifestyle, and the World Heritage property of the Vega Archipelago also celebrates their contribution to the tending of eider ducks. The tradition remains alive today, albeit to a smaller extent.

The islands and islets are either in groups or isolated, spread across the 50 km broad strandflat that stretches from the mainland to the edge of the continental shelf. The outermost islands are barren and have just a thin, patchy soil cover, whereas those closer to the mainland feature more nutrient-rich bedrock, are greener and show a farming-related biodiversity, linked to centuries of grazing and haymaking.

The rich maritime resources of the Vega Archipelago not only benefited local peoples, but also as many as 228 species of birds that can be observed in the archipelago, considered as the most important wintering area for seabirds in the Nordic region.

Criterion (v): The Vega archipelago reflects the way generations of fishermen-farmers have, over the past 1500 years, maintained a sustainable living in an inhospitable seascape near the Arctic Circle, based on the now unique practice of eider down harvesting, and it also celebrates women’s contribution to the eider down process.

Integrity

The boundaries of the World Heritage property encompass 6,500 islands, islets and skerries, as well as the waters north and west of Vega and parts of that main island and its coastal strip. The rest of the island of Vega forms part of the buffer zone of the World Heritage property.

The World Heritage property showcases the diversity and interaction of the natural features and cultural heritage of the Vega Archipelago, forming a unique cultural landscape. This diversity ranges from the islets where down was gathered to the fishing settlements and traditional farming complexes with characteristic field patterns, forming a mosaic in the landscape. Most of the old buildings are intact, from dwellings to boathouses, warehouses and sheds, beacons and lights; most of them have been renovated, making the area as a whole representative of settlements on the strandflat. Within the boundaries of the property, the interaction between characteristic natural and cultural elements of the cultural landscape allow for the long-term conservation of the area’s Outstanding Universal Value.

In areas where grazing and haymaking are no longer practiced and where no appropriate management strategies are in place, some of the cultural landscape is becoming overgrown or eroded. The bird life in the area is vulnerable to human disturbance in the breeding season, and the landscape may show signs of wear and tear if too many people visit the area. The large radio mast on Vega Island also has an impact on the main perspectives to and from the property.

Authenticity

The cultural landscape of the Vega Archipelago continues to be managed in a traditional manner, using time-honoured management techniques. The down tradition and the cultural landscape are taken care of by landowners and the local community in cooperation with the Vega Archipelago World Heritage Foundation and the management authorities. Bird tenders maintain the more than 1,000-year-old tradition of making houses and nests for the eiders on several of the down islets, protecting the birds through the breeding season, gathering the down and making the traditional eider downs.

Protection and management requirements

The management of the Vega Archipelago benefits from a variety of safeguarding measures. 22% of the land surface in the World Heritage property is designated for special nature protection under the Nature Diversity Act of 2009. Five nature reserves, four bird sanctuaries and one protected landscape area have been designated by Royal decrees.

All pre-Reformation (pre-1537) archaeological and historical monuments and sites are protected by the Cultural Heritage Act of 1978. In addition, special protection orders for later cultural heritage have been issued for 29 buildings at Skjærvær and for Bremstein Lighthouse.

The Municipal Plan for Vega contains a strategic part and part relating to land use, in order to monitor any development in other parts of the property and its buffer zone and to safeguard the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.

A Management plan for the property has been drawn up based on the careful documentation of ancient practices and the mapping of the existing biological diversity. Landowners, authorized users, Vega Borough Council, the County Council and national Government authorities work closely together in order to preserve the cultural landscape of the Vega Archipelago. The Vega Archipelago World Heritage Foundation was set up to promote the World Heritage and coordinate the local World Heritage effort. Representatives of management authorities, the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate, the regional museum and the local World Heritage coordinator work jointly to ensure a good follow-up of the Management Plan for the World Heritage property. The Government allocates funds annually to carry out management, dissemination, restoration and local value creation efforts in the Vega Archipelago World Heritage property.

An inventory of the duck nesting houses on the islands has been completed as part of the conservation of these unique structures.

Increasing numbers of grazing livestock and growing haymaking activities in several areas help to restore the overgrown landscape and safeguard the mosaic aspects of the landscape.

The attributes of the property that convey its values are documented and passed on to the local community and visitors by teaching children and young people through “hands-on” projects, research, guided excursions and information via the Internet, brochures and the like. A local “Society of Friends of the World Heritage Area” is helping to pass on traditional knowledge gained by experience.

Solutions are sought to minimise the visual impact of the radio mast, and challenges related to the number of visitors are followed up through the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate with targeted management of protected areas and by providing information on the values of the area. A vulnerability analysis of traffic in the area has been performed, and there is a separate strategy for tourism and a pilot project for sustainable tourism.

Long Description

The Vega Archipelago reflects the way generations of fishermen/farmers have, over the past 1,500 years, maintained a sustainable living in an inhospitable seascape near the Arctic Circle, based on the now unique practice of eider-down harvesting, and it also celebrates the contribution made by women to the eider-down process.

The site is the major part of the Vega archipelago, a seascape made up of more than 6,500 islands, islets and 'skerries', and surrounding shallow water. It is an exposed landscape of sea and land, with many low, almost treeless islands dotting the surface of the sea against a backdrop of dramatic coastal mountains. Over 50 islands are, or were, inhabited, many seasonally. This seascape is centred on Vega, the largest island, 10 km from the mainland. The unique geology forms the raw material for settlement and livelihood. This archipelago is part of a 'strand flat' formation, a wave-cut platform providing a broad area of shallow sea punctuated by low islands and the mainland fjords. The archipelago shares characteristics with Norway's northern Atlantic coast, but its cultural landscape is more intense and better preserved than elsewhere. The Vega seascape contains fishing villages, quays, warehouses, 'eider' houses, the farming landscape and navigation buildings such as lighthouses and beacons. The site reflects the following cultural qualities.

Historical depth: There is extensive evidence for early Stone Age habitations. More than 100 sites, some with visible houses, have been discovered on the lower slopes of Vega Mountain, but this is thought to be a tiny percentage of the total. The largest settlement site is Asgården, with the safest harbour and where many artefacts have been recovered. Smaller settlements probably functioned as hunting sites. The earlier sites on Vega were abandoned as people moved to lower ground, where there is a continuity of settlement to the present day, and a continuity of livelihood, with finds associated with farming, fishing and collecting down. Finds include house mounds, field clearance cairns, harbours, barrows and 'eider' houses.

Distinctive settlement patterns: The strand flat formation has allowed agriculture to develop on a small scale on the islands. Fields were formed by building up suitable soil through mulching with seaweed. The traditional pattern of 'infields' and 'outfields' can still be clearly seen. Beyond the fields, varieties of heath have developed through prolonged grazing (by sheep and cattle), scything and burning, and much of the diverse heathland vegetation is now related to these processes. Of the 56 islands that have been inhabited, some had only one house whereas others, such as Skjævær and Vega, had larger settlements. Many of the houses were used only seasonally, for fishing or down gathering. The local building material was wood. In the extreme climate, buildings had a limited lifespan: no surviving buildings are older than 100-200 years. Many dwellings survive, unlike buildings related to the fishing and farming processes.

Specialized occupations down collecting and fishing: the harvesting of down (the soft feathers from the nests of eider ducks, which breed in large numbers on the islands) is the most distinctive occupation. Eider duck were encouraged to nest year after year on the same sites in nesting houses built from either stone or wood and lined with seaweed to simulate natural nesting sites under crags on the shore. There is archaeological evidence for the harvesting of birds from the time of the earliest settlements, and archival evidence from Egil's Saga, written down in the 11th century. Eggs were collected for domestic use. The nesting houses attracted the birds and provided shelter from predators. The fishing and hunting of marine animals has taken place since the ice retreated around 10,000 years ago. The type of fishing varied throughout the year. Today there are very few active fishermen compared to their numbers 100 years ago. Remains of this fishing tradition are seen in quays, breakwaters, warehouses and boathouses, as well as the Bremstein lighthouse. The tradition of boat-building dates back to Viking times and is still maintained.

Cultural traditions: The oral traditions of the islands relate to the traditions of fishing, farming and down harvesting, and are significant in connection with place-names, landmarks for fishermen, rituals, folk medicine and local superstitions, including spirits to be propitiated for successful fishing or farming, and those that foretold death and disaster.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

Archaeological evidence suggests that the island of Vega was well populated with marine hunters and fishermen in the early Mesolithic period, and that this settlement persisted through the Stone Age. Gradually as the ice retreated, larger areas of land rose from the sea and the 6500 islands, islets and skerries slowly evolved. Settlement of the islands closest to Vega was in place by around 1500BP, and of the outer islands by 1000BP. Initially this settlement was seasonal.

The small islands begun to be settled permanently around 1000 BP. They were the property of rich estate owners on the mainland and their first permanent occupants would have been landless tenant farmers escaping famine. The landowners required the tenants to look after the eider ducks in order to increase production of the valuable down. In time sealing stations developed in the islands and fishing produced large qualities of dried fish traded out of the area.

From 1560, by decree, all wares from the north had to pass through Bergen in the south of Norway. This meant fishermen became bound to certain merchants. At the end of the 16th century discoveries of new fishing grounds in the North America weakened the pre-eminence of Bergen. Following the Great Nordic War (1700-1721) agriculture recovered and Russians begun trading with Nordland. Around 1770 merchants were given landlords' licences and in 1813 trade became free - thus the power links to Bergen ceased.

The period from the end of the 19th into the beginning of the 20th century was one of massive change. A marked growth in population, and innovations such as boat engines which reduced the need for labour, encouraged many to emigrate to America, and others to move to the mainland. Another landmark change was the Government's centralisation plan of the 1950s (the Nordland Plan) which aimed to put an end to settlement in the islands through the closure of schools and boat services, and the introduction of financial incentives to settle on the mainland.

In spite of all these constraints, some people continued to live in the islands, particularly the older generation, and even those who left kept their houses in repair for summer use.

Recently people have begun to move back to the islands and the policies are being reversed: Vega Council is now looking at ways to encourage the utilisation of the islands' resources as a way of sustaining their rich cultural traditions and ecological diversity.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation
Activities (1)