Human habitation of this elongated sand dune peninsula, 98 km long and 0.4-4 km wide, dates back to prehistoric times. Throughout this period it has been threatened by the natural forces of wind and waves. Its survival to the present day has been made possible only as a result of ceaseless human efforts to combat the erosion of the Spit, dramatically illustrated by continuing stabilisation and reforestation projects.
Isthme de Courlande
L'occupation humaine de cette étroite péninsule de dunes de sable, longue de 98 km et large de 0,4 à 4 km, remonte aux temps préhistoriques. Depuis cette période, elle a été sous la menace des forces naturelles du vent et des vagues. Elle ne doit sa préservation actuelle qu'aux efforts incessants des habitants pour combattre l'érosion de l'isthme, efforts remarquablement illustrés par les projets continus de stabilisation et de reboisement.
يرقى الوجود البشري في شبه الجزيرة الضيّقة هذه المكوّنة من كثبان الرمل على طول 98 كيلومترا وعرض 0.4 إلى 4 أمتار إلى حقبة ما قبل التاريخ وهي تعرّضت مذ ذاك لأهواء الطبيعة من هواء وأمواج. وهي تدين بوضعها الحالي لجهود السكان المتتابعة لمكافحة تعرية البرزخ وهي جهود جسّدتها مشاريع مستمّرة لإرساء الاستقرار وإعادة التشجير.
Освоение человеком этого узкого песчаного полуострова, имеющего протяженность 98 км и ширину от 400 м до 4 км, началось еще в доисторические времена. Коса подвергалась также воздействию природных сил – ветра и морских волн. Сохранение этого уникального культурного ландшафта до наших дней стало возможным только благодаря непрекращающейся борьбе человека с процессами эрозии (закрепление дюн, лесопосадки).
Istmo de Curlandia
La ocupación humana de esta estrecha península de dunas de arena –de 98 km. de largo y 0,4 a 4 km de ancho– data de los tiempos prehistóricos. Sometido a los continuos embates del viento y las olas, el istmo debe su estado de conservación actual a los denodados esfuerzos realizados por sus habitantes para contrarrestar la erosión. Esta labor incesante la ilustran los continuos proyectos de estabilización y repoblación forestal que se llevan a cabo.
Dit schiereiland scheidt de Baltische Zee en de Koerse lagune. De formatie van de Koerse Schoorwal begon 5.000 jaar geleden. Menselijke bewoning van dit langgerekte duinschiereiland – 98 kilometer lang en 0,4 - 4 kilometer breed – dateert uit de prehistorie. Gedurende deze periode werd het gebied bedreigd door de natuurlijke krachten van wind en golven. Dat het schiereiland vandaag de dag nog bestaat, komt enkel door onophoudelijke menselijke inspanningen om de erosie van de Schoorwal te bestrijden. Dit is goed zichtbaar in de aanhoudende stabilisatie- en herbebossingsprojecten. De grootste nederzettingen in het Litouwse deel van het schiereiland zijn Smiltyne, Pervalka, Juodkrante, Preila en Nida.
Justification for Inscription
Criterion (v): The Curonian Spit is an outstanding example of a landscape of sand dunes that is under constant threat from natural forces (wind and tide). After disastrous human interventions that menaced its survival the Spit was reclaimed by massive protection and stabilization works begun in the 19th century and still continuing to the present day.
The Curonian Spit is an outstanding example of a landscape of sand dunes that is under constant threat from natural forces (wind and tide). After disastrous human interventions that menaced its survival, the Spit was reclaimed by massive protection and stabilization works begun in the 19th century and still continuing to the present day.
The Spit is a peninsula that separates the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon in a slightly concave arc for 98 km from the Kaliningrad Peninsula to the town of Klaipeda. The largest settlements in the Lithuanian part are Smiltyne, Pervalka, Juodkrante, Preila and Nida. Dune valleys divide the ridge into separate dune massifs, and capes are generally formed in front of these valleys.
Formation of the Spit began some 5,000 years ago. Mesolithic people whose main source of food was from the sea settled there, working bone and stone brought from the mainland. In the 1st millennium CE West Baltic tribes (Curonians and Prussians) established seasonal settlements there, to collect fish, and perhaps also for ritual purposes. The centre of Kaup is the last unexcavated large proto-urban settlement of the Viking period. The invasion of Prussia by Teutonic Knights in the 13th century was gradually driven out, but armed conflict continued in the region until the 15th century. The Spit had great strategic importance, and in consequence the knights built castles at Memel (1252), Noihauz (1283) and Rossitten (1372). They also settled German farmers around the castles, building roads and clearing woodland for agriculture.
Baltic peoples set up settlements on the Spit and the population increased, however, as their main activities were fishing and beekeeping. In the 16th century a new process of dune formation began and settlements became buried in sand. The works took the form of the construction of a protective bank of sand to prevent further ingress of dunes (a process that took most of the century) and the stabilization of dunes by means of brushwood hurdles, accompanied by reforestation.
The most significant element of the Spit's cultural heritage is represented by the old fishing settlements. The earliest of these were buried in sand when the woodland cover was removed. Those that have survived are all along the coast of the lagoon. At the end of the 19th century more elaborate buildings - lighthouses, churches, schools and villas - began to be erected alongside the simpler vernacular houses. This was partly due to the fact that the Spit became a recreational centre: Juodkrante became famous as a health resort as early as 1840 and Nida, Preila and Pervalka were given official recognition in this category in 1933. In the centre, Nida, the largest settlement on the Spit, has a linear plan based on a single main street that runs parallel to the lagoon and which developed spontaneously in the 19th century.
The most northerly part of the Spit, Smiltyne, was not settled until the mid-19th century, when a health resort was created. It is the point where ferries from Klaipeda on the mainland arrive on the Spit. The surviving buildings of cultural significance are the houses of fishermen built during the 19th century. In their original form they were built from wood and thatched with reeds. A homestead consisted of two or three buildings: a dwelling house, a cattle shed, and a smokehouse for curing fish. These were located to one side of the long narrow plot, leaving space for a kitchen garden and for drying nets. The houses were constructed at right angles to the street. In the 20th century the fishermen's houses were enlarged and new ones built with their long sides to the street. As a result, the appearance of the settlements was radically altered.
Other buildings are the sturdy lighthouse at Pervalka and the neo-Gothic Evangelical Lutheran churches at Juodkrante and Nida, both built in the 1880s. The cemeteries of Nida, Preila, Pervalka and Juodkrante are of interest.Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Formation of the Curonian Spit began some 5000 years ago. Despite the continual shifting of its sand dunes, Mesolithic people whose main source of food was from the sea settled there in the 4th millennium BCE, working bone and stone brought from the mainland. In the 1st millennium CE West Baltic tribes (Curonians and Prussians) established seasonal settlements there, to collect stores of fish, and perhaps also for ritual purposes.
The temperature increase in Europe during the 9th and 10th centuries resulted in a rise of sea level and the creation of the Brockist strait at the base of the Spit. This provided the basis for the establishment of the pagan trading centre of Kaup, which flourished between c 800 and 1016. This is unique in being the last unexcavated large proto-urban settlement of the Viking period.
The invasion of Prussia by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century marked a major change in the historical development of the Spit. They were gradually driven out, but armed conflict continued in the region up to the 15th century. The Spit had great strategic importance, and in consequence the Knights built castles at Memel (1252), Noihauz (1283), and Rossitten (1372). They also settled German farmers around the castles, building roads and clearing woodland for agriculture.
The influence of the Knights ended with the peace treaty signed with Lithuania in 1422. Groups of Baltic peoples set up settlements on the Spit and the population increased. However, since their main activities were fishing and beekeeping, this had little impact on the natural environment of the Spit. The early 16th century witnessed the economic and political rise of Prussia, accompanied by intensive industrialization. Industries such as glassmaking, shipbuilding, and salt and metal production required large amounts of wood, charcoal, and potash, all of which could be obtained easily and cheaply on the Spit. Most of the woodland was felled to meet this demand. Loss of tree cover resulted in degradation of the vegetation and exposed the underlying sand to wind erosion.
In the 16th century a new process of dune formation began and settlements became buried in sand. By the early 19th century woodland only survived in a few places on the Spit, which took on the topography that has survived to the present day.
Large sums were made available by the Prussian State Land Management from the beginning of the 19th century to prevent further destabilization of the Spit. The works took the form of the construction of a protective bank of sand to prevent further ingress of dunes (a process that took most of the century) and the stabilization of dunes by means of brushwood hurdles, accompanied by reforestation. By the end of the 19th century nearly half of the Spit had been converted to woodland thanks to these works.
The battles of January 1945 saw considerable destruction of the woodland cover from fire, bombing, and the movement of heavy vehicles. Restoration work began after World War II and has continued with success, despite some serious incursions from the sea; nowadays woodland covers more than 71% of the surface area of the Spit.Source: Advisory Body Evaluation