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World Heritage Convention

Decision 41 COM 8B.22
Kujataa Greenland: Norse and Inuit Farming at the Edge of the Ice Cap (Denmark)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC/17/41.COM/8B and WHC/17/41.COM/INF.8B1,
  2. Inscribes Kujataa Greenland: Norse and Inuit Farming at the Edge of the Ice Cap, Denmark, on the World Heritage List as a cultural landscape on the basis of criterion (v);
  3. Takes note of the following provisional Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief synthesis

    Kujataa Greenland: Norse and Inuit Farming at the Edge of the Ice Cap is located in the municipality of Kujalleq in South Greenland. The nominated property is made up of five component parts which together represent the demographic and administrative core of two diachronic farming cultures: the Norse Greenlanders of the late 10th to mid-15th centuries AD and the Inuit farmers of Kujataa from the 1780s to the present day.

    Although these two cultures are distinct, they also share several unique traits: they are both pastoral farming cultures situated on the Arctic margins of viable agriculture; they are both confined to small landscape niches – the only area in Greenland to provide the required Subarctic environmental conditions – surrounded by wide-ranging and often inaccessible mountain pastures; a demanding landscape setting which has compelled both Norse and Inuit to combine animal husbandry with extensive marine mammal hunting. Finally, the two farming traditions are tied together by links of history, the enterprise of the Norse pioneers literally laying the cultural and physical foundations for Inuit renewal of farming in Greenland.

    The overall landscape of pastures, fields, ruins and present-day buildings is an outstanding example of a human settlement and land use in the Arctic, which represents unique farming cultures converging through margins set by a niche environment. Kujataa Greenland: Norse and Inuit Farming at the Edge of the Ice Cap set the scene for the first European settlement in the New World and the earliest introduction of farming to the Arctic.

    The resulting cultural landscape, shaped by grazing both in medieval and modern times, is composed of grassy slopes and willow copses surrounding dispersed farmsteads sitting on small cultivated infields. The landscape of Kujataa presents an exceptionally comprehensive and complete preservation of a medieval Northern European culture. The five component parts contain a full range of features relating to Norse Greenlandic culture including complete examples of monumental architecture as well as key sites illustrative of the adaptation of the Inuit to a farming way of life from the 18th century onwards.

    Criterion (v): Kujataa is an outstanding example of human settlement, where unique farming traditions have developed in southern Greenland. Although marginal for farming, the relatively mild climate of Kujataa has allowed the development of settlements based on farming and hunting during two major historical periods (including the present period), resulting in a distinctive and vulnerable cultural landscape.

    Norse Greenlandic and Inuit farming settlement have resulted in a remarkable and distinctive cultural landscape based on land use practices within a specific ecological niche that could support farming and pastoralism when complemented with the hunting of marine mammals. The specific climatic conditions that allowed two different cultural traditions to develop land use, settlement and subsistence within this extreme setting have allowed the Inuit farming landscape to reveal and visualize the earlier Norse settlements in an exceptional way.


    The integrity of the nominated property is based on the inclusion of a range of farming landscape elements that ensure that the property contains all the elements necessary to convey the Outstanding Universal Value.

    The components of the serial nomination include key attributes of the Norse and Inuit farming systems, and each also illustrates different facets of farm types, land use patterns, landforms and cultural histories. In some places modern Inuit farms juxtapose relict Norse farms (eg. Igaliku), while others are undisturbed archaeological landscapes where current sheep grazing maintains the pastoral character of the abandoned Norse farm sites (eg. Hvalsey).

    The nominated property encompasses both landscape and archaeological attributes carrying the Outstanding Universal Value, and processes associated with Norse settlement and modern farming are exhibited within the boundaries of the five components. The components are able to sustain continued agricultural uses without compromising the OUV’s

    The condition of the attributes is satisfactory, and while there are potential threats, these are adequately managed at present. The range and scale of proposed mineral resource activity, energy and infrastructure development projects in this area of southern Greenland will be addressed by the Government of Greenland to secure the future integrity of the property.


    The authenticity of the nominated property is based on the pastoral character of the landscape, introduced from the 10th century AD. The archaeological evidence of Norse Greenlandic settlement and farming are found at a substantial number of heritage sites within the components; and the form, materials and design of farm buildings and monumental architecture are from both historical periods. The settlement patterns of the Norse landscape are legible in and between the selected components.

    Conservation of architectural attributes has aimed to ensure their structural stability; and most archaeological sites have not been modified by human activity since their abandonment. Detailed historical documentation supports the authenticity of many attributes.

    Protection and management requirements

    As land is not privately owned in Greenland, activities and constructions require land use concessions from the Kujalleq Municipality or the Government of Greenland. The Greenland National Museum and Archives is one of the authorities responsible for reviewing land use applications as relating to protected heritage values; and the Greenland National Museum and Archives function as advisory consultant in land use project developments, as well as monitoring of heritage values. Any disturbance and demolition of heritage sites is prohibited and punishable by law.

    A number of legal protection mechanisms apply to the property: The Heritage Protection Act (Act no. 11, 19 May 2010) on Cultural Heritage Protection and Conservation; Executive Order on Cultural Heritage Protection (approved in July 2016, and entered into force on 1 August 2016); the Museum Act (Inatsisartut Act no. 8, 3 June 2015); and the Planning Act (Act no. 17, 17 November 2010). In addition to protection of material cultural heritage, the Museum Act protects immaterial (intangible) culture heritage in accordance with the 2003 UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ratified by Denmark in 2009).

    Approvals for activities related to mineral resources are subject to strict legal requirements through the Mineral Resources Act (7 December 2009). Exploitation license applications are subject to for example Environmental Impact Assessment and Social Impact Assessment (each with public hearing and consultation requirements); and must have an impact mitigation plan. The Greenland National Museum and Archives can require archaeological investigations.

    The Government of Greenland is considering the development and implementation of Heritage Impact Assessment as a new tool in land use management.

    The Heritage Protection Act creates protection for ancient monuments, historic buildings and historical areas. All ancient monuments in the property are protected by the Greenland Parliament Act on Cultural Heritage Protection and Conservation. Listed buildings within the property are protected by Greenland laws and municipal planning.

    Protection of the landscape and natural attributes is provided by a wide range of laws and planning regulations, including the Acts on Preservation of Natural Amenities, Environmental Protection and Catchment and Hunting as well as laws pertaining to the different land uses within and outside the nominated property, and the Executive Order on Cultural Heritage Protection (July 2016)The Nature Protection Act (Act no. 29, 18 December 2003) provides for the management of landscape values and the sustainable use of natural resources, including agriculture. The Executive Order on Cultural Heritage Protection (July 2016) provides the essential overall protection for the cultural heritage and attributes of the proposed World Heritage property.

    The property is governed and managed by a steering group with representatives from the Government of Greenland, the Greenland National Museum and Archives, Kujalleq Municipality, village councils, farmers, the Danish Agency for Culture and Palaces and the tourism industry.

    A management system is documented in a management plan, to be implemented from public financial commitments upon inscription on the World Heritage List. The management plan, in which priorities are defined, such as sustainable tourism, local and indigenous ownership, engagement and sustainable development, has been approved by the Government of Greenland and Kujalleq Municipality. The day to day management will be carried out by a local secretariat headed by a site manager and field staff consisting of one or more park rangers working in close collaboration with the authorities represented in the steering group. The Greenland National Museum & Archives monitors and manages protected heritage features and attributes.

  4. Recommends that the State Party further clarify the permitted land uses and provide specific protective mechanisms in the buffer zones (including protection from mining exploration and exploitation in these areas);
  5. Also recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following:
    1. Developing and implementing ‘Heritage Impact Assessment’ as a matter of urgency for development proposals (including mining exploration and exploitation), and changes to agricultural land uses (such as moves to larger farms and changes to farming practices and crops),
    2. Ensuring that all major projects that could impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the series are communicated to the World Heritage Committee in line with paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines,
    3. Continuing to improve the understanding of the different cultural/historical periods of settlement and use of this area by improving the mapping of hunting resources; survey, archaeological research and documentation of Palaeo-Eskimo and Thule Inuit sites; inventorying of historic landscape features; and enhanced recognition and presentation of intangible cultural heritage of the area,
    4. Further developing the management system to address the ways in which changing agricultural land uses can ensure the conservation of the agricultural and pastoral landscape attributes of the serial property,
    5. Developing and implementing mechanisms for direct engagement with authorities responsible for mining approvals and monitoring in the management system for the serial property,
    6. Incorporating important geological heritage values of the property into the interpretation and management system,
    7. Further developing tourism management planning for the property;
  6. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 December 2018, a report on the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations.
Decision Code
41 COM 8B.22
Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties 1
Decisions adopted during the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee (Krakow, 2017)
Context of Decision