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The shepherd settlement Tatsip Kitaa near Igaliku in Kujataa

Contracting State(s): GronlandGrönland Greenland
Type: Culture
Criteria: v
Area: 34892 ha
Buffer Zone: 57227 ha
Reference no: 1536
UNESCO region: Europe and North America
History of enrolment
Enrollment: 2017 ( Session 41)

Karte: Grönland



Kujataa [

kujaˈtaː] is a subarctic agricultural landscape in southern Greenland. It covers an area of 34,892 hectares (348.92 km2). It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2017.[1]


Kujataa consists of five zones:

  1. Qassiarsuk (113.42 km2) borders the 1267-metre-high Ulunnguarsuaq massif to the north and the highland area of Qaqqarsuatsiaq to the south. It was the second zone in Kujataa, after Igaliku, where modern sheep farming was (and still is) practiced.[2] The zone is named after the settlement of Qassiarsuk, which is the largest sheep settlement in Greenland.[3]
  2. Igaliku (82.87 km2) borders the Illerfissalik and Tallorutit mountains to the north. It was the first zone in Kujataa where modern sheep farming was practiced. It was an important strategic position for the Grænlendingar and was the perfect place for the bishop’s seat founded in the 12th century. The settlement of Igaliku is the namesake of this zone.[2]
  3. Sissarluttoq (3.39 km2) is the smallest zone and contains a single Norse farm, which is, however, one of the best preserved in Greenland.[2]
  4. Tasikuluulik (75.42 km2) was used by the Grænlendingar for agriculture and contains the settlement of Igaliku Kujalleq. The area was subject to unsystematic artifact excavation by antiquarians in the 19th century. Nowhere in Greenland is more archaeological research carried out today than in Tasikuluulik.[2]
  5. Qaqortukulooq (73.82 km2) contains an agricultural research station and the ruins of Hvalsey Church are located there.[2]


Scandinavian settlement

When Erik the Red landed in Greenland during his exile, he founded his first settlement in 985 within what is now a World Heritage Site, on the site of present-day Qassiarsuk.[4] The church of Brattahlíð, built by his wife, is also considered to be the oldest church in Greenland and was built shortly after the settlement, bringing Christianity to Greenland for the first time.[5]

After the so-called “Eastern Settlement”, the more northwesterly “Western Settlement” was founded in the area of present-day Nuuk,[6] which, however, was smaller than the original settlement, with about 90 homesteads.

These settlers lived mainly from animal husbandry and fishing. However, agriculture was also practiced and in favorable years even apples were said to have grown. At the latest after the colonies had submitted to the Norwegian king Håkon IV in 1261, trade with Europe flourished. Thus, the trade goods of the colony were popular, especially the highly fatty wool of the sheep, the gerfalcons, narwhal tusks and walrus ivory.[7]

In 1406, the last Norwegian merchant ship docked in the harbour and the captain Þórsteinn Óláfsson (Thorstein Olafsson) celebrated a splendid wedding with the Greenlander Sigríðr Bjarnardóttir (Sigrid Björnsdottir). However, this was the last written account of Scandinavians in Greenland.[8] An Icelandic expedition discovered a body in the former eastern settlement in the 1540s, which may be the last record of Scandinavians in Greenland.[9]

There are various theories as to what caused the demise, such as conflicts with the incoming Inuit or a colder climate.[10][11]

Inuit settlement

The Thule culture, which probably originated around 900 AD, spread further and further into Greenland, displacing the older and more backward Dorset culture.[12]

By the 15th century at the latest, Greenland was completely settled by the Thule Inuit. These lived mainly from whaling, which brought great returns thanks to their novel lances and harpoons. Thanks to their dog sleds, a kind of trade developed.[13]

The Little Ice Age led to a small population decline and the colder areas were depopulated.[14] However, the Inuit way of life changed even more drastically with the arrival of European whalers beginning in the 17th century. This created new trading opportunities and Christianity spread by proselytizing the newcomers.[15]

Web links

  • Entry on the website of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre(English and French).

Individual references

  1. Kujataa on the website of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre(English and French).
  2. a b c d e Nomination to UNESCO’s World Heritage List: Kujataa – a subarctic farming landscape in Greenland.(PDF; 22.8 MB) January 2016, retrieved 6 July 2019 (English).
  3. Narsaq at
  4. Brattahlið, Greenland.In: Followthe vikings. Retrieved August 7, 2019 (English).
  5. Tjodhilde’s Church – the reconstruction in Qassiarsuk.In: VisitGreenland. Retrieved August 7, 2019 (English).
  6. Carol S. Francis:The Lost Western Settlement Of Greenland, 1342. university of California. 2011. retrieved 23 August 2019.
  7. Kujataa – a subarctic farming landscape in Greenland.January 2016, p. 54, retrieved 7 August 2019 (English).
  8. Kujataa – a subarctic farming landscape in Greenland.January 2016, p. 103,retrieved 9 August 2019 (English).
  9. Dale Mackenzie Brown:The Fate of Greenland’s VikingsArchaeological Institute of America. 28 February 2000. Retrieved 25 August 2019: “One […] [man] was found lying face down on the beach of a fjord in the 1540s by a party of Icelandic seafarers, who like so many sailors before them had been blown off course on their passage to Iceland and wounded up in Greenland. The only Norseman they would come across during their stay, he died where he had fallen, dressed in a hood, homespun woolens and seal skins. Nearby lay his knife, ‘bent and much worn and eaten away.”
  10. Why did Greenland’s Vikings disappear?In: Science | AAAS, 7 November 2016. accessed 23 August 2019.
  11. Tim Folger:Why Did Greenland’s Vikings Vanish?[en]. in: Smithsonian . retrieved 23 August 2019.
  12. Kujataa – a subarctic farming landscape in Greenland.January 2016, p. 140,retrieved 7 August 2019 (English).
  13. Kujataa – a subarctic farming landscape in Greenland.January 2016, p. 139,retrieved 7 August 2019 (English).
  14. Kujataa – a subarctic farming landscape in Greenland.January 2016, p. 116,retrieved 9 August 2019 (English).
  15. Kujataa – a subarctic farming landscape in Greenland.January 2016, pp. 140-141, retrieved 9 August 2019 (English).