Between Ice and Sea

Illustration by: Nuka Godtfredsen

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Outstanding Universal Value

Exceptional Testimony of a Cultural Evolution

The landscape settings, in combination with impressive archaeological remains, testify to the traditional land use in time and space throughout the nominated area, between the open sea and inland ice sheet. The landscape, camp sites and archaeological remains have outstanding value because people have been in Aasivissuit – Nipisat for millennia exploiting the locally available resources and adapted their lifestyles and homes to the seasonal rhythm.

The long tradition of locally sustainable land use can be read more easily in this landscape and its cultures than in other places. Due to its geography and climatic conditions it remains virtually unchanged and simultaneously offer several options for Nature Being.

Aasivissuit – Nipisat has a well-documented site of early Inuit dwelling on Nipisat and hundreds of visible ruins from Inuit throughout the area. The settlement Sarfannguit is an active fishing and hunting community established in 1843 that links the present sea and land use to the traditional sustainable nomadic hunting during Early Inuit times, that goes all the way back to 4500 years ago.

This World Heritage Site is a continuing landscape with significant material evidence testifying to the evolution of the traditional housing and life in West Greenland over millennia.

Illustration by: Nuka Godtfredsen

Traditions representative of cultures

Human Interaction with the Environment

Ruins of different housing types are present in Aasivissuit – Nipisat, and the situation of these ancient monuments in their original settings makes them first class scenes for conveying the history of hunter-gatherer resilience in an arctic environment.

Beside dwellings there is also ruins of graves and hunting features that are categorized as monuments. They are preserved in their original settings where they testify to the traditional seasonal migrations and variation in hunting practices throughout the year, as has been the case since the arrival of the first people around 4500 years ago.

The lifestyle of seasonal housing is motivated by the animal migrations and climate. On the outer coast by the sea there were winter settlements where people focused on hunting seals, by spring they situated themselves in the fjords to fish for capelin and char, and during the warm summer their camps were situated to intercept migrating caribou in the interior land.

Along the ancient trail still used today are summer camps with dwelling ruins, inussuit (cairns), graves and caches conveying the story of abundance in the landscape. The route from the winter settlements to the summer camps can be followed as an old well-trodden trail running eastwards from the head of Maligiaq Fjord, which is a smaller fjord that connects the inland with the coast and leads out to near Nipisat.

The largest communal hunting system for caribou known from Greenland is situated in the interior, and is together with the exceptionally large number of ruin sites expressing the outstanding universal value of the Inuit hunting ground between ice and sea.

Illustration by: Nuka Godtfredsen

By Nuka Godtfredsen

Early Inuit

4500 – 2000 years ago

The first people that archaeologically was proven to have inhabited Greenland are the Saqqaq culture and Dorset culture people. Several previous campsites from this period have been discovered within Aasivissuit – Nipisat and tells about their life through remains of tools, dwellings and trash. Some of these remains have been documented in our keysites: the summer camp Aasivissuit and coastal island Nipisat.

By Nuka Godtfredsen


800 – 350 years ago

After a period of time with no proven inhabitance the Thule culture people traveled like the previous inhabitants through Canada and across the frozen Bering Strait into Thule in North Greenland, to thereafter spread out along the West and Southeast coast. Living in turf houses by the coast in the winter and skin tents in fjords and inland during summer was their lifestyle as they followed the migrations of land-, sea- and airborn animals.

By Nuka Godtfredsen

Colonial Era

350 – 100 years ago

After the arrival of european whalers, merchants and missionairies The Danish Kingdom colonized Greenland and centralized the population to industrialize hunting and fishing. Some of the Thule culture people began living year-round in settlements along the coast but continued to hunt, fish and forage the same places as they always had.

By Mads Pihl

Modern Inuit

Present time

Greenlandic people inhabit the land today and like their ancestors sustainably use the landscape to provide for themselves and their community. They travel on the same routes going on water, land and ice but have changed to motorized vessels and vehicles while they use mechanized tools inspired by both their own and foreign cultures.

Local motivation

Presenting history while protecting present culture

The local government and authorities are part of the locals that hunt, forage and fish in the Aasivissuit – Nipisat area. Among the locals there are hunter-fishers that are dependent on the wealth of the landscape and sea for their livelihood, making it important for them to be able to go hunting in the area using their modern motorised transport vehicles and water vessels.

By having Aasivissuit – Nipisat inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as the “living hunting ground” that it has been, and still is today, the locals that inhabit the western coast can be sure that the landscape will be as full of life as when their ancestors lived here.

The ruins and monuments in the landscape need to be protected and managed to ensure the history it tells and shows is still discernable to future observers and users of the land. Locations with remnants of dwellings that are up to 4500 years old, are locations that are still favored as camp sites to this day. History does repeat itself, and by learning from previous cultures we will naturally learn more about ourselves.

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Takusassaqqilluinnartoq Aasivissuit qulaaniit. Nunarsuarmioqatigiinnut pingaartinneqangaarluni kingornussassanngortinneqarsimasoq Aasivissuit - Nipisat piniarfissuuvoq angisooq. 

Main keyside Aasivissuit from above. Aasivissuit - Nipisat World Heritage is a huge hunting area.

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