1. Kujataa in Greenland shows Norse and Inuit farming at the edge of the Ice Cap, little changed from the time when the two cultures merged.

UNESCO list goes back to prehistory

There was a prehistoric flavour to the 25 additions to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites confirmed in Warsaw recently. Among those now included in the list, the most ancient was the 'Caves and Ice Age Art in Swabian Jura'.

Half dozen caves in Baden-Württemberg, discovered in the 1860s, date from 43,000 to 33,000 years ago, just as
the Ice Age was receding. Here, some of the oldest figurative art in the world was carved, depicting humans, lions, horses, mammoths, cattle, as well as musical instruments, weapons, tools and jewellery made from stone, antlers, ivory and bone. More than 50 figures have survived. They are believed to include the world's oldest sculptural depictions of humans, notably Venus of Hohle Fels, a six-centimetre high female figure in mammoth ivory, which was discovered in 2008.


2. and 3. The Lion-man and the Venus of Hohle Fels, both made of mammoth ivory, are the oldest known sculptures.

An archaeological theme park around the Vogelherd cave provides information and has a small lion and mammoth on display, but all the other finds have been dispersed. The Venus of Hohle Fels can now be seen in the Blaubeuren Museum of Prehistory, which also has an ivory flute, while a beautiful ivory wild horse, five centimetres high, is in the collection of Tübingen University's Museum of Ancient Cultures in Hohentübingen Castle. The largest figure found is an upright half-lion, half-man, 35-40,000 years old, 31cm tall; this is now in the Ulm Museum.

Perhaps just as ancient is the cave art in the Xam Khomani Heartlands of Angola, another on the new UNESCO list. The Xam were a clan of the San, or Bushmen, who inhabited southwestern Africa for thousands of years before being displaced, leaving the Khomani as the last surviving indigenous San community in South Africa.



Their living landscape has now been recognised as an important aspect of national culture. Although the Xam have died out, UNESCO sees their rock art as providing 'a unique memorial to lost pre-colonial cultures in Africa'. Examples of their art can be found over some extremely large areas but, the UNESCO report says: 'the two components are in relative close proximity and are considered as a single nomination illustrating the heritage of a unique group of African cultures, most of which have disappeared without record of the knowledge and practices they embodied.'

One cultural landscape from more recent times that attracted UNESCO's attention are the sub-arctic farmlands of Kujataa in Greenland. This is where Norse adventurers expanded beyond Europe to settle abroad. In an area of some 100km around Tunulliarfikfjord are traces of Eskimo/Greenlandic culture as well as large clusters of ruined winter houses used from the Middle Ages until the beginning of the 20th century.

The report on the site concludes: 'It is possible to follow the evolution and changes of the Thule Eskimo tradition over this time span up to the time when the culture can be termed Greenlandic. In this ultimate phase, they meet the Norwegians and Danes, and begin the coexistence with these, which gradually leads to them abandoning their old settlements and building traditions.'

(For further information see: http://whc.unesco.org) Roger Williams


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