Prehistoric and archaeological sites in Greenland

Landnamsgaarden

People have lived in the current Narsaq area for thousands of years, but not continuously. Remains of the Norse settlement can be found in the area. The church ruins of Dyrnes can be found on the north-western outskirts of the town. The Landnám homestead, Landnamsgaarden, can be found immediately to the west of the town. Dated to the year 1000, the homestead is among the oldest of the Norse ruins in the area. The w ...
Founded: 1000 AD | Location: Narsaq, Greenland

Garðar

Garðar was the seat of the bishop in the Norse settlements in Greenland. In the sagas it is told that Sokki Þórisson, a wealthy farmer of the Brattahlíð area launched the idea of a separate bishop for Greenland in the early 12th century. He got the approval of the Norwegian King. Most of the clergy would come from Norway. The first bishop of Garðar, Arnaldur, was ordained by the Archbishop ...
Founded: 1126 | Location: Garðar, Greenland

Eastern Settlement

The Eastern Settlement (Eystribyggð) was the first and largest of the three areas of Norse Greenland, settled c. AD 985 by Norsemen from Iceland. At its peak, it contained approximately 4,000 inhabitants. The last written record from the Eastern Settlement is of a wedding solemnized in 1408, placing it about 50–100 years later than the end of the more northern Western Settlement. Despite its name, the Eastern S ...
Founded: 985 AD | Location: Eastern Settlement, Greenland

Qoornoq

Qoornoq is an abandoned fishing village in the Sermersooq municipality. The area was known to have been inhabited by the ancient pre-Inuit, Paleo-Eskimo people of the Saqqaq culture as far back as 2200 BC. It still contains archaeological ruins of ancient Inuit and Norse buildings. The site was excavated in 1952 and the remains of an old Norse farm and ancient tools were discovered. The outside walls of the farm are doubl ...
Founded: 2200 BC | Location: Sermersooq, Greenland

Qilakitsoq

Qilakitsoq is an archaeological site on Nuussuaq Peninsula. Formally a settlement, it is famous for the discovery of eight mummified bodies in 1972. Four of the mummies are currently on display in the Greenland National Museum. The remains that were found in an icy tomb dated to 1460 CE. Four of these bodies were preserved well due to being buried under a rock in cold temperatures. In essence, they were freeze dried. Th ...
Founded: 1460 | Location: Siaqqissoq, Greenland

Deltaterrasserne

Deltaterasserne is one of the largest archaeological sites in Peary Land, the northernmost part of Greenland. These terraces were inhabited circa 4000 - 3700 BC by Independence I and Independence II cultures. Deltaterrasserne was constructed of large, terraced stones, ranging from 5m to 23m above sea level. Knuth named the site"s ruins and caches in order of their descending elevation. These are scattered over 800 m ...
Founded: 4000-3700 BC | Location: Northeast Greenland National Park, Greenland

Comer's Midden

Comer"s Midden is the find after which the Thule culture was named. The site was first excavated in 1916 by whaling Captain George Comer, ice master of the Crocker Land Expedition"s relief team, and members of Knud Rasmussen"s Second Danish Thule Expedition who were in the area charting the North Greenland coast. The site shows signs of having been inhabited from the 14th to the 20th century although Holtv ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Qaanaaq, Greenland

Western Settlement

The Western Settlement (Vestribyggð) was a group of farms and communities established by Norsemen from Iceland around AD 985 in medieval Greenland. Despite its name, the Western Settlement was more north than west of its companion and located at the head of the long Nuup Kangerlua fjord (inland from Nuuk, the present Greenlandic capital). At its peak, the Western Settlement probably had about 1,000 inhabitants, about ...
Founded: 985 AD | Location: Western Settlement, Greenland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Steinvikholm Castle

Steinvikholm Castle is an island fortress built between 1525 to 1532 by Norway's last Catholic archbishop, Olav Engelbrektsson. Steinvikholm castle became the most powerful fortification by the time it was built, and it is the largest construction raised in the Norwegian Middle Ages.

The castle occupies about half of the land on the rocky island. The absence of a spring meant that fresh water had to be brought from the mainland. A wooden bridge served as the only way to the island other than boat. Although the castle design was common across Europe in 1525, its medieval design was becoming obsolete because of the improved siege firepower offered by gunpowder and cannons.

The castle was constructed after Olav Engelbrektsson returned from a meeting with the Pope in Rome, presumably in anticipation of impending military-religious conflict. As Archbishop Engelbrektsson's resistance to the encroachment of Danish rule escalated, first with Frederick I of Denmark and his successor Christian III of Denmark, Steinvikholm Castle and Nidarholm Abbey became the Catholic Church's military strongholds in Norway. In April 1537, the Danish-Norwegian Reformation succeeded in driving the archbishop from the castle into exile in Lier in the Netherlands (now in Belgium), where he died on 7 February 1538. At the castle the archbishop left behind St. Olav's shrine and other treasures from Nidaros Cathedral (Trondheim). The original coffin containing St. Olav's body remained at Steinvikholm until it was returned to Nidaros Cathedral in 1564. Since 1568 St. Olav's grave in Nidaros has been unknown.

From the 17th to 19th century, the island was used as a quarry and some of its masonry was sold and removed from the site. This activity was condoned by the Danish-Norwegian authorities as a way of eliminating a monument to the opposition of the Danish–Norwegian Union.

Steinvikholm fort is owned and operated today by The society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments. The island has been the site of the midnight opera which details the life and struggles of the archbishop. The opera is held in August annually. The opera is organized by Steinvikholm Musikkteater since the beginning in 1993.