Archaeology and Cultural Heritage
In the Geirangerfjord area there are many cultural environments and a great deal of heritage of special historical value from the late Middle Ages (from 1300s to 1500s).
Several cultural environment sites that are almost inaccessible other than by boat are found along the fjords. They consist of farm buildings and associated arable land and grazing, and have outstanding cultural historical, biological and scenic value.
None of these sites are protected under the terms of the Cultural Heritage Act, but the most important ones are situated in protected landscape areas designated under the terms of the Nature Conservation Act. Cultural environments and cultural landscapes are highly esteemed by the local people and municipal land-use planning helps to look after them. Both the Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord areas have sites listed among the cultural landscapes that are given national priority.
Information about stray finds and ancient monuments that can provide insight into how people have used the natural resources in these areas, and where they have lived, is limited. Surveys were undertaken in lowland parts of the proposed World Heritage Area in the 1970s, but little work has been done in the mountains. However, partly thanks to the keen interest for landscape and cultural heritage objects shown by local people for a long time, considerable knowledge exists.
Hunting and trapping of wild reindeer in the mountains around the fjords
Both the Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord areas have numerous traces of ancient hunting and trapping. The traditional methods were based on the permanent migrating routes of the wild reindeer. With the help of leading fences partly constructed with wooden stakes or stones, and natural obstacles like lakes and steep hillsides, the animals were driven off cliffs or into systems of covered pitfalls. Hunters with bows and arrows or spears also hid behind low hides close to routes habitually used by the roaming reindeer. A pitfall for reindeer was generally 2 m deep, 2 m long and 0.7 m broad. Traces of camp sites can probably be linked with the use of hunting sites in the Stone Age, but no permanent settlements have been found in the mountains.
Utilised over thousands of years
The trapping systems in the area are large and imply that many people must have co-operated on the hunt. The very largest systems comprise up to 80 hides and leading fences that were several hundred metres long.
The systems were probably in use from the Stone Age until as late as the 1600s, showing that wild reindeer inhabiting the mountainous areas have always been an important resource for people living in the surrounding fjords and valleys.
Other archaeological and historical (pre-1537) remains recorded in the area
Comparatively few graves or objects dating from the Stone Age or Bronze Age have been found along Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord. This may support a theory that these areas became permanently settled later than the more easily accessible fjords in western Norway.