Prehistory

In the last 4400 years, large populations of fish and marine mammals have attracted human settlements around Ilulissat Icefjord.

More than 4000 Years of Cultural History  

Scientists believe that three different peoples have inhabited the area:

    • The Saqqaq people from approx. 2400 B.C. to around 900 A.D.
    • The Dorset people from approx. 800 B.C. to around 0 A.D.
    • The Thule people from around 1200 A.D.

Archaeological findings – tools, traces of buildings, and animal bones have been found near various Stone Age settlements in the area. The Stone Age settlement in the Sermermiut Valley at the mouth of the Icefjord is one of the biggest in Greenland. It is unique because it has many well-preserved traces of the three Stone Age cultures in Western Greenland.

The Arrival of the Europeans  

In the sixteenth century European explorers and whalers arrived in the Disko Bay. The explorers and the whalers both had contact with the local people and trade connections were established. In 1741 Ilulissat became a Danish colony by the name of Jakobshavn. Around 1850 the last people moved from the settlement at Sermermiut to Ilulissat.

Seals, Greenland Halibut, and WWII 

During the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries the export of seal skins and later Greenland halibut to Denmark, the colonial power, became increasingly significant to the population of Ilulissat. During WWII the USA established bases in several locations in Greenland. While the war was on, they also took over the supply of goods to Greenland, thereby introducing many modern commodities to the country.II

Cod, Shrimp – and Greenland Halibut Again  

Since the 1950s the catch of primarily cod, and later shrimp and Greenland halibut, constituted the most important source of income to the citizens of Ilulissat.

Read more about the history of Ilulissat on GEUS' website.