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 B.C.
    • The Dorset people from approx. 800 B.C. to around 0 A.D.
    • The Thule people from around 1200 A.D. to around 1850 A.D.

The Saqqaq and Dorset cultures are termed pre-Inuit and are known for their sophisticated use of stone tools, which is why they are also called Stone Age cultures. The Thule culture is the latest Inuit culture in the country and also the culture that was mixed with European culture from the 18th century.

Archaeological findings – tools, traces of buildings, and animal bones have been found near various settlements in the area. The 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 all the major Inuit 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.

Get an overview of all known archaeological sites at The National Museum of Greenland.

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