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Relics of Nature: An Archaeology of Natural Heritage in the High North

How does climate change affect our understanding of natural heritage?

Image may contain: Water, Cloud, Sky, Natural landscape, Watercourse.

Basalt columns in Stuðlagil canyon, Jökuldalur, East Iceland. Photo: Þóra Pétursdóttir

About the project

In this project we explore understandings and manifestations of natural heritage, as well as the complicated relationship between natural and cultural heritage in light of climate change.

Anchored in archaeology and critical heritage studies, and drawing on environmental humanities more broadly, Relics of Nature is a reaction to the challenges of climate change. At the same time, the project also questions an image of nature that dominates many environmental and heritage discourses: one that depicts nature as pure, authentic and “out there”.

Working through case studies in the high north including Iceland and Svalbard, and combining fieldwork and discourse analysis, the project asks: what becomes of natural heritage in a changing world? How can we react constructively to processes of change and loss? And, what does the mostly taken-for-granted term of “sustainability” really imply in contexts of nature-cultures and environmental change?

Visit the project website here


The project‘s primary objectives are threefold:

  • It will scrutinize the cultural and ontological values involved in a) understandings of natural heritage and b) discriminations between natural and cultural heritage
  • It will investigate how such scrutinizing can inform alternative understandings of sustainability and environmental ethics in the Anthropocene 
  • It will employ the project’s findings in public outreach, and explore how natural heritage may become a more inclusive venue for critical environmental dialogue

Through its ambitions Relics of Nature will also aim to:

  • further the place of natural heritage within the field of critical heritage studies
  • strengthening the voice of the humanities in urgent environmental research and discourse


The project cooperates with the research group Materialities at IAKH, the research network of HEI: Heritage Experience Initiative at UiO, and the research project Unruly Heritage at UiT - The Arctic University of Norway.


The Research Council of Norway, contract nr. 314607.


1 August 2021 - 31 July 2025.

Published June 16, 2021 12:15 PM - Last modified May 2, 2022 3:42 PM