The United Nations' culture agency added Nordic "clinker boats" to its list of traditions that are part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in December.

The designation was requested jointly by Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and Iceland. This is the first time that UNESCO saw an application from a united Nordic region.

All the Nordic countries' ministers of cultures signed off on the nomination encompassing more than 2,000 years of maritime history.

Ole Jakob Furuset, head of the Cultural Heritage and Museums section in the Cultural Council of Norway, described the entry on the list as very satisfying.

It is, he said, "a confirmation of traditions that help pass on the knowledge in different local communities and different countries in the Nordic region," according to NTB.

Common sight on the shores of Nordic countries

The design of the clinker boat stretches back more than two millennia with overlapping wooden placed in a specific way secured with iron or copper nails. It has been a common sight on the shores of Nordic countries for centuries.

This is the fourth entry for Norway on the list with the Oselvar boat workshop, the folk traditions of Setesdal valley, and the restoration work of Nidaros Cathedral, in Trondheim, already on this list of world cultural heritage.

Nordic clinker boats are small, open, wooden boats between five and ten meters long. Photo: Giordano Rossoni / Unsplash

Those who supported the nomination hope it will safeguard and preserve the Viking-era boat-building techniques for future generations.

"We can see that the skills of building them, the skills of sailing the boats, the knowledge of people who are sailing ... it goes down and it disappears," Soren Nielsen, head of the boatyard at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, west of Copenhagen, stated.

The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde exhibits the remains of wooden vessels built 1,000 years ago. It also works on rebuilding other Viking boats.

A fading tradition

Nielsen supervises the construction and repair of wooden boats built in the clinker tradition. According to his estimates, there are only about 20 practicing clinker boat craftsmen in Denmark and roughly 200 across all of Northern Europe.

"We think it's a tradition we have to show off, and we have to tell people this was a part of our background," he told The Associated Press (AP).

The clinker boats were very popular in the Viking Age – their robust and light build was key in the trade and warfare-related efforts of Vikings.

If "you hadn't had any ships, you wouldn't have had any Viking Age… It just literally made it possible for them to expand that kind of horizon to become a more global people," Triona Sorensen, curator at Roskilde's Viking Ship Museum, explained.
 

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