Schokland and Surroundings

Posted: October 12, 2009    Categories: Daily Photo, World Heritage Sites

World Heritage Site #84: Schokland and Surroundings

Schokland and Surroundings: My 84th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for Schokland and Surroundings:

The struggle of the people of the Netherlands against water has endured, for more than six thousand years, and still continues today; without constant vigilance, more than half the present area of the country would be entirely submerged or subject to periodic inundation. Schokland was a peninsula that by the fifteenth century had become an island. Occupied and then abandoned as the sea encroached, it had to be evacuated in 1859. Following the impoldering of the Zuider Zee, however, it has formed part of the land reclaimed from the sea since the 1940s. Schokland has vestiges of human habitation going back to prehistoric times. It symbolizes the heroic, age-old struggle of the people of the Netherlands against the encroachment of the water. As a result of the colossal reclamation program that began in the early years of the 20th century, Schokland and the settlement mounds and other human interventions that surround it stand as mute testimony to the skill and fortitude of the Dutch people in the face of this never-ceasing natural threat.

The contours of the former island of Schokland above the flat lands of the reclaimed Noordoostpolder are still easy to trace in the topography within the former island — there are four large village terps, all of them protected archaeological sites. A fifth such site includes traces of Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Iron Age settlements.

The remains of dikes and terps located outside the present island reflect the former contours of the island and the land that has been lost over the course of time. Also located outside the present island, but within the boundaries of the World Heritage property, are more than 160 archaeological sites with remnants of prehistoric occupation. A church and church ruins, residential and commercial buildings, barns, a former harbor, and land division patterns (both old and new) go to complete the story of Schokland.

The area provides exceptional evidence of a cultural tradition of island-dwellers threatened by the water and ultimately evacuated; the first residents on the land reclaimed from the sea cultivated and developed that new land. The area is an exceptional example of a traditional type of settlement and land use that is representative of cultures, primarily when these have become vulnerable due to the influence of irreversible change.

If you visit Schokland and Surroundings, you will find a lighthouse and a harbor in the middle of a farm field. This is because it was an island prior to the sea around it be reclaimed. Of all the world heritage sites in the Netherlands, this is probably the most dubious to be on the list. It seems to be of national importance to the Netherlands but not really of world importance. I think the “human habitation going back to prehistoric times” was just part of the PR campaign to get this included on the World Heritage list.


View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in The Netherlands.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Mar 12, 2017 @ 2:13 pm