Uses of the past in present day herding

  • Løvschal , Mette (Project manager)
  • Fjalland, Emmy Laura Perez (Project participant)

Project: Research

Project Details


Anthropogenic heathlands have existed for thousands of years across Northern Europe and are an important part of Danish natural and cultural heritage. Heathlands have a rich cultural history as prehistoric remnants such as megaliths and round barrows are still visible in the landscape. A distinct plant and animal life are also part of what makes heathlands worth conserving and protection by national and international policies. Heathland landscapes have historically been maintained through fire management, deforestation and grazing livestock. Sheep grazing held a large role in maintaining heathlands, as sheep helped keep invasive plant species at a low; however herding practices disappeared as a widespread practice in the 19th century, coinciding with the radical national program of turning heathlands into agricultural land. In the past twenty years, shepherdesses in Western Jutland have reinvigorated this practice in present heathland management regimes, suggesting a paradoxical resurrection of past practices in the present, a “living biocultural heritage”, at a time where heathlands are drastically diminishing and where there no longer exists a fundamental socio-economic foundation for this management form.

We conduct a series of interviews and fieldwork in western Jutland Denmark following shepherdesses as they herd sheep on heathlands; in order to obtain in-depth knowledge of how the past is used as they herd sheep on Danish heathlands.

The work has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 853356) and Uses of the Past (
Effective start/end date01/01/202101/05/2021