“Drystone walling” included on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

“Drystone walling” included on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

The Art of drystone walling, the ancient building method used in Slovenia, Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Switzerland, France and Spain, has been included on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

The art of dry stone walling, knowledge and techniques concerns the knowhow related to making stone constructions by stacking stones upon each other, without using any other materials except sometimes dry soil. The knowledge of the material, the development of the suitable processes for its selection and transportation and the ability to build stable and permanent structures have their own recognizable characteristics.

Dry stone structures are spread across most rural areas – mainly in steep terrains – both inside and outside inhabited spaces, though they are not unknown in urban areas.

The stability of the structures is ensured through the careful selection and placement of the stones, and dry-stone structures have shaped numerous, diverse landscapes, forming various modes of dwelling, farming and husbandry. These dry stone structures are an example of a type of construction which lives in harmony with nature and this inscription aims to preserve the know-how of building it. The practice is usually passed down with practical application adapted to the specific conditions of different areas in which it is typically made.

By Museu Valencià d’Etnologia from València, España – 3.-Pedra en sec, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48381387


Such structures testify to the methods and practices used by people from prehistory to today to organize their living and working space by optimizing local natural and human resources.

They play a vital role in preventing landslides, floods and avalanches, and in combating erosion and desertification of the land, enhancing biodiversity and creating adequate microclimatic conditions for agriculture.

The bearers and practitioners include the rural communities where the element is deeply rooted, as well as professionals in the construction business.

Dry stone structures are always made in perfect harmony with the environment and the technique exemplifies a harmonious relationship between human beings and nature.

The practice is passed down primarily through practical application adapted to the particular conditions of each place.

Dry stone walls are spread along the coast, as well as inland, and the walls created via this technique resist the test of time. Their self-preservation is good example on how we can learn more and cherish such a sustainable way of building. There are different types of construction – from dry stone walls around houses, gardens, vineyards to shelter buildings or even actual houses and their elements. These buildings can act as the inspiration for a new period of dry stone construction, and the people still building in this manner could be a valuable source of information.

By Audrius Meskauskas – own photo, Swiss Italian part near Bignasco, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The traditional construction technique of dry stone will be the first asset of Galicia to be included in the representative list of the intangible heritage of Unesco, within the framework of a joint application of eight European countries – Spain comprises seven other communities: Andalusia, Aragon , Asturias, the Balearic Islands, Extremadura, Catalonia and Valencia- led by Cyprus and Greece and which adds to Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia, France and Italy.

The dry stone is undoubtedly one of the examples of knowledge and uses most relevants of the traditional forms of life in Galicia, which are fixed and transmitted through the millennial craft of builders and affect the relationship of the communities with the environment, creating and defining landscapes. Fundamentals of this constructive technique are the valleys – or fences, which separate the property, meadows and other rustic properties – and the suburbs – or walls, which hold the land in banks on the shores of the rivers in which the vineyard is grown. But also in walls, enclosures and constructions for agrarian and livestock uses such as alvarizas, fridges, pigeons, barns, pendellos, wolf foxes or mills, which help to define and represent the structure of the property or exploitation of the territory. This technique is especially valuable in the counties of Pontevedra, Terra de Montes, Deza, Bergantiños, Terra de Soneira, Xallas, Fisterra, Terra Chá and Ribeira Sacra.

Recognition of the inclusion in the list, recalls the Xunta, represents the commitment of these countries to “implement specific safeguard measures so that local communities, which are their carriers, may have the conditions for their maintenance and dissemination.” For the purpose of promoting the study and documentation of the technique and its processes, as well as to collaborate in its dissemination to the public knowledge and respect for the work of the traditional builders and the numerous examples that are conserved, it was decided to incorporate it, as a first step, to Census of the Cultural Heritage of Galicia.

By Audrius Meskauskas – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1080886

This is the sixth cultural item found in Greece to be inscribed in the Intangible Cultural Heritage list. The previous ones were the Mediterranean diet (shared with another six countries), the know-how of cultivating mastic on the island of Chios, Tinian marble craftsmanship, the Momoeria New Year’s celebration customs in eight villages of Kozani, and Rebetiko music. Greece is also part of two more candidatures submitted to UNESCO for next year’s meeting: the art of chanting (jointly with Cyprus) and the seasonal droving of livestock along migratory routes in the Mediterranean and the Alps (jointly with Italy and Austria).

The art of drystone walling

By RobertSimons – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27057613


OURINHE, Dec.-2018.

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