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There is evidence of human settlement in Nordland as far back as 10,500 years ago, about as early as in southern Norway. These Stone age people lived near the coast, often on islands and typically along straits near the open sea, with a rich provision of marine resources. Such archeological evidence has been found on Vega, in Leirfjord and along Saltstraumen. There are at least 15 locations with prehistoric rock carvings in Nordland, from Helgeland in the south to Narvik in the north (see Fosna-Hensbacka culture).
Some of the oldest houses known in Norway was excavated on Langhågan on the island Sanna in Træna municipality the oldest house was oval, 6 x 4.5 m, and is dated to 4000 BC. From the house is still visible a 65 m long stone paved "trail" down to a small harbor, today 23 m above sea level.
The 4,600 year old rock drawings at Rødøy, which depict a man on skis holding a stick, is the oldest known reference of skis being used. The location is somewhat surprising, as this island has unreliable snow cover, and the Scandinavian climate was warmer in the Stone Age.This rock drawing was used as a pictogram in the Lillehammer Olympic Games in 1994.
The first agricultural culture has been dated to the Bronze Age. This culture left large burial cairns close to the sea, for instance in Steigen and Vestvågøy, and the northernmost location is around Harstad in southern Troms. These locations have significant areas of lowland suited for agriculture, they are close to the sea and they have many natural harbors.
The oldest remains of a boat ever found in Norway was discovered in a bog in Sømna. Known as Haugvikbåten, the well preserved piece, kept in the Museum of Science (Vitenskapsmuseet) in Trondheim, has been dated to 800 - 400 BC - the Nordic Bronze Age.
For many generations Hålogaland had been the northernmost area of Norsesettlement. The remnants of large longhouses near Borg (Vestvågøy) and in Steigen is dated to the Merovinger period (ca 600 AD). There are substantial archeological evidence of a Norse iron-based culture along the coast from approximately 200 AD.