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Of all the origins of the kingdoms we have studied in this series the origins of Norway goes way back into antiquity. There are remnants of civilizations in Norway extending into pre-historic periods. The first inhabitants of Norway were the Ahrensburg culture (11th to 10th millennia BC), which was a late Upper Paleolithic culture during the Younger Dryas, the last period of cold at the end of the Weichsel glaciation.

It wasn’t until what historians call the migrations period after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century do we see more permanent settlements, consisting of tribes springing up around Norway. By the 9th century each of these small states had things, or tings (local or regional assemblies), for negotiating and settling disputes. The thing meeting places, were usually situated on the oldest and best farms, which belonged to the chieftains and wealthiest farmers. The regional things united to form even larger units: assemblies of deputy yeomen from several regions. In this way, the lagting (assemblies for negotiations and lawmaking) developed. The Frostating was the assembly for the leaders in the Trondheimsfjord area; the earls Jarls of Lade, near Trondheim, seem to have enlarged the Frostatingslag by adding the coastland from Romsdalsfjord to the Lofoten Islands.

Although there is much we know about how people lived in these times thanks to archeology, historians do have a difficult time figuring who was the first king of Norway. Many names of the kings are mythological with no historical evidence to support their kingship. Even the first king historians can name with some certainty still has very little historical evidence behind his reign.

The first King of Norway which most historians agree actually existed was Harald I Fairhair c. 850- c. 932. According to traditions in Norway and Iceland in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Harald reigned from c. 872 to 930. Despite historians agreeing that Harald Fairhair actually existed, the majority of what is known about his life remains uncertain, since the extant accounts of his life in the sagas were set down in writing around three centuries after his lifetime. What does exist are a few remnants of skaldic praise poems attributed to contemporary court poets which seem to refer to Harald’s victories against opponents in Norway. The information supplied in these poems is inconsistent with the tales in the sagas in which they are transmitted, and the sagas themselves often disagree on the details of his background and biography. Two of his sons, Eric Bloodaxe and Haakon the Good, succeeded Harald to become kings after his death.