People have been living on Vega for 10 000 years. A large number of Mesolithic and Neolithic finds have been made. Mesolithic (Early Stone Age) relicts are particularly abundant. The land uplift and the location of the settlements have preserved the remains well. This, together with the topography and the distinct raised shorelines (strandlines), means that Vega has unique archaeological value internationally. The oldest finds are
found at the foot of the mountains on Vega and Søla. The oldest settlement is at Mohalsen. Finds made at Åsgarden suggest that this was the main Stone Age settlement and had a relatively large number of inhabitants and a great deal of activity. The shallow-water areas, which have now become the brim of land fringing Vega and the surrounding islands, were most important for supplying food for the Stone Age people.
The small islands and islets in the archipelago only rose from the sea 5000 to 2000 years ago. These areas therefore only have young archaeological remains.
When the small islands became inhabitated, buildings came too. Building materials were scarce on the treeless islands and along with log houses they had to be bought on the mainland. Many houses were purchased standing and had to be dismantled before being moved out to the islands. Some buildings were also moved from the islands when they were depopulated. One of these was the chapel on Bremstein, which was rebuilt at Valla on Vega. Because they are regularly used during the fishing seasons and as weekend homes, many of the buildings are quite well maintained. There are around 200 buildings standing in the World Heritage Area. The fishing hamlet of Skjærvær and Bremstein Lighthouse are covered by special Protection Orders.
Nordland County Council has funds earmarked for preserving buildings in the Vega Archipelago World Heritage Area and the buffer zone on Vega. The deadline for application is 15 November.
Nordland County Council commissioned the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) to study the use of different colours of paint used on buildings in the Vega Archipelago. The objective was to learn the history of building work and painting so that this knowledge could be used when buildings were rehabilitated.
Architecture relating to the eiders
An outstanding feature in the World Heritage Area is the many large and small constructions built to house breeding eiders. The bird tenders, the Vega Archipelago World Heritage Foundation and the Nordland Eider Duck Association have joined forces to renovate and build more of these ‘eider houses’. Vega School, Helgeland Museum and the Friends of the Vega Archipelago also help bird tenders to repair and build the houses. In 2010, there were around 3000 ‘eider houses’ in the Vega Archipelago, an increase of nearly 30 % over the past five years. Read more
Architectural traditions guide
To ensure that the architectural heritage and buildings in the buffer zone and the World Heritage Area are looked after and improved in the best possible way, Vega Borough Council signed a contract in 2008 with a firm of architects, ARCHUS Arkitekter, to prepare a development plan and a guide on architectural traditions for the Nes - Kirkøy area on Vega. This was occasioned by the growing interest for erecting new buildings on Vega, particularly in the Nes - Kirkøy area, in the wake of World Heritage status.
Photo: Rita Johansen