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The kingdom was established as a merger of a large number of petty kingdoms.By the traditional count from the year 872, the kingdom has existed continuously for 1,145 years, and the list of Norwegian monarchs includes over sixty kings and earls.The first inhabitants 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.The culture is named after the village of Ahrensburg, 25 km (15.53 mi) north-east of Hamburg in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, where wooden arrow shafts and clubs have been excavated.Norway has both administrative and political subdivisions on two levels: counties and municipalities.The Sámi people have a certain amount of self-determination and influence over traditional territories through the Sámi Parliament and the Finnmark Act.

Norway has a total area of 385,252 square kilometres (148,747 sq mi) and a population of 5,258,317 (as of January 2017).

Coastal fauna provided a means of livelihood for fishermen and hunters, who may have made their way along the southern coast about 10,000 BC when the interior was still covered with ice.

It is now thought that these so-called "Arctic" peoples came from the south and followed the coast northward considerably later.

However, theories about two altogether different cultures (the Komsa culture north of the Arctic Circle being one and the Fosna culture from Trøndelag to Oslofjord being the other) were rendered obsolete in the 1970s.

More recent finds along the entire coast revealed to archaeologists that the difference between the two can simply be ascribed to different types of tools and not to different cultures.

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