The first people in Lofoten arrived about 6,000 years ago. Lofoten’s Stone Age inhabitants survived on fishing and hunting, in an area which provided quite comfortable living conditions. The whole of Lofoten was covered by large pine and birch woods at the time. There were deer here, bears, wild reindeer, lynx and beavers, too, and the sea was full of fish, seals and whales.
Agriculture was quick to develop, and grain was harvested in Lofoten as early as 4,000 years ago. The Viking Age saw the emergence of several large chieftain's seats. Tofts from a Viking chieftain seat have been found at Borg in Vestvågøy, containing the largest Viking banquet hall ever found in any country. The building, which was 8.5 metres wide and no less than 83 metres long, was reconstructed and forms the core of the Viking Museum, LOFOTR, at Borg, which opened its doors in June 1995.
The Lofoten Fisheries were soon to gain importance, and as early as the year 1103 King Øystein considered them to be of such significance that he built a church in Vågan, which was the centre of the Lofoten fisheries at that time. In about 1120, he followed up by building the first fishermen's cabins (rorbu) ever mentioned in the sagas. Stockfish, produced from spawning cod, was the staple commodity, and it was sold to almost all European countries. Italy is still the most important market for high quality stockfish from Lofoten. Near Kabelvåg we find the site of Vågar, which was the only mediaeval town in northern Scandinavia.
From the 14th century on, Lofoten had to pay taxes to Bergen. This was the beginning of an economic dominance which lasted for 600 years, first implemented by the German Hanseatic League, and later maintained by their Norwegian successors. Changing times with bad years and poverty were succeeded by periods of wealth and prosperity. Following the 1860s came times of great herring migrations, which were to form the basis of growth, prosperity and immigration. The foundation stone of today's human settlement had been laid.