Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a sovereign and unitary monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula plus Jan Mayenand the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.

Norway

The name Norway comes from the Old Norse word norðrvegr, “northern way” or “way leading to the north”, which the Geats and the Danes named the coastline of western Norway, contrasting with suðrvegar “southern way” for Germany, and austrvegr”eastern way” for the Baltic.

The Old Norse name was borrowed into Old English, as Norðweg, Norweg, giving rise to modern Norway by regular development via Middle English Norwey, Norwei. The adjective Norwegian, on the other hand, recorded from c. 1600, is derived from the latinization of the name as Norwegia.

Nordic Bronze Age stonecarvings at Steinkjer, Central Norway

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. The earliest traces of human occupation in Norway are found along the coast, where the huge ice shelf of the last ice age first melted between 11,000 and 8,000 BC. The oldest finds are stone tools dating from 9,500 to 6,000 BC, discovered in Finnmark(Komsa culture) in the north and Rogaland (Fosna culture) in the south-west.

Between 3000 and 2500 BC new settlers (Corded Ware culture) arrived in eastern Norway. They were Indo-Europeanfarmers who grew grain and kept cows and sheep. The hunting-fishing population of the west coast was also gradually replaced by farmers, though hunting and fishing remained useful secondary means of livelihood.

Saebo Sword (or Thurmuth Sword) at the Bergens Museum

From about 1500 BC bronze was gradually introduced, but the use of stone implements continued; Norway had few riches to barter for bronze goods, and the few finds consist mostly of elaborate weapons and brooches that only chieftains could afford. Huge burial cairns built close to the sea as far north as Harstad and also inland in the south are characteristic of this period. The motifs of the rock carvings differ from those typical of the Stone Age. Representations of the Sun, animals, trees, weapons, ships, and people are all strongly stylised.

Little has been found dating from the early Iron Age (the last 500 years BC). The dead were cremated, and their graves contain few burial goods. During the first four centuries AD the people of Norway were in contact with Roman-occupied Gaul. About 70 Roman bronze cauldrons, often used as burial urns, have been found. Contact with the civilised countries farther south brought a knowledge of runes; the oldest known Norwegian runic inscription dates from the 3rd century.

The Gokstad ship, at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway

Around the year 1000 A.D., two centuries of Viking raids to southern and western areas of Europe tapered off following the adoption of Christianity. Norway then expanded its overseas territories to parts of Great Britain, Ireland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland. Norwegian power peaked in 1265 before competition from the Hanseatic League and the spread of the Black Death weakened the country. In 1397, Norway became part of the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Sweden. The Union lasted until Sweden left in 1523. The remaining union with Denmark lasted nearly three centuries. In 1814, Norwegians adopted a constitution before being forced into a personal union with Sweden. In 1905, Norway ended the union, confirmed in a referendum, ending over 500 years of monarchs residing outside the country. In the same year, the country confirmed the election of its own king. Despite its declaration of neutrality in World War II, Norway was occupied for 5 years by forces of Nazi Germany. In 1949 it abandoned neutrality, becoming a founding member of NATO. Discovery of oil in adjacent waters in the late 1960s boosted Norway’s economic fortunes.

The helmet found at Gjermundbu, is the only Viking Age helmet that has been found

Norway comprises the western part of Scandinavia in Northern Europe. The rugged coastline, broken by huge fjords and thousands of islands, stretches 25,000 kilometres (16,000 mi) and 83,000 kilometres (52,000 mi) and include fjords and islands. Norway shares a 1,619-kilometre (1,006 mi) land border with Sweden, 727 kilometres (452 mi) with Finland, and 196 kilometres (122 mi) with Russia to the east. To the north, west and south, Norway is bordered by the Barents Sea, the Norwegian Sea, the North Sea, and Skagerrak.

A satellite image of continental Norway in winter

At 385,252 square kilometres (148,747 sq mi) (including Svalbard and Jan Mayen) (and 323,802 square kilometres (125,021 sq mi) without), much of the country is dominated by mountainous or high terrain, with a great variety of natural features caused by prehistoric glaciers and varied topography. The most noticeable of these are the fjords: deep grooves cut into the land flooded by the sea following the end of the Ice Age. The longest is Sognefjorden at 204 kilometres (127 mi). Sognefjorden is the world’s second deepest fjord, and the world’s longest.Hornindalsvatnet is the deepest lake in all Europe. Frozen ground can be found all year in the higher mountain areas and in the interior of Finnmark county. Numerous glaciers are found in Norway.

Norway lies between latitudes 57° and 81° N, and longitudes 4° and 32° E.

Norwegian lowland landscape near the Gaulosen branch of Trondheimsfjord

The land is mostly made of hard granite and gneiss rock, but slate, sandstone, and limestone are also common, and the lowest elevations contain marine deposits. Because of the Gulf Stream and prevailing westerlies, Norway experiences higher temperatures and more precipitation than expected at such northern latitudes, especially along the coast. The mainland experiences four distinct seasons, with colder winters and less precipitation inland. The northernmost part has a mostly maritime Subarctic climate, while Svalbard has an Arctic tundra climate.

Because of the large latitudinal range of the country and the varied topography and climate, Norway has a larger number of different habitats than almost any other European country. There are approximately 60,000 species in Norway and adjacent waters (excluding bacteria and virus). The Norwegian Shelf large marine ecosystem is considered highly productive.

Reine in Lofoten, Northern Norway

The southern and western parts of Norway, fully exposed to Atlantic storm fronts, experience more precipitation and have milder winters than the eastern and far northern parts. Areas to the east of the coastal mountains are in a rain shadow, and have lower rain and snow totals than the west. The lowlands around Oslo have the warmest and sunniest summers but also cold weather and snow in wintertime.

Because of Norway’s high latitude, there are large seasonal variations in daylight. From late May to late July, the sun never completely descends beneath the horizon in areas north of the Arctic Circle (hence Norway’s description as the “Land of the Midnight sun”), and the rest of the country experiences up to 20 hours of daylight per day. Conversely, from late November to late January, the sun never rises above the horizon in the north, and daylight hours are very short in the rest of the country.

Sperm Whales common in Norwegian waters

The coastal climate of Norway is exceptionally mild compared with areas on similar latitude elsewhere in the world – with the Gulf Stream passing directly offshore the northern areas of the Atlantic coast. The temperature anomalies found in coastal locations are exceptional, with Røst and Værøy lacking a meteorological winter in spite of being north of the Artic Circle. As a side-effect, the Scandinavian Mountains locks in continental winds from reaching the coastline, causing very cool summers throughout Atlantic Norway. Oslo has more of a continental climate similar to the Swedish variety. The mountain ranges have subarctic and tundra climates. There is also very high rainfall at areas exposed to the Atlantic, such as Bergen. Oslo, in comparison is very dry, being in a rain shadow.

European Beaver

The total number of species include 16,000 species of insects (probably 4,000 more species yet to be described), 20,000 species of algae, 1,800 species of lichen, 1,050 species of mosses, 2,800 species of vascular plants, up to 7,000 species of fungi, 450 species ofbirds (250 species nesting in Norway), 90 species of mammals, 45 fresh-water species of fish, 150 salt-water species of fish, 1,000 species of fresh-water invertebrates, and 3,500 species of salt-water invertebrates. About 40,000 of these species have been described by science. The red list of 2010 encompasses 4,599 species.

Seventeen species are listed mainly because they are endangered on a global scale, such as the European beaver, even if the population in Norway is not seen as endangered. The number of threatened and near-threatened species equals to 3,682; it includes 418 fungi species, many of which are closely associated with the small remaining areas of old-growth forests,  36 bird species, and 16 species of mammals. In 2010, 2,398 species were listed as endangered or vulnerable; of these were 1250 listed as vulnerable (VU), 871 as endangered (EN), and 276 species as critically endangered (CR), among which were the grey wolf, the Arctic fox (healthy population on Svalbard) and the pool frog.

An Elg in Norwegian, Elk in British English and Moose in North America

The largest predator in Norwegian waters is the sperm whale, and the largest fish is the basking shark. The largest predator on land is the polar bear, while the brown bear is the largest predator on the Norwegian mainland. The largest land animal on the mainland is the elk (known in North America as the moose).

Stunning and dramatic scenery and landscape is found throughout Norway. The west coast of southern Norway and the coast of northern Norway present some of the most visually impressive coastal sceneries in the world. National Geographic has listed the Norwegian fjords as the world’s top tourist attraction. The 2014 Environmental Performance Index put Norway in tenth place, based on the environmental performance of the country’s policies.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norway

http://www.infoplease.com/country/norway.html

http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Norway.aspx

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