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Kinsarvik has probably been a centre for the inner Hardanger districts back in prehistory. History tells us that in medieval times there was a marketing place, a “kaupang”, here; a connecting point in the communications between east and west. There were supposedly around 300 residents here but the place was likely wiped out in a great fire.
The grand farm Aga on the west side of Sørfjorden, came under protection in 1937, when the agricultural reform threatened to disperse the old clustered settlement. “Lagmannsstova”, named after the “lagmann” (law speaker) Sigurd Brynjulfsson, was already protected in 1924; one of the authentic profane wooden buildings from the Middle Ages still standing. All the same it is the farmyard itself that is the key cultural monument.
The farm Jåstad, situated a few kilometres north of Agatunet, must have been a grand farm in medieval times. Torolf on Jåstad is mentioned as arbitration moderator in 1293, and in the vaulted corridor at Lyse Kloster Sigurd, farmer at Jåstad, and his wife Sigrid – the king’s kinswoman - are buried.
Down by the fjord on the farm Berge in Tørvikbygd, is Stekkavika – a sheltered eastward facing harbour, protected against the fjord by headlands and rocks, even manifest in the name. Here is also a comprehensive milieu of coastal industry, with boathouses and sea-sheds that belong to the farms Berge, Heradstveit and Halleråker. Belonging to the farm Berge there is also a mill-house, circular saw, workshop for sloop building, and – a little further up into the woods – the old water-powered sash-saw.
At Salthamaren in Vangdalsberget it is thought that salt was burned some time in history, and deep layers of coal in the ground show that fire has been made up here several times. But they were hardly salt-burners, the first people who stopped here. Some of them carved figures into the rock. On top of the rocky outcrop, furthest out on the cliff, a group of Stone Age hunters carved animal figures. More than 1,500 years later Bronze Age farmers drew ship figures at the foot of the rock. Both these works of art - some of the oldest in Hordaland – are still visible, carved in the rock at Salthamaren.