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From 4,500 to 5,000 years ago most of Hordaland was a landscape of forest, right out to the coast and the islands. With our inner eye we can see old oak trees putting their stamp on the heat-loving deciduous forest.
The outer frame - the coast, the fjord and the mountains - are an inheritance from the country's geological history. But what, more than anything else, gives the scene colour and excitement is the plant life.
Two of Norway's - and mainland Europe's - largest glaciers, in addition to a number of smaller glaciers, lie in Hordaland. This eternal ice is easily accessible, and easy to be enchanted with. A National Day parade goes to the top of the Hardanger glacier, and Folgefonna glacier has lift assistance at the summer ski centre in Jondal.
The Himalaya Mountain Chain is being formed by the Indian continental plate colliding w the Asian continent. This happens because the earth’s continental plates are constantly moving in relation to each other. Sometimes they crash together and form large collision zones or mountain chains. The collision between India and the Asian continent has created the world's highest mountain and thickest continental crust. But the creation of the Himalaya mountain chain is essentially just a repeat of what happened more than 400 million years ago when Western Norway and Greenland collided and formed the Caledonian mountain range. That mountain-building event caused quite dramatic changes in topography, climate and crustal thickness, and resulted in both volcanism and a lot of earthquake activity. In addition,
The continental glacier that covered Hordaland was like a great power that had decisive influence over our natural history. The glaciers which at the beginning of the last ice age (more than 100,000 years ago) grew out from Folgefonna, Hardangerjøkulen and other mountainous areas, chased animals and birds, and most likely also humans in front of their paths. Small animals, plants and trees were mercilessly run over and crushed to powder under the thick ice. Even the hard bedrock got torn up and scoured by the ice, which did not give up before it reached the outer edges of the continental shelf. First 14,500 years ago, the climate became mild enough that the outer coastal strip of Hordaland once again became ice-free. Plants, animals and people started to migrate in to a landscape that was golden, with flecks of grey moraine and sand between smoothly polished rock outcrops - as our present warm interglacial was born.
Ølve has the oldest known mines in Hordaland. In 1642, privilege was granted by the king to build an iron works in Jernsmuget on the property of Lilledals Farm, and five years later a copper works on the same property. Operations were suspended in 1673. Mining resumed again in the municipality in the 1750s. Also this time, in the region of Ølve.
Already in the 1750s, Erik Pontioppidan fantasized about the possibility of petroleum in the North Sea, in "Forsøg til Norges naturlige Historie" (= Studies of Norway's Natural History) "The North Sea’s oiliness is, next to its saltiness, a remarkable feature. It can be expected that in the sea, as on land, there lie hidden some oil seepages or petroleum flows, naphtha, schist-oil and other bituminous and oily liquids”. More than 200 years were to pass before these predictions came true. In recent years, an unbelievable 120,000 cubic metres of oil and 70 million cubic metres of gas are pumped up from the Oseberg and Troll reservoirs every day. This fairy tale is being played out less than 80 kilometres from the coast of Hordaland, which is not further than that one could see the oil platforms from the coastal mountains on a clear day.
Marine activities expanded greatly throughout the 19th century, and provided a livelihood for many people. Fishing and shipping were probably the subsidiary activities which had greatest economic significance throughout the century. Marine activities brought, literally speaking, wind into the sails of many rural districts in Hordaland during that period.
Hordaland has been through several "Stone Ages". The first was in the real Stone Age, with Bømlo as its centre. Hard stone as tools and weapons was the normal occupation for Bømlo folk. The next started a ways into the 1800s. Building stone and cobblestones in the street became popular in cities throughout the country. The last stone age is just about twenty years old - after a long period of dominance by asphalt and cement, natural stone has again become desirable in streets and squares, in roads and as building facades.