Archaeological monuments constitute the oldest traces of human activity. The oldest find in Norway is the remains of a settlement on the island of Magerøy in Finnmark, dating from approximately 12 000 years ago. Legislation to protect archaeological monuments was first introduced in 1905. This legislation has been amended over the years in response to changes in society and improvements in the level of knowledge regarding various types of monuments and sites. The Cultural Heritage Act automatically protects all archaeological and architectural monuments and sites that predate 1537. Buildings predating 1649 are also protected under the Act.
Norway's target today is to protect and safeguard a representative selection of archaeological monuments and sites from different times and of a variety of characteristic types.
Norway's archaeological sites include prehistoric rock art localities. Scandinavian rock art is an important part of the world's cultural heritage.
The Directorate for Cultural Heritage has launched a programme to ensure preservation of the Norwegian rock carvings.
Norway also has close to 90 sites featuring ruins of medieval buildings. While most of these are churches, sites also include remains of monasteries, castles and fortresses. The Directorate for Cultural Heritage has recently mounted a programme aimed at protecting these ruins.