Settlements arose at an early stage in Aust-Agder´s history. Glaciers covered most of Norway during the last ice age some 10.000 years ago. As these glaciers receded, fishermen and hunters, probably from further south on the European continent, trekked northward taking advantage of the rich wildlife found near the glacier edge.
Permanent settlements based on agriculture, fishing and trade arose at a later date. Archeological findings have revealed remains of small villages dating back to 4–3 000 BC. During the Viking period, tribal chiefs and their warriors took part in extensive forays to many locations throughout Europe. Internal power struggles also took place during this period. During the 16" and 17" century, Aust-Agder became a major exporter of timber and wooden materials. Export went mainly to the Netherlands and England. Shipping ports, situated near the mouths of rivers, developed into small towns and townships. A fleet of Norwegian commercial ships grew and gradually took charge of export activities.
Timber and an expanding iron-ore industry became the backbone of the shipping industry. The county´s coat of arms, with two golden wooden beams on an iron-ore red background symbolises the importance of these export commodities.