Tuzla is a city which name and history are related to salt, a natural resource left under Tuzla (as salt water and salt rocks) after the Pannonian Sea retreated to the Black sea some 10 million years ago. Tuzla’s past and its cultural tradition date back to the far past, to the Neolithic, and maybe even further.
Within the Pannonian Lakes Complex there is an archaeological park – Neolithic Settlement of Pile Dwellings. The Neolithic settlement of pile dwellings is a reconstruction of the way of living in this area before 7,000 years. It is based on items from the Neolithic, which time of creation was confirmed by the Archeological Institute in Vienna by application of C4 method. This unique space has a multiple significance, not only for the tourist offer of Tuzla and the region but also for valorization of cultural and historical heritage.
Pile dwellings are houses on wooden pillars erected on lakes, rivers, shores, wetlands or flood plain soils. The pile dwelling settlement in Tuzla is erected on a wetland created by sources of water. Archeological researches showed that in the downtown of contemporary Tuzla there was a huge and rich Neolithic settlement of pile dwellings. Inside a pile dwelling there were one or two rooms in the middle of a dwelling. On the clay floor there was a fire place used for cooking, heating and lightning. A family gathered around the fire place. People slept on beds made of plunks and beams covered by straw and animal skin.
Tuzla is a city which name and history are related to salt, a natural resource left under Tuzla (as salt water and salt rocks) after the Pannonian Sea retreated to the Black sea some 10 million years ago. A part of the Pannonian Sea is brought back to the surface of Tuzla with construction of the only salt lake in Europe, the Pannonian Lake, in the downtown of Tuzla.
Tuzla’s past and its cultural tradition date back to the far past, to the Neolithic, and maybe even further. The first archeological park of Neolithic pile dwellings in Bosnia and Herzegovina and South-East Europe was opened in the Pannonian Lakes Complex in summer 2006. The archeological park is a reconstruction of a part of a Neolithic settlement of pile dwellings found in Tuzla. It is an outdoor museum located in the southeastern part of the Pannonian Lakes Complex. It is attached to the hill next to the lakeshore with an objective to represent a part of archeological and historical past of the City of Tuzla and the way of living, material and spiritual, and particularly to represent the salt production in the Neolithic.
The support to an assumption that a Neolithic man exploited sources of salt are fragments of ceramic pots for which the best archeologists claimed that they were used to produce salt from salt water. Two pots were reconstructed and one of them dates back to period of 3,500 years B.C. and the other one 5,000 years B.C. Therefore, salt has been produced in the region of contemporary Tuzla since the Neolithic.
The archeological park is designed as a single facility, consisting of:
The first Neolithic items were found in Tuzla in 1903. Some archeological items were found during works on Appel Platz (contemporary Freedom Square). Those were the first indication about existence of a Neolithic settlement in the area of Tuzla. The archeological material consisted of three pierced and polished hammers, one ceramic trestle made of clay with addition of fine sand and one bigger ball which was used to grind grain. After a professional assessment of these items, Vejsil Ćurčić concluded that there was a Neolithic settlement in the area of contemporary Tuzla whose inhabitants used sources of salt water besides traditional earning. He published his research about the Neolithic settlement in Tuzla in “The Gazette of the national Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina”, number XX from 1908.
Besides its interestingness and importance, this finding was not sufficient to provide a detailed explanation about a type, a size and age of the settlement. Only in 1955 was enough archeological material found at Rudarska street (contemporary Džafer mahala), which undoubtedly confirmed that there was a big and rich Neolithic settlement of pile dwellings in Tuzla, one of the oldest in Europe. Another Neolithic settlement was discovered only in Switzerland.
Besides the remains of pile dwellings in form of oak oarlocks and fir tree beams, a rich archeological material was found at this locality including fragments of rough ceramic (trestles and bottoms of pots, brims, parts of a body of a pot and handles), finely polished fragments of pots made of black, grey and red ceramic with various ornaments, exes made of polished stone, stone knives and scrapers and items made of bones (awls, needles, daggers, deer antlers).
A great number of animal bones, remains of wheat and barley, hazel nut shells and river shells were found in the excavated area of the settlement, which proves that inhabitants of this Neolithic settlement were hunters, cattle breeders, agricultural producers and gatherers.
Establishment of settlements in the area of contemporary Tuzla in the Neolithic may be related to the existence of salt water springs. The discovered settlement of pile dwellings, dwellings on pillars above water, supports this statement. Namely, it was easier for a Neolithic man to build dwellings on dry and solid terrain than to make pile dwellings on pillars on wetlands. Probably important economic and strategic reasons influenced the more difficult way of constructing. One of the reasons are salt water springs which, together with Jala river, contributed that most of the area is wetland. Constructing pile dwellings Neolithic people secured themselves against floods and, at the same time, controlled and exploited salt water springs.
Fragments of ceramic pots also support the assumption that Neolithic people exploited salt water springs. According to opinions of great archeologists of that time the pots were used for salt water boiling. Two pots were reconstructed and one dates back to 3,500 years B.C. and the other one 5,000 years B.C. Therefore, people have been producing salt in the area of contemporary Tuzla since the Neolithic.
The Neolithic pots for salt water boiling are the proof that the pile dwellings settlement in Tuzla was the first known Neolithic settlement whose inhabitants exploited this precious mineral. The oldest European cultures which used salt date back to the Copper Age, which means that the Neolithic archeological findings from Tuzla move the boundaries of knowledge about and usage of salt in human nutrition from the Eneolithic to the Neolithic.
All findings prove high cultural development of inhabitants of this area during prosperity of old cultures in Vinča and Butmir.