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The first settlement, covering the area of contemporary city, was first founded around springs of salt water. The City has been developing from a settlement of pile dwellings and there has been an evidence of living in the area thorough all prehistoric and historic periods.

Tuzla is one of the oldest settlements in Europe, with continuity of living in this area. The oldest settlement of pile dwellings in Europe, from the Neolithic (New Stone Age), was found in Tuzla, unlike other settlements of pile dwellings found in Europe dating from the Iron Age.  Many items from the Neolithic were found in Tuzla, among which dishes for production of salt from salt water take a special place. These archeological items confirm that sources of salt were exploited by people during the Neolithic. 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. It has to be underlined that the Neolithic settlement was found in the center of contemporary Tuzla, which is a unique case and a proof that the settlement was the beginning of continuous living in the area of the contemporary city through all historical periods, from the Neolithic until today.

Tuzla has a specific geological past. The inhabitants of Tuzla say that Tuzla is “the city on a grain of salt”. That “grain of salt” are hundreds of millions of tons of rock salt and salt water left after the Pannonian Sea, which retreated from this area more than ten million years ago.  The name of the City has always, through its existence and in languages of all travel writers, cartographers, historians and conquerors, been related to salt. River Jala, which flows through Tuzla, bears the name which originates from Greek word Jalos meaning salt. The City itself was called different names through its history: Castron de Salenes – the saline city (Greek), Salenes (Greek), Ad Salinas (Latin), Soli (South Slavic), Memlehatejn (Arabic), Memleha-i Zir (Persian), Tuz (Turkish)… until its present name Tuzla which means a saline in Turkish.
More organized exploitation of salt in Tuzla was intensified during the Ottoman rule. Salt production and its income were the key factor which established Tuzla as a town. Organized production and sale of salt was supported by a modernization of a salt well, located on contemporary Salt Square, in 1476 and by declaration of Tuzla for an “Emperor’s piece of land” in 1477. There were up to 80 pots on the Salt Square to boil salt water taken from the well. 

The salt from Tuzla was known out of Bosnian borders. In the 17th century French king Louis XIV purchased the salt from Tuzla for his palace via his merchants. The salt from Tuzla was one of the basic items with which Bosnian province represented itself on the International Economic Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876. One of the primary objectives of annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was exploitation of natural resources, among which the salt from Tuzla took a special place. The first saline, constructed in the suburban area of Tuzla, Simin Han, in 1885 represented the beginning of industrial production of salt in Tuzla. Soon afterwards there was the beginning of subsidence as a consequence of uncontrolled extraction of salt water from salt rocks deposits, on which the city is located. The subsidence was on its peak in the 1970s.