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.
An organized exploitation and sale of salt was initiated by digging a salt well on contemporary Salt Square in 1476 and by declaration of Tuzla for an “Emperor’s piece of land” in 1477.
The way of salt production may be figured out from names by which the Ottomans called salines: salines which use wood (Agac Tuzla, Memleha-i cob), which underlined the difference between these salines and sea salt extraction.
There were up to 80 pots on the Salt Square to boil salt water taken from the well. First, small quantities of salt were produced and production expanded by time. The reason for this expansion was not technical and technological advancement but an increase of number of inhabitants in Tuzla, who were related to production of salt.
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 proof of this trade are French coins with the name and the image of Louis XIV found in the area of Tuzla. The salt connected different countries, cultures and civilizations of those times. 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 when the city lost several thousand of housing, cultural and economic buildings. The salt is the destiny which constructed and destroyed Tuzla and determined its cultural uniqueness.