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The only in B&H: Salt Museum in Tuzla: from the Neolithic pans to Bosnian tables

The Commission for the Preservation of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina has declared the old Saltern Kreka the Museum of Salt with Movable Heritage, along with a complex of salt wells with a pump station and a salt well from the Ottoman period, a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is a recognition of production of salt in Tuzla. 

The national monument will be protected by the Law on Implementation of Decisions of the Commission for the Preservation of National Monuments and the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is obliged to ensure legal, scientific and technical, administrative and financial measures for protection, preservation, restauration and presentation of the national monument.

Production of salt in Tuzla has been continuous from the Neolithic until today. Archeological material, fragments of ceramic dishes found in the city of Tuzla around contemporary Šarena Mosque and Roundabout are a proof of existence of a Neolithic settlement. Later, in the end of the 1st century B.C. contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina was conquered by the Romans. There are not any material evidence from this period about extraction of salt water in this area. However, contemporary Tuzla was called To Salines by the Romans, which in translation means salt. The first recorded name of this city is related to notes by Constantine Porphyrogennetos who, in his work  De administrando imperio, calls Tuzla a “populated city “ and calls it Salenes.

The area of the Parish of Salt was conquered by the Ottomans in 1460, together with the fall of Srebrenica and Zvornik. However, the Hungarians undertake a counter-offence in 1464 and the City of Salt comes under Hungarian rule again. The Ottomans took the city over in 1474.The proof of existence of salt wells from the Ottoman period is today visible thorough the Salt Well  located on the Salt Square in Tuzla. In the Ottoman period salines were simple facilities made of wood with one room of the size of about 4,5 x 4,5 m. Maximum two stoves with pans and additional tool and equipment could be put in the facility. Simple tools were used for processing of salt water: a pan, a steel trivet, mixing stick, wooden pail and barrel. The tools were made of wood (poplar, maple, willow, nut tree) due to resistance of the wood to corrosion. According to data from various Ottoman documents, in the end of their rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina, about 467 000 okas (1 oka = 1,28 kg) of salt were produced in Tuzla annually. The obtained salt was packed in bags and baskets clothed with fabric inside. The salt was transported by goods transporters on horses.

After annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Tuzla retains its name as the official name of the city. A new administration, together with mining researches in central Bosnia, started a preparation for exploitation of salt and coal in Tuzla region. After discovering of rich sources of salt in 1884, one started comprehensive preparations  for construction of a first industrial salt production plant in Simin Han. In the same year one constructed a salt pipeline of cast iron of radius of 7 cm and 3,5 km long. The salt pipeline connected the salt plant in Simin Han with two salt wells in Gornja Tuzla. The salt production plant was let in operation on March 25, 1885.In the first business year it produced about 1858 tons of salt. The production was performed in two huge pots for boiling of salt water. Before 1890 the salt plant has 6 pots of heating size of  696 m2 which produced 70 tons of salt annually. Construction of this salt production plant ceased import of salt to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Just before the Second World War the salt production plant in Tuzla with its plants in  Simin Han and Kreka had 13 pots for production and it planned to expand its capacities. After the end of the Second World War the salt production plant in Tuzla went on with its activities tending to renew destroyed capacities. In the beginning of the 50s one started construction of new pots for boiling of salt water. In 1952 three new production pots were constructed and let into operation.

In the period from 1952 to 1970 salt production plants in Simin  Han and Kreka worked with 16 production pots. Analyses done by experts in the mid 60s of the 20th century showed that further investments into modernization of old technology and machinery  were not economically justified and that the existing technology and technique of salt production lag behind the world’s trends. That is why construction of a new, modern salt factory started.