Prehistoric Civilization in Bosnia – Where Europe’s History Began

The history of Bosnia and Herzegovina is very rich, interesting, and exciting, full of fascinating people and events, rebellions, conquests, wars, different nations, religions, cultures, and ideologies. However, out of all of these, the world is most familiar with two famous shots fired from the gun of Bosnian dissident Gavrilo Princip, that killed Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia, because those shots were the spark that ignited the whole world, and led to the First World War. After that, Sarajevo and BiH appeared on the world political map just once – this time, unfortunately, due to the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the war that followed.

After that, we entered the new millennium – a very interesting one, to say the least. A new, digital era “turned the world upside down”, as the incredible technological advancement of humanity completely changed the picture, pace, and lifestyle of the world. The new technologies, such as thermal scanning or DNA analysis, have given Bosnia a unique opportunity to tell the world a whole new story about itself. And that story might even eature some revolutionary discoveries that change the course of the history. However, we will not go that far and will let DNA analysts compare haplogroups, and then explain, once and for all, who Bosnians really are and where is it they come from. We will let archeologists and historians explain why is it the ancient dances re still practiced in Stolac today. But until then, we can talk about things that science has already confirmed, with the local expert, Anita Barjaktaravić, Travel Manager and Coordinator at Red Africa Travel. Even these will surely offer us an exciting and spectacular story about Bosnia.

Many archaeologists agree that Daorson near Stolac is the most important site not only in BiH, but also Europe. Daorson was the capital of the Hellenized Illyrian tribe of Daors, who lived in the valley of the river Neretva from 300 to 50 BC. To this day, the walls of Daorson are quite well preserved and represent an amazing (still under-explored) archaeological and tourist attraction.

Near Srebrenica, there hides Domavia, an important archeological site from Roman times that was once the center of mining. Due to its size and importance, primarily due to the silver that was exploited there, the Romans gave this area the name Argentaria (Srebrenišće).

Necropolises with stećak tombstones are scattered all over BiH, from Kakanj to Stolac, and vividly tell stories about the medieval Bosnia. To date, the mystery of the Bosnian stećak tombstones has not been completely solved, as no similar tombstones have been found anywhere in Europe – only a small amount was found in neighboring states.

Church of St. John the Baptist in Otinovci near Kupres is a unique example of four churches from different periods built on the same site. Remains of earlier churches from V, XV and XIX century, were declared a national monument of BiH.

Remains of early Christian basilicas have been found throughout BiH, mostly dating from the 5th and 6th centuries AD. The most famous are the Double Basilica in Žitomislići near Mostar, the Three-Ship Basilica in Otinovci near Kupres, then the basilicas in Glamoč, Vareš, Donji Vakuf, Travnik and other cities in BiH.

These are just some of the archaeological attractions of BiH from relatively recent history, as there is a lot of evidence that the human foot was walking on these grounds even 70 thousand years ago!

Neanderthals and Sapiens fought for supremacy in prehistory, as evidenced by the remains of Paleolithic settlements in the upper reaches of the rivers Bosna, Ukrina, and Usora. The most famous Paleolithic site is the Badanj cave, along the river Bregava, near Stolac. It was here that the oldest evidence of the Bosnian man was found, as he needed to express himself artistically, in addition to hunting and fighting for his bare life. We do not know exactly what the horse and arrows engraved in the rock represent, and we probably never will. Maybe it is the Baš Čelik’s horse or some other fairy-tale hero. Whoever it is, the horse has been there for 15 thousand years and undoubtedly testifies to a millennial-long existence of civilization and culture in this area. Additionally, Badanj is the oldest monument of Paleolithic art in Southeast Europe!

After Badanj comes the Neolithic evidence of the continuity of the human species in this area: Kakanj, Butmir near Sarajevo, Green cave in Mostar, Čairi in Stolac, Lisičići in Konjic and Peć Mlini at the source of the Tihaljina. Then come the Illyrians, the Greeks, and the Romans, all leaving a lot of evidence and traces about their culture, architecture, script, and customs. Then come the Middle Ages, explained in the stories of numerous necropolises with thousands of unique tombstones, and dozens of famous stećak scattered throughout BiH, all the way from Kakanj to Stolac. Then follow the Ottomans, the Austro-Hungarians, and only then Gavrilo Princip and his famous shot that resonated with the whole world so strongly that the entire history of Bosnia was captured in it.

“The entire Bosnia and Herzegovina is one huge archeological site. It often happens that we hear local people are finding remnants of ancient history, as well as precious objects that testify to ancient times, even in their backyards. This country hides huge archeological treasures. I hope that in the future, BiH will approach this phenomenon systematically and protect its historical and archaeological treasures, which few countries in Europe and the world can boast of”, added Barjaktaravić.

Princip’s shot and the siege of Sarajevo are still the most globally known historical events related to BiH. However, those who want to get to know the rich history of this region will have to look a little deeper into the past, or maybe even consult some of the most prominent guards of Bosnia and Herzegovina heritage, like the Franciscan Museum Gorica, in Livno. Remains from ancient settlements, weapons and tools, Illyrian ships, amphorae, ancient objects and coins, metal seals, stone heads, ceramic vases, churches, monasteries, and early Christian basilicas, remains of dugouts, stećak tombstones and balls will tell you at least a thousand more miraculous stories about Bosnia and Herzegovina, undoubtedly proving that for tens of thousands of years people lived, traded, hunted, walked, sailed, fought, rested, and loved… right in this area.