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History of
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Coat of Arms of the King Tvrtko I of Bosnia
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Within the boundaries of today’s Bosnia and Herzegovina, there have been many layers of prehistoric cultures whose creation and disappearance are linked to migrations of unidentified ethnic groups.

Contents

Prehistory

The vase from Butmir near Sarajevo, early Neolithic

The Paleolithic in B&H is marked by the oldest Paleolithic monument in southeastern Europe, the engravings in Badanj Cave near Stolac in Herzegovina. The magnificent one is Horse attacked by arrows, preserved in fragments and dated around 14-12000 B.C.

During the time when Neolithic cultures were appearing in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there existed interesting mixtures of Mediterranean and Pannonian cultures. Herzegovina was under the influence of impresso ceramics from the western Mediterranean, as seen in Green Cave near Mostar, Čairi near Stolac, Lisičići near Konjic and Peć Mlini near Grude. People then lived in caves or simple settlements on hilltops. On the upper mainstream of the Bosna river and in northeast parts of Bosnia (Obra I near Kakanj), people lived in wooden houses built by the river. In this culture we can see influences from Adriatic cultures in the south and the Starčević culture in the northeast. Original expressions of this culture are ceramic pots on four legs, called riton. We can also find them in the Danilo culture on the Croatian coast. Due to these objects, Kakanj culture is considered a part of the wide circle of Neolithic populations that followed a cult of life force (from northern Italy, Dalmatia and Epirus to the Aegean). The Butmir culture near Sarajevo is distinctive, with fine glazed ceramics and miscellaneous geometrical decorations (often spirals). Figures from Butmir are unique sculptures modeled with hand; heads are almost like portraits with emphasized parts of body.

Bronze age settlements in Herzegovina were built like citadels (natively called gradina), and in Bosnia we have necropolises with stone tumuli. During this time, bronze arms, decorated plates, flat necklaces, and fibulas were decorated with a specific geometrical style of engraved ornament.

The bronze culture of the Illyrians, an ethnic group with a distinct culture and art form, started to organize itself in today’s Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina. From the 7th century BC bronze was replaced by iron, after which only jewelry and art objects were still made out of bronze. Illyrian tribes, under the influence of Halstat cultures to the north, formed regional centers that were slightly different. A very important role in their life was the cult of the dead, which is seen in their careful burials and burial ceremonies, as well as the richness of their burial sites. In northern parts, there was a long tradition of cremation and burial in shallow graves, while in the south the dead were buried in large stone or earth tumuli (natively called gromile) that in Herzegovina were reaching monumental sizes, more than 50 m wide and 5 m high. Japodian tribes had an affinity to decoration (heavy, oversized necklaces out of yellow, blue or white glass paste, and large bronze fibulas, as well as spiral bracelets, diadems and helmets out of bronze foil).

Roman glass found in Bosanski Novi from 2nd century

In the 4th century BC, the first invasion of Celts is recorded. They brought the technique of the pottery wheel, new types of fibulas and different bronze and iron belts. They only passed on their way to Greece, so their influence in Bosnia and Herzegovina is negligible. Celtic migrations displaced many Illyrian tribes from their former lands, but some Celtic and Illyrian tribes mixed. Concrete historical evidence for this period is scarce, but overall it appears that the region was populated by a number of different peoples speaking distinct languages.

In the delta of Neretva in the south, there were important Hellenistic influence of the Illyrian Daors tribe. Their capital was Daorson in Ošanići near Stolac, the main center of ancient culture in B&H. Daorson in the 4th century BC was surrounded by megalithic, 5 m high stonewalls (as large as those of Mycenae in Greece), composed of large trapezoid stone blocks. Daors made unique bronze coins and sculptures.

Roman period

Conflict between the Illyrians and ancient Romans started in 229 BC. In the year 168 BC the land of Illyrians became the Roman province of Illyricum. Rome complete its annexation of the region in 9, ending a three-year rebellion of Illyrians against Romans. In year 10, Illyria was divided and the northern strip of today's Bosnia along the south side of the Sava River became part of the new province of Pannonia. The rest of what is today Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro, Dalmatia, and western Serbia became part of the Roman province of Dalmatia. In the Roman period, Latin-speaking settlers from all over the Roman Empire settled among the Illyrians and Roman soldiers were encouraged to retire in the region. Several towns today are founded under Roman rule. For example the town of Blagaj on the Buna River is built on the site of the Roman town of Bona.

Christianity had already arrived in the region by the end of the 1st century, and numerous artifacts and objects from the time testify to this. Following events from the years 337 and 395, when the Roman Empire split, Dalmatia and Pannonia were included in the Western Roman Empire. The region was conquered by Huns, and later by the Ostrogoths in 455. The Ostrogoth Kingdom was defeated by Byzantine Empire in the Gothic War (535553) by the Emperor Justinian I, and the area was re-conquered for the Byzantine Empire.

Slavonic migrations

Very little is known about the period between 700 and 1000. The Slavs, who had originated in areas spanning modern-day southern Poland, were subjugated by the Eurasian Avars. Together, they invaded the Byzantine Empire since the 6th century, settling in lands south of river Sava to Adriatic sea, including Bosnia, and the Hum[1]. In the early Middle Ages, the term Bosnia described the region of the upper Bosna river valley, roughly Bosnia proper. Later this term spread to cover most of what is today Bosnia and Herzegovina. Around this time dates the earliest preserved mention of the name Bosnia. The book De Administrando Imperio, Heading 32, mentions the "small country" (χοριον) of "Bosona" (Βοσωνα), in which lie the two inhabited cities, Katera and Desnik[2]. Though the location of Desnik is still unknown, Katera was located to the south of present day Sarajevo. Vrhbosna arose out of Katera. The Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja from 1172-1196 of Bar's Roman Catholic Christian Archbishop Grgur names Bosnia, and references an earlier source from the year of 753 - the De Regno Sclavorum (Of the Realm of Slavs)[3].

Modern knowledge of the political situation in the west Balkans during the Dark Ages is patchy and confusing. Upon their arrival, the Slavs brought with them a tribal social structure and Slavic paganism, which probably fell apart and gave way to feudalism only with Frankish penetration into the region in the late 9th century. Bosnia probably originated as one such pre-feudal Slavic entity. Due to its geographic position and terrain, it was probably one of the last areas to go through this process, which presumably originated from the urban centers along the Dalmatian coast. It was also around this time, and the baptizing missions of Cyril and Methodius that the eastern parts of Bosnia were Christianized.

Notes

  1. ^ The Slavs on The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition
  2. ^ „De administrando imperio“
  3. ^ The Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja

Sources

  • Noel Malcolm, BOSNIA A Short History, Macmillan London Limited, 1994.
  • “Umjetničko Blago Bosne i Hercegovine”, several authors, Svjetlost, Sarajevo, 1987.

External links

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