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Early History

Illyrian tribes


Following Neolithic people in Bosnia, next known inhabitants were Illyrian tribes. They were of proto Indo-European origin, and although it is not clear when they settled in Balkans, but they have certainly been there in 1200 B.C., and on the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1000 B.C. Some of the Illyrian sites are located in parts of today's Sarajevo - Zlatiste and Soukbunar, while others are spread all over Bosnia - from northwest (in proximity of Bihac) to south (Stolac). Several Illyrian tribes were living here: Iapode, Liburne, Dalmate, Desidiate, Ardiane, Daors... Individual tribe rulers were referenced as Kings of Illyria by Greeks, however it is not known that any one of them had a power over all Illyrian tribes. Not much can be said on Illyrian history between settlement and the 7th century B.C, when they were exposed to growing influence from Greeks, and were forced to give up some strongholds on Adriatic islands (Corcyra). A lot of smaller Illyrian tribes were pacified, and no traces of arms were found in their gravesites. Obviously, not all tribes had same destiny as Thucydides mentions Illyrian mercenaries in Corcyrans campaign against Epidamnus in 435 B.C. (The History of the Peloponnesian War written 431 B.C.)

With Macedonian weakness, and decline of Greek colonies in Adriatic sea, some Illyrian tribes (Dardanians under king Bardylis), have been raiding Macedonia for more than 50 years, until Philip II took over Macedonian throne, and defeated Dardanians in 359 and expanded Macedonian territory as far north as Lake Ohrid. Phillip's son and successor Alexander The Great, has been concentrated on Asian conquests, and his operations against Illyrian tribes could be characterized as simple policing actions. He destroyed army of Illyrian general Clitus in 335 BC, and after that Illyrians were part of his force against Persia.

In 312 B.C. (11 years after Alexander's death), Illyrian King Glaucius lead Illyrians to expel the Greeks from Durres. Ardiaeian King Agron, and his wife and successor Teuta raided Greek coast as they wanted, and strengthened Illyrian kingdom. Romans had sent envoys to Teuta with request to stop Illyrian piracy in Adriatic sea, but she had envoys murdered, and that brought revenge of rising Rome, and after a punishment expeditions, Romans took coastal region and set up Roman colony under Demetrios from Pharos. This marked final decline of Illyrians, as in next 250 years, piece by piece of Illyrian territory was taken by Romans. In Illyrian wars 229-219 BC, Rome got Neretva river valley, in 168 BC they defeated Illyrian king Gentius at Shkoder, and finally in 9 AD, under the rule of Tiberius, all Illyrian territories were under Roman control.

Neolithic Settlements in Bosnia - Butmir Culture


Archaeological findings attest to a human presence on the territory of today's Bosnia from the Neolithic period. Several sites, dating as far back as sixth millennium B.C., have been excavated in region of central Bosnia, between rivers Bosnia, Vrbas and Neretva. Most famous site is Butmir, about 10 km west of downtown Sarajevo, and this Neolithic culture is named after it. Butmir settlement had been discovered in 1893, and excavations by Radimsky and Fiala continued for three more years. Their findings were published in two volumes (1895 and 1898). In 20th century several other sites were discovered, and most important ones are: Obre (10 km east from Kakanj), Okoliste (10 km southeast from Kakanj), Nebo (15 km northeast from Turbe) and Lisicici(near Konjic). Archaeological findings on these sites were dated from 5300-4200 years B.C. and it was confirmed by radiocarbonation.

Neolithic people lived in river valleys with fertile land, in rectangular, two-room houses of wooden construction, clay walls and straw roofs. One of the rooms had oval shaped stove built of clay on a branch construction. Abundance of decorated pottery was found, as well as flint, bone and stone tools. Pottery decoration was mostly spiral, but other geometrical shapes were present as well. Area in front of the stove was wood covered, while space behind stove was probably used as working area. Pits beside stoves were used to collect ashes, possibly to wash cloth with it. Human figures found in central Bosnia are specific by neatly combed hair, long noses and were mouthless.

Dr. Alojz Benac as an ultimate authority on Neolithic period in Bosnia, excavated several of these sites, and published numerous works on Neolithic "Butmir" culture.

For samples of Butmir culture findings please visit our gallery

Written by Goran Kulenovic the former Bosnia and Herzegovina GenWeb coordinator