In the oldest period of human existence, paleolithic man, homo primigenius, wandered through Istria hunting in the undergrowth of mountain forests and sheltering in caves and half-caves in which the hearth meant life and safety..." (Andre Mohorovičić from the book Hrvatska) There were traces found in the 105-meter long Romualdo cave in Limski Kanal close to Poreč, so named after the 9th century Italian monk Romualdo who used it for his ascetic life after escaping Ravenna's powerful Benedictines. When the middle section of the cave was excavated, microlithic flint artifacts of the Gravettien culture as well as bones of more than 40 animal species were found.
Artifacts from the same period were found is Sandalja cave (Grotta del Sandalo sul Monte di Danielo) near Pula. This site is the most important of its kind in the entire area south easterly of the Alps for its paleonthological, paleolithic and paleoanthropological finds. There are important finds from the Villfranchien period [2,500,000-800,000 B.C.]. Remains of bones of the earliest fossil man were found in this location and dated by radiocarbon analysis to be 12,320 years old, while in the lower strata of the cave were found remains of bones, flint implements and fireplaces that are 28,000 years old. All paleonthological, anthropological and archaeological finds from the mentioned site were placed at the Geological-Paleontological Institute of the Yugoslavian Academy of Sciences (now Croatian Academy of Sciences) in Zagreb. The materials presented at the Archeaelogical Museum of Istria in Pula (AMI) is of minor scientific importance.
Neolithic Period (6,000 B.C. - 2,000 B.C.)
In the Neolithic period, between 6000 and 2000 B.C., man abandoned most of the hunting activities and began to dedicate his time to crop rising and animal husbandry. Characteristic for this period is a better technique in the treatment of flint implements and weapons, together with the beginning of pottery production. Pots of various forms and size were made. Axes and hammers of hard stone with polished surfaces began to appear as well as elongated flint knives pointed at the edges. Some of these are on display at the Archeaological Museum of Istria.
The oldest pottery from this period was found on the islands of Cres, Lošinj and Krk. It belongs to the older phase of the neolithic period, and is characterized by a typical ornament on the surface, made by impressing the surface with rims of shells and pointed instruments. The pottery decorated with the impressed shell rims is to be found more often on open sites (cardium impresso). Neolithic sites where this kind of pottery was found in Istria are Viula and Medulin, and Verudica and Andalja near Pula as well as Kavran and Vrin. This form of decoration is not only characteristic for the Istrian area but was generally used in the Mediterranean lands, consequently connections between Istria and other regions of the Mediterranean existed at that time. In the later phases of the neolithic period pottery is, as regards shape and decoration, connected closer to the so-called Danilo and Hvar cultures in Dalmatia.
Aeneolithic Period (c. 4,000 B.C. - 2,000 B.C.)
The Aeneolithic period was between the Upper Stone Age and the Bronze Age, together with the already mentioned Danilo and Hvar pottery, a new kind of pottery appears in Istria that is connected with the finds at Ljubljansko Barje and with sites in northern Italy.
The finds of pottery and other objects from sod houses on the Gromace peninsula in Javorika Bay on the island of Brioni belong to the Istrian group of aeneolithic finds. Good copies of pots are exhibited at the Archeaologicval Museum of Istria, while the originals are in the Achaeological Collection on the island of Brioni.
In the Aeneolithic period man used caves as well as houses partly dug in the ground. The caves Cingarela near Momjan, Veanska Pe in Vela Draga on the slopes of Učka, and Pečine above the Mirna river valley near Srbani, were inhabited in this period. The Aeneolithic idol from Kringa near Pazin (see photo) points to a general cultural and religious course with the rest of the Mediterranean regions, and particularly with the Aegean countries.