Prehistoric hill-fort settlements
In the middle of the 2nd millennium BC, on the entire territory of Istria, fortification settlements began to appear on hilltops and prominent points above valleys. More than 400 hill-forts have been recorded in Istria which speaks of the population density in the Bronze and Iron Ages. They were mostly circular, ellipsoidal and surrounded by defensive walls. Larger hill-forts were even encompassed by several rings of walls. A special building technique was used where large stone blocks were laid without a bonding agent (dry wall). Besides the quadrangular ground plan, houses were also circular and most probably had a roof made of stone slates like today’s stone-huts (kažun) which then suggests that the same style of construction has survived from the Bronze Age until today.
The best preserved sites of prehistoric hill-forts are near Pula-Pola (Nesactium), Rovinj-Rovigno (Monkodonja) and Poreč (Picugi, name of a hill-fort on three hills).
Nesactium is known as the last tribal capital of the Histri, who were probably the first settlers of Istria. The Histri lived in tribal communities and besides trade engaged in hunting, fishing, farming and cattle raising (especially grazing of sheep and goat). In their scripts Roman writers often mentioned the Histri who were known for their plundering. At the end of the 3rd century BC they came into conflict with the Romans who attacked them several times. A well-known description is that of the Roman siege and conquest of Nesactium in 177 BC when the Histrian king Epulon, to avoid falling into the hands of the Romans, thrust a sword into his chest at the moment when Roman soldiers entered the settlement. This event was recorded by Titus Livius, Roman historian from the Augustan Age.
Below the north gate of Nesactium, the so-called Porta Praehistorica, was a channel for rain-water with a stone drain cover.
Today most of the hill-fort settlements are recognized as circular towns which later developed on their foundations. Among the archaeological remains in Nesactium (4 km from Pula), besides the prehistoric remains of the hill-fort, there are also those of Roman buildings (temples, thermal baths) and even foundations of early Christian basilicas.