Before the development of human habitations on the territory of present day Zagreb, prehistoric and historic ones, millions of sea organisms thrived in this area as a result Pannonian Sea during Miocene and Pliocene epochs.
Bones of Wooly Mamooth and Cave Bear are the oldest of any terrestrial animals that we have found in this area so far. Interesting fact about discovery of the Woolly Mammoth femur bone is that it’s only of it’s kind in all of Europe. Zagreb is the only European town in which present day center such discovery was made.
Bones of a cave bear were found in the Veternica Cave which is located on the Medvednica Mountain range. Interesting fact about Veternica Cave is possible existence of the so called “cave bear cult” that was practices by our ancestors thousands of years ago.
After the last ice age and the introduction of neolithic, 6th – 4th millennium, in this part of the Europe first human habitat(ions) start to appear as a result of Zagreb’s geographical position. There are yet to be found exact settlements from the neolithic and copper age but on the basis of individual findings, polished stone axe, we can be sure that people used this location on a regularly basis during prehistory.
Interesting data about life continuity in this area is that neolithic stone axe which was found at the Opatovina, on the same hill on which Middle Age Zagreb will be placed on and where we have found evidences of Kelt and Roman presence. We can assume, on the basis of cultural groups and their territorial dispersal, that this findings belong to: LTK, Sopotsko-Brezovljanski or Lasinje Copper Age cultural groups.
Prehistoric site “Gradišće” that is located in the present day Staro Čiče village, 10km from the city center, is great example of a tell type settlement which used the geographical benefits of the area to thrive though the ages.
Intensive occupation, north and south of Sava River, starts in the late phase of Bronze Age period, 12th century BC, the so called Zagreb cultural group (regional version of the wider cultural phenomenon known as Urnfield Culture). From this period we have two Bronze Age hoards. One was found in the center of the present day Zagreb (Dežmanov prolaz) just a few meters from the main, Ban Josip Jelačić, square while the second was found on the Medvednica slope. There are also two necropolises, Horvati and Vrapče, which belong to the Zagreb cultural group and which stand as another witness of urban development in this area. From the same period are two bronze sword (type Reutlingen and Stätzling) found at the bottom of Jarun Lake (“Sea of Zagreb”). They were probably ritually thrown there as a votive offerings to the water God(s).
In the Iron Age period , 7th/6th century BC, we have thriving settlement on the Gradec Hill . Settlement was fortified and located at the same place which was later chosen for location of medieval town (settlement). This is mainly because it’s easy to defend such an elevated position with Medvednica Mountain range in the north.
There is another interesting finding in Zagreb. More precisely at Grič Park a rare Greek coin was found. It’s a late 3rd century BC Sicilian coin struck by the Mamertines, military units formed from the Campanian or Oscian merchenaries.
With the end of the Iron Age and the rise of Antiquity Zagreb started to appear in the historical record. First with the the arrival of the Romans in this area and later trough the middle ages. Romans have established Andautonia (municipal town) 12km southeast from the present day city center during the first century AD.