History of Kornati

The Kornati islands were formed in the late Ice Age when the sea level rose in such a significant way as to turn fields into sea, and mountain ranges into islands. The process of rising sea levels is still ongoing. This is evidenced by the ancient remains on Kornati, which were above sea level or at sea level two thousand years ago. The best preserved are the underwater vivariums around the Svršate island and on Mala Proversa, the submerged salt pans on Šipnata and Lavsa, the submerged piers around Trstikovac, Statival and Sedlasti bok, as well as the unexplored underwater remains in Piškera.

The first inhabitants

Although there are signs which show that the Kornati islands were inhabited in the Neolithic, today the archipelago is not permanently inhabited. The remains of Liburnian forts and barrows on the islands of Kornat and Žut clearly show that the Illyrian tribe of Liburnians lived there until the arrival of the Romans. The Kornati islands were part of the water area in which the Liburnians seemingly reigned supreme, controlling sea travel. This part of the wider water area is known to historians from the field of antiquity as Liburnicae insulae. When it comes to remnants from the Roman period, what is worth mentioning are the remains of the vivarium on Svršata and the neighbouring Mala Proversa, possible remains of Roman villas on Tarac and Trtuša, and to some extent on Lavsa, Njivica, Svršata and Žut. The Tureta fort and the remains of St. Mary's church date from the late antiquity period. From the 16th century the Sali fishermen dominated the sea around Kornati, while from the mid-17th century shepherds from Murter and Betina took over the Kornati karst and fields. In centuries to come, their flocks will cover all Kornati pastures, and their crops (mostly vineyards, later olive groves) will take over the majority of the Kornati fields. Finally, from the mid-19th century they will gradually come to own the entire archipelago. The amount of land owned by Murterians on Kornati is nearly ten times larger than that on their home island, and it is serviced from about thirty coves with houses, called “kurnatski porati”. Nevertheless, no permanent settlements formed on Kornat or Žut, a fact experts still consider to be the most interesting feature of the Kornat island and the entire archipelago. In late Middle Ages salt making emerged as another important activity alongside fishery; other activities included production of lime and stone quarrying.

More recent history

The most recent history of the Kornat archipelago and the relations that persisted in it all the way to the 2nd half of the 20th century was determined by an invention. Namely, in the early 16th century a patrician from Zadar Šimun de Cedulinis invented the method of catching pilchards by means of light. Until then, pelagic fish was caught without artificial light, during the periods of darkness (mrak) during summer, with dragnets, in positions determined by drawing lots, but there is no mention in documents of fishing pilchard. De Cedulinis patented his invention and obtained exclusive right to fishing in the Kornat Islands - then in the sea of Zadar - for 10 years.