Traces of human presence in the Mureş county date in the Neolithic Age, more precisely the Starcevo-Criş (6000 B.C.) culture. From the Bronze Age, the most significant discovery is connected to the Wietenberg hill, near Sighişoara, which became the eponymic name for this archaeological culture. The end of the Bronze Epoch is marked by the discoveries (especially the funerary ones) of the Noua culture, of north-Pontic origin. In the 6th century B.C. the Scythian tribes make a way into Transylvania. We find them mentioned in Herodotus’ Histories, where we also have the very first reference to the Mureş River as Maris. At the end of the 4th century, the Celtic tribes from the Pannonian plain arrive in these territories. From the beginning of the 2nd century B.C. we hold the first dated discoveries concerning the Dacians. One of the most important Dacian fortifications from the region was on the same Wietenberg hill, near Sighişoara.
Starting with the 2nd century A.D. the Superior Mureş Valley is included in the Roman Province Dacia. Along the stream of the Mureş River and its affluents there were several auxilia stationed in localities like: Cristeşti, Brâncoveneşti, Călugăreni, Sărăţeni, Sighişoara, etc. The Empire withdrew from this area around 270-274 A.D., event followed shortly by the invasion of the migratory peoples, out of which the Goths and the Gepids were the first to arrive. The presence of the former ones was initially detected and interpreted as such in the necropolis from Sântana de Mureş, which became the second eponymic locality from our district. The 5th century marked the appearance of the Avars and the next one was characterised by the massive settlement of the Slavs in Transylvania. One of the most significant settlements was discovered at Moreşti. The presence of the Magyar tribes is dated at the end of the 9th century. They took the form of a Christian kingdom at the commencement of the 2nd millennium, in 1001, when King Stephen I was crowned.
The emergence of the medieval kingdom had further consequences in the political-administrative organization of Transylvania and implicitly the area nowadays belonging to the Mureş County. In those times this region was mostly superposed by the Mureş Szeckler Seat (the remaining parts being included in the Turda and Târvana districts) and also the Sighişoara Saxon Seat. The evolution of the habitat in the Early Middle Ages can only by explained with the help of the archaeological research. Important data regarding this aspect was brought by the systematic excavations from Moreşti – Sântioana de Mureş (fortification – settlement – cultic edifice). The number and distribution of the localities can be reconstituted with the aid of the Papal Quitrent from the beginning of the 14th century, in which most of the nowadays localities were already mentioned. On the territory of the Mureş County, there used to be the residence of the Szeckler comes, in the fortress of Gurghiu. As a function, this was the most important royal dignitary, after the voivode, in Transylvania. An important role was played by the commercial and craftsmen centres also, of which the medieval markets later emerged. These gained more and more privileges and autonomies from the 14th century, some of them becoming real urban centres (like Târgu Mureş for instance). The Saxon city of Sighişoara from the southern part of the district was an essential industrial and commercial centre, with powerful guilds and which still preserves the medieval structures to this day.
Different monastic orders were the cores of the religious and the educational life. The significant ones were the Franciscan order from Târgu Mureş, the Dominicans from Sighişoara and the Paulines from Sâncrai. The rich medieval history of the county is well reflected by the multitude of the Romanic and Gothic style churches which brought our county to the level of the western civilisation.
The number of localities gradually increased in the 15th – 16th centuries. In the time of the Transylvanian principality we distinguish the existence of names of localities kept in their majority until today. In the same period, the structure of the nowadays district’s localities reached its definitive form.
The settlements often became the place where important historical events took place, like the Transylvanian Diet (Parliament), which used to meet in different localities. In spite of the conflicts with the Habsburg or the Ottoman Empires, the towns never ceased evolving, and Târgu Mureş was granted the rank of free royal town in 1616.
The 18th and the 19th centuries passed as a period of quietness and prosperity under the domination of the Habsburg dynasty. Several personalities of the Transylvanian Enlightenment current led their activity in Târgu Mureş. Among the most important ones we name: Petru Maior – historian, philologist, founding member of the Transylvanian School and Greek-Catholic archpriest in Reghin; Aranka György – writer, founder of the Magyar Language Society and Georg Daniel Teutsch, Lutheran bishop, representative of the Saxon national movement, founder of the first Saxon gymnasium from Sighişoara and also of the first German scientific magazine from Transylvania – Verein für Siebenbürgische Landeskunde. The most important personality of our town was the founder of the Teleki Library, Teleki Sámuel, who among other functions was also the chancellor of Transylvania. He promoted the modernization of the public education and was the generous sponsor of the Transylvanian cultural life. The Teleki Library is the most important collection of the Enlightenment literature from Central Europe. The famous mathematician Bolyai János, the inventor of the non-Euclidian geometry used to learn and later teach at the reformed high-school from the town.
The administrative frame of the medieval epoch was kept unaltered until the last third of the 19th century. At the beginning of the dualist Austrian – Hungarian regime, some modifications appeared in the administrative structure of the area. On the territory of the present-day county there used to function a district – Mureş-Turda, with its residence at Târgu-Mureş and several parts of counties, like Târnava Mică (with the residence at Târnăveni), Târnava Mare (with the residence at Sighişoara), Cluj and Turda – Arieş.
After the First World War, at the same time with the unification of Transylvania with the Romanian Kingdom, the notion of “Mureş County” appeared for the first time. Its territory was smaller than the nowadays one, but it comprised the Topliţa – Borsec area, being neighboured thus by the Târnava Mică, Turda, Cluj, Năsăud, Neamţ, Ciuc and Odorhei Counties.
The installation of the communist system had as one of the consequences the application of the Soviet administration model in Romania. In 1950, the Mureş Region was created, comprising the previous territory of the Mureş County, to which the Gheorgheni, Ciuc and Odorhei districts were attached. In 1952, following Soviet directions, the system suffered from a new organizational reform, which led to the formation of the Autonomous Magyar Region, with the residence at Târgu Mureş. It consisted of the previous Mureş Region, and also the Sfântu Gheorghe and Târgu Secuiesc districts. It coincided more or less with the Szeckler Region, and the majority of the population (77%) was made up of Magyars, who had important cultural autonomy (for instance, the Magyar language was official language). The situation was modified in 1960, when the Mureş – Autonomous Region was born; it also contained the Luduş and Târnăveni (parts of the Cluj Region) districts.
In 1968, the Government of Romania restored the old administrative system (commune-county), giving up to the Soviet model. It was in the same year that the limits of the today Mureş County were established. The residence was the same, at Târgu Mureş, and apart from the town of Sighişoara, other towns of the county were Reghin, Târnăveni, Luduş, Sovata and later Iernut.
After the communist organization fell, the towns Reghin and Târnăveni were raised to the municipal rank. Many more localities became towns after 2000 (Deda, Sângeorgiu de Pădure, Miercurea Nirajului, Sărmaşu and Ungheni). Today, our county has 91 communes and 460 villages.
Written by museum experts: Berecki Sándor, Crişan Coralia, Györfi Zalán, Rus Dorin.