Prehistoric mining industry in the Eastern Alps and the Carpathians

By studying the mining industry of the 2nd and 1st millennia BC in the Eastern Alps and the Carpathian area we are investigating an area which has so far attracted very little attention from mining archaeologists: Particularly in the early phase of prehistoric salt and metal ore mining, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe are likely to have provided the West – and especially the Eastern Alps – with many new technological stimuli.
We have been studying the Mitterberg and Dürrnberg mining districts for many years. Both producers supplied Central Europe with large quantities of copper and salt in the 2nd and 1st millennia BC. Each of these projects aims to examine the structures of an economic area: this includes the mining industry and the surrounding countryside with its settlements and industrial areas. Various data help to create a picture of two mining landscapes with their different extraction and processing techniques, territorial structures and trade relations.
The plan is to set up an archaeological summer academy at Dürrnberg, in collaboration with the Salzburg Museum and the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. A large travelling exhibition about the Eastern Alps is also in preparation.


Research projects

The region of Mitterberg: Large-scale production of copper in the Eastern Alps during the Bronze Age

The region of Mitterberg: Large-scale production of copper in the Eastern Alps during the Bronze Age

In the Bronze Age the Eastern Alps were the most important area for the mining of copper.

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Smelting of Sulfide Ore During the Bronze Age in the Eastern Alpine Region: A mining, Archaeological and Experimental Approach

The mining district of the Mitterberg area played an integral role as a supplier of copper ore during the Bronze Age in the eastern Alpine Region as well as farther abroad. Research in the area, which spans more than 150 years, has provided a wealth of information...

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Prehistoric salt mining on the Dürrnberg/Hallein, Austria

Prehistoric salt mining on the Dürrnberg/Hallein, Austria

The Dürrnberg – situated around 20 km south of Salzburg – is one of the most important Iron Age find sites in Central Europe

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The western Slovak Ore Mountains - strategies for the use of a secondary economic area during the Bronze Age

The western Slovak Ore Mountains - strategies for the use of a secondary economic area during the Bronze Age

The Slovak Ore Mountains were clearly an important source of metal ores from the late 5th millennium BC.

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Process reconstructions on Late Bronze Age copper smelting in the Southern Alps

Process reconstructions on Late Bronze Age copper smelting in the Southern Alps

The work on Late Bronze Age copper production in the Southern Alps which was begun in the 1980s by the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum and the archaeological heritage protection agency of the Autonomous Province of Trentino is now being continued and intensified within the framework of a doctoral thesis.

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Studies on Iron Age leather and fur technology

Studies on Iron Age leather and fur technology

This project is concerned with the Iron Age leather and fur finds from the salt mines of Dürrnberg (Austria) and Chehrabad (Iran). The aim of the studies is to gain new insights into leathercraft, and specifically tanning.

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The Rise of Metallurgy in Eurasia: Evolution, Organisation and Consumption of Early Metal in the Balkans

There is controversy over the beginnings of extractive metallurgy, i.e. the extraction of metals from ores, in Eurasia. For many years the prevalent view was that metallurgy developed in the Near East and spread out from there, but over time there has been more and more evidence to suggest that it is more likely to have emerged independently in different regions of Eurasia.

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Treasures of the mountains: 10,000 years of mining in the Eastern Alps

Treasures of the mountains: 10,000 years of mining in the Eastern Alps

The introduction of metallurgy to prehistoric Europe led to substantial changes in culture and environment. In the 2nd/1st millennium BC, the Eastern Alps saw the emergence of several production sites for metal ore (especially copper ore) which came to have supra-regional importance.

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The settlement area of Sopron as an economic and cultural crossroads for the Eastern Celts

The settlement area of Sopron as an economic and cultural crossroads for the Eastern Celts

In both cultural and geographical terms, the Late Bronze Age to Iron Age cultural area of Sopron, at the intersection of important transport routes, occupies a key position between Northern and Southern Europe (the “Amber Road”) and between Southeast and Central Europe.

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Functional analysis of macrolithic tools from the Upper Palaeolithic haematite mines of Tzines (Thasos, Greece)

The prehistoric mines of Tzines are located in Thasos, an island in the northern Aegean Sea, close to the coast of East Macedonia and Thrace (Greece).

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Completed research projects

Prehistoric red ochre mining on Thasos

In antiquity, the island of Thasos constituted a separate state, which included parts of the mainland lying opposite, and which minted its own coins. Since this island was celebrated for the wealth of its mines, especially in the work of Herodotus (VI, A6.A7), it seemed reasonable to assume that the metal used for coins would come from the island’s own ore deposits.

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Prehistoric copper production in the Southern Alps, in the Trentino Orientale region

Prehistoric copper production in the Southern Alps, in the Trentino Orientale region

After the chance discovery of a prehistoric battery of furnaces for copper smelting in Acqua Fredda in 1979, the Deutches Bergbau-Museum Bochumwas invited to undertake joint investigations by the Trentino heritage protection agency.

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