Mining archaeology

The research department for mining archaeology deals primarily with the history of the use of raw mineral materials: the aim is to understand the complex processes of extraction, processing, subsequent treatment and trading of raw materials. The focus is on the production of metals and the extraction and use of salt from prehistory to the Middle Ages.

Mining archaeology is involved in multidisciplinary research in many parts of the world, in very different landscapes: high-altitude mountains, steppes, semi-desert, coastal areas etc. The study of a wide variety of mining districts gives information about the economic development of early societies, about mining technology and metallurgy, knowledge transfer and the flow of goods. Together with archaeobotany and geoinformatics, mining archaeology investigates questions about territorial structure, vegetation, agriculture and infrastructure. For this purpose, two-dimensional and three-dimensional spatial data are gathered, and managed in an information system which is especially tailored to the archaeology of mining and raw materials. At the same time, tools are developed (e.g. scanners and cameras) which are designed to cope with the special requirements of underground work – such as small cavities. The data gathered in this way offer insights into the technology used, and into the progress and intensity of the work done (capacity). These sources of information are completely new to mining archaeology, and no other research institution is engaging with them, and with the topics associated with them, to the same extent as the DBM. It is anticipated that closer relationships with universities, and the planned establishment of a Leibniz ScienceCampus, will raise the profile of these issues in the future.


Mining archaeology


Computational archaeology

Computational archaeology

The mining archaeology research division supports projects all over the world. To ensure that the data gathered at excavations are standardized, comparable, and suitable for scientific analysis, we have developed guidelines and work processes for digital excavation and documentation technology:

Read more

Mining history collection

The mining history collection comprises archaeological and ethnographic artefacts related to mining history from all over the world.

Read more


Projects

The research department for mining archaeology operates globally, examining traces of mining for metals such as copper, tin, iron and gold, but also for other raw materials such as salt or flint. We explore entire mining landscapes: they offer insights into work conditions in underground mines, and into miners’ technical know-how, diet, and work wear; our studies show how miners and other tradespeople lived, and where they found their final resting place.