Studies on Iron Age leather and fur technology

Studies on Iron Age leather and fur technology

Finds from the salt mines of Dürrnberg/Austria and Chehrabad/Iran

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.

A crucial aspect here is the analysis of the “shrinkage temperature”, which gives information about the tanning of leather and/or fur skins. The structure of the object surfaces will be examined non-destructively with a Keyence digital(3D) microscope. This observation will provide information about possible mechanical and/or chemical treatments of the material examined. After this, chemical analyses of vegetable tanning agents are planned, such as those carried out on the Neolithic leggings from the Schnidejoch in Switzerland. There researchers have succeeded in identifying the plant substances used for this. Other tanning agents – such as fat, alum, and aldehyde (from smoke) – are also possibilities. Their use in prehistoric times is being tested.
The finds from the Dürrnberg will be compared with other Iron Age finds, such as those from Hallstatt. The final section of the study will consist of analyses of the tanning techniques used in finds from Chehrabad. The research will conclude with questions about leather and fur processing in different geographical regions, its function, the range of products made, social and technological prerequisites, the availability of the raw material, and the different kinds of know-how involved.

Relevant projects

The Salt Men of Zanjan

Prehistoric salt mining on the Dürrnberg/Hallein, Austria

PhD theses

Gabriela Ruß-Popa

Responsible body

Universität Wien


Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum


2012 - 2015