Principal investigator:
Ass. Prof. Mag. Dr. Barbara Hausmair

Cooperation partners:
Oberösterreichische Landes-Kultur GmbH ( Jutta Leskovar)
Independent researchers: Martina Reitberger (Feldforschung), Jennifer Portschy, MA (OSteoarchäologie)

The cemetery of Micheldorf-Am Stein/Upper Austria:
New insights into an early medieval contact zone between Bavaria, Avar Khaganate and Carantania

Since 2022, the University of Innsbruck and the OÖ Landeskultur GmbH have been jointly investigating the cemetery of Micheldorf-Am Stein in Upper Austria (Fig. 1) – a burial site of the 8th and 9th centuries AD which was discovered during construction work in 2016 and then partially excavated the archaeology firm Archeonova.

The grave goods from the 2016-campaign were analysed by students from the Universities of Innsbruck and Vienna. Since 2022, the UIBK and the OÖLK are continuing the fieldwork in the framework of a field school (Fig. 2).


Abb. 1. Fundstellen
Fig. 1 The three early medieval cemeteries in the area of Micheldorf, Upper Austria: Am Stein – Kremsdorf – Georgenberg
(B. Hausmair, background: DOP © DORIS Land OÖ).
Abb. 2. Action 107
Fig. 2 Students during field school in summer 2022
(M. Reitberger/OÖLKG).

First insights into the cemetery of Micheldorf-Am Stein  

Abb. 3. Plan

Fig. 3 Plan of the cemetery Micheldorf-Am Stein (B. Hausmair).

During the 2016- and 2022-excavations it was possible to determine the cemetery’s extent in the Northwest and the Southeast (Fig. 3). To date, 44 burials have been excavated and another 10 grave shafts documented over ground. All of the recovered burials were single inhumation graves, some of them containing moderate sets of grave goods such as simple knives and pieces of jewellery made of wire and pressed sheet metal, which show similarities to objects from the Middle-Danube region and the Eastern Alps (Fig. 4 and 5).


Abb. 4. Mixschaubild

Fig. 4 Grave goods from burials of the excavation 2016
(N. Riedmann and A. Blaickner/UIBK).


Abb. 5. Textil

Fig. 5 Residues of textiles in the backside of sheet-metal brooch (A. Blaickner, M. Pomaro and B. Hausmair/UIBK).

Abb. 6. Grab 31

Fig. 6 Infant burial with jewellery
(N. Riedmann/UIBK).


In terms of demography, it is notable that almost half of the graves excavated until today contained the burials of subadult individuals, in particular small children who died in early infancy yet receiving the same burial treatment as the rest of the community (Fig. 6).


The cemetery’s internal structure exposes at least two different grave groups, which can be clearly distinguished by their orientation (Fig. 3). The northern group aligns with the Krems river on a Norwest-Southeast axis, whereas the southern grave group is oriented towards Georgenberg hill on a Southwest-Northeast axis (Fig. 7). A diagonal structure that cuts through the cemetery – roughly between the two burial groups – possibly represents a former path running through the burial ground. However, further archaeological investigations are required to confirm this interpretation.


Whether the reasons for the cemetery’s spatial structure are to be sought in chronological, social or cultural differences of the buried individuals is further investigated in the ongoing analyses of the finds and the human remains but will also require further excavations, since the cemetery definitely extends beyond the current excavation borders.




Abb. 7. Drohne

Fig. 7 Drone image of the excavation 2022 (P. Resch/ÖBB).

Local and supra-regional importance of the cemetery Micheldorf-Am Stein

The cemetery of Micheldorf-Am Stein is of scientific relevance not only because of its interesting internal structure, but also because of its specific regional setting. The Krems Valley is a focal point of early medieval research in Upper Austria. In 777 CE, the Bavarian Duke Tassilo III. founded the monastery of Kremsmünster, which was supposed to serve as a base for the establishment of the Duchy’s ecclesiastical organisation in the area and for the expansion of Bavarian rule over the people settling east of the river Traun. Although the founding charter of the monastery mentions a “Slavic deanery” (Slawendekanie) led by a “Župan”, the early medieval text actually does not reveal very much about the people living in this area in the early Middle Ages. Today we have only a vague idea that the regions between the river Traun and central Lower Austria became a geopolitical buffer zone after the end of the Roman Empire. To the West of it, the Bavarian Duchy and the Frankish Empire emerged in the early Middle Ages, to the East the Avar Empire, and a little later the Duchy of Carantania in the South. The written sources, however, remain largely silent about how society and settlements developed between these dominions in the late Merovingian and early Carolingian periods.

The Upper Krems Valley in particular has become a focal point for research, because in the area of present-day Micheldorf several (late) antique settlement sites have been recorded as well as three early medieval cemeteries (Fig. 1): the cemetery of Micheldorf-Kremsdorf with over 70 graves of the 8th and early 9th centuries, which expose diverse cultural contacts to the South, the East and the West; the cemetery of Micheldorf-Georgenberg (dated to the 9th and 10th centuries), which most likely represents the first churchyard on Georgenberg hill and the successor generation of the people buried in Kremsdorf.

The burial site Micheldorf-Am Stein raises new questions about early medieval society and settlement structures in the Upper Krems Valley, such as the size of communities, health and demography, or cultural developments in the Micheldorf area, e.g. in regard to processes of Christianization and the consolidation of ecclesiastic infrastructure in the Carolingian period. It also provides new insights into the supra-regional importance of South-Eastern Upper Austria as a cultural border and contact zone during the early medieval periods.

Research cooperation

The ERC synergy project HistoGenes (Nr. 856453) headed by Prof. Walther Pohl at the Austrian Academy of Science is currently conducting a large interdisciplinary study that looks in the population history of Eastern Central by merging archaeological, anthropological and historical approaches with new methods from archaeogenetics. Since Upper Austria constitutes crucial buffer zone between Western and Eastern European cultures in the early medieval period, 25 individuals from the cemetery of Micheldorf-Am Stein will be included in ERC study, allowing to explore the genetic makeup of the community internally and in relation to other European areas.

Selected grave goods from Micheldorf-Am Stein are being analysed as part of the FWF-funded CHRONOCU project (headed by Dr. habil. Marianne Mödlinger/University of Innsbruck), in which voltammetry of immobilised particles (VIMP) is being developed as a new method for dating bronzes from archaeological contexts.

Related student projects and teaching

  • Comparative analyses of textile finds from cemeteries of the Carolingian period in Upper Austria (Milana Radumilo, MA thesis, supervisor: Barbara Hausmair, Ulrike Töchterle)
  • Archaeological field school/excavation of the cemetery Micheldorf-Am Stein (BA and MA field school, teacher: Barbara Hausmair, since mmer semester 2022)
  •  Analyses of early medieval grave-goods from Upper Austria: Micheldorf 2016 (MA course, teacher: Barbara Hausmair, winter semester 2021/22, LVNo: 644116)
  • Deathscapes: Burial patterns in historical archaeology (BA seminar, teacher: Barbara Hausmair, winter semester 2020/21, LV-No: 644057)
  • Introduction to pre- and protohistory, medieval and modern period archaeology/Session on early middle ages (BA lecture, teacher: Barbara Hausmair, every semester)


We would like to thank the owners and tenant of the property on which the cemetery is located for granting permission to excavate, the municipality of Micheldorf for supporting our research, and to the archaeology firm Archeonova (W. Klimesch), which carried out the rescue excavations in 2016.


Hausmair, B. 2009. ‘Langsax und Gürtel. Archäologische Hinweise zu kulturhistorischen Prozessen im frühmittelalterlichen Ostalpenraum’. Sonius 5: 5–6.

———. 2016. ‘Micheldorf/Kremsdorf – Frühmittelalter zwischen Baiovaria und Karantanien’. In Frühmittelalter in Oberösterreich. Inventare aus den Sammlungen des Oberösterreichischen Landesmuseums, edited by J. Leskovar, 11–189. Studien zur Kulturgeschichte von Oberösterreich 40. Linz: OÖLM.

———. 2022. ‘Neue Einblicke ins frühmittelalterliche Kremstal: das Gräberfeld von Micheldorf-Am Stein’. Sonius 31: 3–6.

———. 2022. ‘Some remarks on society and settlement dynamics in the early medieval Alpine foothills of north-western Noricum’. Beiträge zur Mittelalterarchäologie in Österreich 38: 89–106.

Klimesch, W. and M. Reitberger-Klimesch. 2017. ‘KG Mittermicheldorf, MG Micheldorf in Oberösterreich [Frühmittelalter, Gräberfeld]’. Fundberichte aus Österreich 55/2016: 397–98.

Leskovar, J. ed. 2016. Frühmittelalter in Oberösterreich. Inventare aus den Sammlungen des Oberösterreichischen Landesmuseums. Studien zur Kulturgeschichte von Oberösterreich 40. Linz: OÖLM.

Szameit, E. 1994. ‘Merowingisch-karantanisch-awarische Beziehungen im Spiegel archäologischer Bodenfunde des 8. Jahrhunderts. Ein Beitrag zur Frage nach den Wurzeln frühmittelalterlicher Kulturerscheinungen im Ostalpenraum’. Neues aus Alt-Villach 31: 7–24.

Tovornik, V. 1980. ‘Das Gräberfeld der karantanisch-köttlacher Kultur auf dem Georgenberg bei Micheldorf, pol. Bezirk Kirchdorf/Krems’. In Baiern und Slawen in Oberösterreich. Probleme der Landnahme und Besiedelung. Symposion 16. November 1978, edited by K. Holter, 81–132. Schriftenreihe des OÖ. Musealvereins - Gesellschaft für Landeskunde 10. Linz: Traun.

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