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Formation processes

Natural and Cultural Formation Processes are crucial for the understanding of archaeological features. Excavation techniques, allowing detailed stratigraphic analyses, serve to examine these processes.

Excavations in the city center

Cuts in the area of the macellum caused by stream courses

During the last excavations at the macellum and forum, detailed studies regarding formation processes were possible. The results of these investigations apply to the whole excavation area. An up to three meters high layer of floating debris covers the archaeological remains. This debris is a result of continuous floods, typical for floodplains. Earlier research interpreted the floating debris as resulting from debris- or mudflows. These are part of the alluvial material in some areas. However, most of the material consists of horizontal sand and gravel layers. Besides, old streambeds were observed in some parts of the city, often cutting the stratigraphy down to the earliest strata. This stratigraphy points to a typical floodplain forest, which must have developed after the city´s abandonment.

The anthropogenic deposition processes build one research focus at the forum Area. Already for preparing the building area, which led to the construction of terraces, it was necessary to move lots of material. The detailed use of the forum was hard to understand based on the excavated rooms only. The abandonment of these rooms occurred before the destructive fire that struck the forum in the 3rd century AD, which is why most of the rooms did not contain any finds. One of the most exciting parts of the building regarding its functional development is the central square. The square shows no pavement traces but consists of gravel and sand – later on, covered with humous material. Therefore, it was likely to find remains of artifacts used at the square in these layers. Detailed spatial documentation of all findings allows drawing the first results. The eastern part of the forum square provided the best data so far. From the first and second centuries AD, there are mainly fragments of pottery and rock crystal. The latter is pointing to the importance of rock crystal as a commodity during this phase. In layers belonging to the 3rd and 4th century AD, mostly fragments of bronze, copper, and glass are present. These finds most probably originate from the working places and ovens built during this phase in and around the former forum area.

Excavation at the central square of the forum

After the abandonment of the forum, a partial leveling of the site took place. The resulting flat areas probably served as a base for simple (wooden?) dwellings, which unfortunately did not result in recognizable archaeological remains.


M. Auer / F. Bleibinhaus / M. Tschurtschenthaler / M. Unterwurzacher, Municipium Claudium Aguntum. Geophysikalische Prospektion auf geologisch schwierigem Terrain, Jahreshefte des Österreichischen Archäologischen Instituts 82, 2013 (2014), 7-21.

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Archaeozoological Analyses of “loss finds” at the Atrium House of Aguntum

Westlicher Garten des Atriumhauses
Western Garden Area of the Atrium House

The small finds from the atrium house (FWF P20846-G02) did show that the garden area contained (highly fragmented) find types that did not occur in other parts of the house. These finds allow a diachronic view of the atrium house owner`s material culture. In the house itself, the contents of the fill layers originating from construction work determine the finds assemblages. As an example, finds dating to the 3rd century are extremely rare in the Atrium House. The reason for that is that no main building activities took place during this century. Based on this awareness, Dr. Sabine Deschler-Erb (IPNA Basel) also analyzed the animal bones from the garden area. Although this material included a bit more wild animals (ibex, bear, hare), the overall material was consonant with the material recovered in the house. The animal bones, like other finds from the garden, were heavily fragmented. Therefore, it is unlikely that the garden area was used as a garbage dump from the first to the third century AD. However, a fascinating result of this analysis was the find of fetal cattle that is an indicator of cattle farming in the Atrium House´s garden area.


S. Deschler-Erb / M. Auer, In cibo veritas – Zur wechselhaften Geschichte des Atriumhauses von Aguntum/Tirol (1.-4. Jh. n. Chr.) im Spiegel der Speisesitten, Annalen des Naturhistorischen Museums in Wien, Serie A, Band 120, 2018, 321-333.

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