Project Part 12: Palaeoeconomy, Subsistence und Palaeoecology in Mining Areas: Archaeozoological Evidence



Univ.-Prof. Dr. Jörg Schibler


Dr. Sabine Deschler-Erb 
Dr. Heidemarie Hüster-Plogmann 
Dr. Barbara Stopp
Dr. Elisabeth Marti-Grädel

Universität Basel
Institut für Prähistorische und Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie (IPNA)
Spalenring 145
CH-4055 Basel

Publications & Poster


Aims of the project:

Mining activities have diverse effects on human societies and their husbandry as well as on environmental conditions. With the increase of mining activities and the development of mining centres it seems likely that the subsistence strategies in the alpine region changed through time. For the support of the upcoming mining centres an external provisioning system developed. At the same time the importance of animal power for mining labour increased. Because of the intense use of timber deforestation took place which had a strong influence on the indigenous fauna. Although there already exist some investigations on human, animal and nature in mining areas, our knowledge of their interaction is still poor. In collaboration with other project parts, archaeozoological investigations can help to better understand the process influenced by human activities in the alpine area. 


Analyses conducted during the first phase of the project

From the Montafon region, remains of animal bones have been identified and statistically analyzed from the late Mesolithic Mittelberg-Schneiderküren rock shelter and from the medieval settlement Silbertal Kristberg. No bones were found in the Bronze Age sites at Mount Bartholomä. The numbers of bones found in the sites on Mitterberg were also insignificant. Flotation of sediments in the course of the 2009 excavation yielded only very few bones, all of which were calcinated.

From the Schwaz Key Area, on the other hand, there are significant bone complexes from several sites. Bone identification and evaluation has been completed for two smelting sites in the Mauken mining area near Radfeld/Brixlegg. The analyzed material comes from various excavation campaigns directed by G. Goldenberg. In 2008 we ourselves participated in the excavations, in the course of which a precision dig with sediment flotation was conducted, proving especially relevant in view of methodical aspects. Two papers on the archaeozoological results have already been published (Schibler et al. 2009; Hüster Plogmann et al. in press), a third, interdisciplinary article bringing together the results of the different areas of research is in preparation (Antiquity). Drawing from the archaeozoological, archaebotanical and vegetation-historical findings, there is evidence for a dependency of the miners and smelters from Mauken on food being supplied by outside economic units.

The bone material from the three-phase early Neolithic to Bronze Age settlement site Kiechlberg has also been identified and evaluated and first results were presented in a poster communication (Deschler-Erb in press). In the course of the occupation, significant changes in livestock farming emerge, namely an intensification in cattle husbandry. The particular position of the settlement 1000 m a.s.l. on the cone of a former landslide as well as the small area available for cultivation and pasture raise fundamental questions with regard to the organization of the community’s subsistence. Transhumance as a possible solution to the economic challenges of the Kiechlberg site will be investigated in the next phase of the project by means of stable isotope analyses of the bones.

Like with all other sites investigated in the HiMAT project, a final and conclusive archaeozoological evaluation is possible only after the archaeological finds and features have been processed. Besides the above-mentioned finds from settlements, there is also bone material from an offering site at Weer- Stadlerhof. First results comparing the complex comprising approximately 60,000 mostly calcinated bones to the Mauken finds were presented in a paper and in a poster communication (Schibler et al. 2009; Stopp et al. in press).


Tab. 1: provides an overview of the sites analyzed during the first phase of the project.

Region Sites Period

Animal bones NISP

handcollected sieved
Montafon area (Vorarlberg) Mittelberg-Abri Schneiderküren late Mesolithic 371 -
  Bartholomäberg-Friagawald Bronze Age no bones -
  Bartholomäberg-Bodaweg Bronze Age no bones -
  Bartholomäberg-Buxwaldstrasse Bronze Age no bones -
  Silbertal-Kristberg Middle Ages 710 yes (N: 178)
Schwaz area (Tyrol) Mauken b. Radfeld (A und D) late Bronze Age 4005 yes (N: c. 800)
  Kiechlberg b. Thaur late Neolithic/Bronze Age 3507 -
  Fliess-Silberplan middle-late Bronze Age 2500 present count
(2008 excavation)
  Weer-Stadlerhof early-middle Bronze Age - yes (N: > 60'000)
  Krahnsattel Iron Age ca. 500 -
Mitterberg area (Salzburg) Mühlbach a. Hochkönig Bronze Age - yes (few, calcinated)
  Krimml-Falkenstein mainly early-middle Bronze Age 525 -
  Viehhofen-Wirtsalm Bronze Age 544 -
  Bischofshofen-Sinnhubschlössl Bronze Age 330 -
  Schwarzach-Brandstatt Bühel mainly late Bronze Age 40 -
  St. Johann-Hubbauer Bronze Age 94 -
  St. Johann-Klinglberg early Bronze Age 13 -


Verbreitungskarte PP12

Fig. 1: Map of the investigation areas

We have also started with the collection of published data for sites of the same geographical region covered by the SFB HiMAT-project (see fig. 1). These informations will be used for inter-site comparison and are an important completion of  the data collected during the SFB HiMAT-project (fig. 2).

Figure 2 en 

Fig. 2: Comparison between sites of the SFB HiMAT-project and already published sites.
Number of fragments (%) of cattle, sheep/Goat and pig.
100% = cattle + sheep/goat + pig
*: Museum Salzburg, probably selected material?



DNA-analysis on cattle and pig bones at the IPAS and isotopic analysis on selected bone material in collaboration with PP 09: The results will help to deal with the still unresolved issue of animal imports on a wider geographical range. In addition, the bone material of current and future excavations (e.g. Fliess-Silberplan, Kitzbuehel-Kelchalpe, Schwaz-Kogelmoss) will be determined and recorded, planned are also further sieving activities accompanying excavations.