Research center HiMAT



"HiMAT - The History of Mining Activities in the Tyrol and Adjacent Areas - Impact on Environment & Human Societies" was established 2007 at the University of Innsbruck. Concern is the impact of mining activities on culture and environment in the alpine area from the Neolithic period up to modern times. International experts from Innsbruck and other universities are gathered in a multiple interdiscipline network in order to evaluate and analyse the stages of expansion, consolidation and regression of mining activities in the middle apine region.

The introduction of metallurgy into prehistoric Europe led to substantial changes in human culture and in the environment. In this context supra-regional producer landscapes for ores (e.g. copper) developed in the Eastern Alps in the 2nd and the early 1stmillennium BC respectively. Thereby mining shows conformity in many technological aspects which exceeds single domains and reveals an area of communication and economy, which co-operates in a manner of its own, e. g. logistic concepts, exchange of experts. The long-lasting settlement development in connection with mining let also assume the generation of similar subsistence strategies. These aspects can be studied in various mining districts in a variable way because of different primary data discriminated by different state of preservation. A crucial factor constitutes the variability of ores, which – expressed in a simplified way – resulted in resource networks using fahlores and chalcopyrite alternately. Based on existing provenience studies different chronological focuses are discernible which are caused much more in internal designs and developments of single mining districts than in the preference of the variety of metals. The socio-economic and environ-mental reasons for the rise and fall of mining districts as well as its surroundings are manifold. Up to now none of the existing scenarios is validated by archaeological data, thus it is the objective of this Research Center (FZ) to evaluate and analyse these facts.

The development of mining as seen in a long term perspective is characterized by phases of expansion, consolidation and regression. This pattern is described and analysed in a mutual network by archaeologists, archaeometallurgists, archaeozoologists, dendrologists, ethnologists, historians, linguists, mineralogists and palaeoecologists in the course of concerted actions.

Prähistorische Mine, Gratlspitz, Photo: G. Goldenberg

The research strategy envisages i) time-vertical studies dealing with changes in a long-term perspective as well as ii) time-horizontal studies dealing with selected periods of special importance for changes in society and landscape. Both study types are conducted in specific key areas in the course of a multi-disciplinary networking of researchers in mining of the LFU Innsbruck and international experts in the field from the Universities of Basel, Frankfurt and Tübingen as well as the Deutschen Bergbau-Museum in Bochum.

This integral project is focused in Schwaz/Kitzbühel (Tyrol) connecting all project parts by mutual networking. Concrete interfaces are to study the archaeology and palaeoecology of mining, the development of mining areas, compilation of technological standards, archaeo-metallurgical and provenience analyses. The mutual networking of the disciplines enables to evaluate the socio-economic and environmental constraints promoting the development of mining areas and mining landscapes. Additionally the design of a historical analogue for mining in multidisciplinary collaboration and mutual calibration with archaeologists, historians, linguists and palaeoecologists allows understanding better prehistoric mining and creating new methods to provide evidence for mining activities applicable in areas where archaeology of mining is unknown so far.


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