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«Wiss. Mitt. Niederösterr. Landesmuseum 19 7-18 St. Pölten 2008 Palaeolithic research in Austria Christine Neugebauer-Maresch Zusammenfassung Der ...»

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Wiss. Mitt. Niederösterr. Landesmuseum 19 7-18 St. Pölten 2008

Palaeolithic research in Austria

Christine Neugebauer-Maresch


Der Artikel beschreibt die Geschichte der Altsteinzeitforschung in Österreich von

den Anfängen im 19. Jh. bis heute. Einen besonderen Schwerpunkt bildet die

Feldforschung Josef Bayers bis zu seinem Tod im Jahr 1931. Die Publikation seines Erbes nach dem 2. Weltkrieg war begleitet von interdisziplinären Studien die zusammen mit Geologen und Paläontologen durchgeführt wurden. Nach einer Stagnation in den 60er Jahren waren es paläontologische Studien, die ein neuer Anstoss für die Paläolithforschung waren. Mit den Rettungsgrabungen in Stratzing lebten die Feldforschungen in den Lössgebieten Niederösterreichs wieder auf. Der letzte Abschnitt dieses Beitrags zeigt die aktuelle Situation der Paläolithforschung in Österreich.

Summary The article presents the history of Palaeolithic research in Austria from the beginnings in the 19 th century to our days. A special focus is set on the fieldwork of Josef Bayer until his death in 1931. The publication of his heritage after World War II was accompanied by interdisciplinary studies together with geologists and palaeontologists. After a stagnation in the 1960ties palaeontological studies in cave sites were a new impetus for Palaeolithic research. Field work in the loess areas of Lower Austria were revived with the rescue excavations at Stratzing. In the final part of this contribution the current situation of Palaeolithic research in Austria is presented.

Keywords: Paleolithic, history of research The beginnings The history of Palaeolithic research in the area of present-day Austria developed parallel to the research of other prehistoric periods. It started in the 19 th century with the collections of erudite laymen like Candid Pontz Reichsritter von Engelshofen and scholars like Eduard Freiherr von Sacken and Gundaker Graf ©Amt der Niederösterreichischen Landesregierung,, download unter www.biologiezentrum.at 2 Christine Neugebauer-Maresch Wurmbrand. With the foundation of the first chair for Pre- and Protohistory at the University of Vienna in 1899 and the scientific work of Moritz Hoernes (1903) Palaeolithic research was finally an integrated part of Prehistory.

Hoernes was the first to separate from French research which mainly tried to achieve a relative chronological sequence on the basis of typology. From the beginning Austrian research aimed at a faunistic and geostratigraphic framework (A. PENCK & E. BRÜCKNER 1909).

Under the influence of the discovery of Altamira and other caves with paintings in southwestern Europe the cave sites of Lower Austria were especially attractive for first excavations. As early as in the eighties of the 19 th century local researchers were interested in the caves of the Krems valley. They discovered several sites and carried out excavations like Hacker in the Gudenushöhle, named after its owner, in 1884. Although the excavators mixed artefacts from different layers, which were later distinguished by means of typology (BREUIL & OBERMAIER 1908), the Gudenushöhle is the most important site of the Middle Palaeolithic in Lower Austria.

Apart from that a series of open air sites like Willendorf in the Wachau have been discovered. To J. Strobl we owe the rescue of artefacts from Krems/ Hundssteig, a site which had been destroyed during systematic Loess exploitation at the turn from the 19 th to the 20 th century (STROBL 1901). It was probably one of the richest Palaeolithic sites in Austria.

J. Szombathy, J. Bayer und H. Obermaier

The first decades of the 20 th century are shaped by scientists like J. Szombathy (curator of the anthropologic-ethnographic collection of the Natural History Museum of the Imperial Court in Vienna) as well as H. Obermaier and J. Bayer.

Hugo Obermaier came to Vienna as theologian who studied Prehistory at the University of Vienna. In 1904 he finished his studies and achieved his postdoctoral qualification in 1909. Until 1911 he stayed in Austria and participated in field work like at Willendorf or carried out excavations in Langmannersdorf and Gobelsburg-Zeiselberg. Together with H. Breuil he published not only the finds from the Gudenushöhle (BREUIL & OBERMAIER 1908), but also the ones from the Hundssteig and an article about the sites at the lower Kamp river (OBERMAIER 1908). In 1911 he published together with F. Kießling a basic contribution about the so called “Plateaulehmpaläolithikum”, a special sort of surface finds from the northern Waldviertel with Mousterian and Aurignacian character frequently dis©Amt der Niederösterreichischen Landesregierung,, download unter www.biologiezentrum.at

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planned the foundation of an “Ice Age Institute” based on interdisciplinary research and edited the scientific journals “Die Eiszeit” and “Eiszeit und Urgeschichte”. He was convinced of a biglacial Ice Age and published contributions which discussed the Ice Age chronology in 1909, 1927 (a) and 1928. He first described a Gravettian of Central and Eastern Europe and wanted to distinguish it as „Aggsbachian“ from the French Gravettian. His studies have not been limited to the loess regions. He also extended his research to the caves of Lower Austria and the alpine region. He created the term “Olschewien” (BAYER 1929) for cultural groups in the central and eastern European mountainous regiJosef Bayer ons already being a part of cultures with narrow blades. The key type of these cultures are bone points of the type Lautsch accompanied by mousteroid artefacts. His scientific dispute with Hugo Obermaier which originated in the finding of the Venus of Willendorf is well known. J. Bayer as well as H. Obermaier regarded themselves as directors of the Willendorf excavation which from a formal point of view had been conducted by J. Szombathy of the Natural History Museum of the Imperial court. Diary notes, letters and publications show the attempts of both to underline their role as director of the excavation and finder of the Venus (summaries published by ANGELI 1989 & ANTL-WEISER 2008). Also with his biglacial Ice Age system he was in contrast to H. Obermaier.

One of the last excavations of J. Bayer concerning Palaeolithic remains was the excavation at Krems/Wachtberg in summer 1930. He never published this material which remained in the Historical Museum of Krems for 60 years. This could explain why J. Bayer did not discover the real sensation: fragments of ceramic animals like the ones from Dolní Věstonice or Pavlov. The first find of this kind was a mammoth from Dolní Věstonice in 1924 which J. Bayer got to know.

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Palaeolithic research in Austria 5

We can therefore be sure that he knew such artefacts. Only F. KIEßLING (1934) described pieces of clay similar to the head of an animal. Taking an inventory he gave a number to the piece. In 1972 J. Hahn mentioned the clay fragment resembling the head of an animal but only in the ninetees during new studies of the archaeological and palaeontological material the piece was identified and interpreted together with some other fragments (EINWÖGERER 2000).

The early death of J. Bayer in 1931 led to a stagnation of Palaeolithic research which saw a real renaissance only after World War II.

The post war period

Research after World War II is primarily connected with F. Felgenhauer and the Institute for Prehistory of the University of Vienna. Due to a lack of funding

for extensive field work there was a special focus on J. Bayers scientific heritage:

monographic publications of the sites in the Wachau like Spitz (FELGENHAUER 1951a), Aggsbach (FELGENHAUER 1951 b) and above all Willendorf (FELGENHAUER 1959), but also Getzersdorf (FELGENHAUER 1955), Langmannersdorf (ANGELI

1953) and Kamegg (BRANDTNER 1955) emerged. Efforts of interdisciplinary research were decisive during this period. Geology and Palaeoclimatology started studies concerning the loess stratigraphy (F. Brandtner, J. Fink) being still in progress today. The new possibility of radiocarbon datings did not always contribute to a facilitation of cultural classifications. The financial situation only allowed small scale field work. While the building of the railway had cut through the ice age camp sites like Willendorf at the beginning of the 20 th century now the new Wachau road and other building projects again cut through a series of sites (Aggsbach, Horn, Getzersdorf). Apart from an excavation in 1961/62 at Langenlois (FELGENHAUER 1974), smaller rescue excavations at Kammern in 1962 (LUCIUS 1974), at Hollenburg in 1966 (FELGENHAUER 1969), at Ruppersthal in 1971 (BACHMAYER & al. 1971) and the prehistoric research at Stillfried, where F.

Felgenhauer detected a Gravettian flint knappers workshop (FELGENHAUER 1980) no further field work was carried out. As a student of F. Felgenhauer, W. Heinrich (HEINRICH 1973) summarized the Upper Palaeolithic finds of Austria. This was unfortunately never published in full detail (HEINRICH 1974-75). Comprehensive studies concerning the Aurignacian of Central and Eastern Europe (BROGLIO & LAPLACE 1966 a, HAHN 1977) and the Gravettian of Central Europe (BROGLIO & LAPLACE 1966 b, OTTE 1981) also considered Austrian sites and integrated the finds into the European cultural development.

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Palaeolithic research in the alpine region developed differently. Even nowadays finds from open air sites are rather rare (FUCHS 1994). All finds are from caves which have been known for a relatively long period. During World War I Austria faced an increasing lack of fertilizers especially of those based on phosphate. In 1917 the Austrian Ministery for Agriculture ordered to search for all sorts of phosphate deposits in the country. This led to the exploitation of cave deposits containing bones of extinct animals which was carried out with big technical effort (mine railways, chutes, cable cars). This partly affected the Tischoferhöhle near Kufstein (Tirol) which was already known as a prehistoric site, but especially caves like Peggauer-Felsenhöhle, Badl-, Repolust- and the Drachenhöhle near Mixnitz in Styria. Bearing in mind scientific questions a commission for the exploration of the caves was established which was composed of technicians, people who executed the works and leading representatives of science. The Central Commision for the protection of monuments (the prehistorian Georg Kyrle) and the palaeobiologist Othenio Abel were brought into play. They recognized that the rich deposits of phosphate were connected with the remains of fossil mammals and they concluded that primarily the cave bear and its excrements, its carcass and the intruded prey were responsible for the phosphate deposits. The mighty up to 9 m thick deposits of the Drachenhöhle produced 21,000,000 kg fine grained material, approximately 500,000 kg of bone fragments for the production of fertilizers and 4,000 kg fossils selected for scientific purposes (EHRENBERG 1970). Parallel to these scientific studies were pushed ahead (KYRLE 1921, ABEL & KYRLE 1931) and reports sound rather unbelievable:“A very rich material of rare abundance and variety exists for the palaeontologist. Waggons of fossil bones are unearthed and characteristic and important assemblages are completely recovered by specialists.

In this way Abel and his students systematically unearthed precious osteological material. Bone fragments dedicated to the bone mills are screened with respect to their scientific value in order to prevent interesting pieces to be brought to the bone mills.“ (KYRLE 1921).

The excavations at Mixnitz made spelaeology a renowned science. In 1929 the first chair of this science at the University was held by G. Kyrle. In 1929 these caves were declared as monuments of nature and finally protected (TRIMMEL 1972).

In spite of this – comparable to the situation in the East of Austria – more intensive studies didn’t start before the fifties mainly characterized by the work of ©Amt der Niederösterreichischen Landesregierung,, download unter www.biologiezentrum.at

Palaeolithic research in Austria 7

the palaeontologist Maria Mottl (Country Museum of Styria Joanneum at Graz).

She published many palaeontological and archaeological studies concerning her research in the alpine caves with Palaeolithic finds (Salzofenhöhle 1950 a, Lieglloch 1950 b, Repolusthöhle 1951) which she tried to classify from a cultural and chronological point of view (MOTTL 1968, 1975 a and b). Recent studies in the Styrian caves shed new light on the results of her studies as was to be expected (FUCHS 1989, FLADERER 1992, 1999, FLADERER, FUCHS & FÜRNHOLZER 1999).

Research in the Lurgrotte north of Graz a well known cave open for visitors are remarkable because there are deposits from the time of neanderthals. On the occasion of an excursion of the 2 nd European Congress of Palaeontology in 1997, a 7 m thick sequence of layers was documented. In the Middle Palaeolithic layers there were animal bones and artefacts made of quartz. Apart from this a humerus of a reindeer with clear cut marks provides evidence for the presence of Neanderthals.

(FLADERER et al. 2002).

Almost a new beginning

While there was a stagnation in archaeological field work in the course of the sixties palaeontologists and spelaeologists continued their field work (EHRENBERG

1966) and thus initiated a new phase of prehistoric research. To G. Rabeder we owe not only the discovery of single artefacts from caves of the alpine region of Lower and Upper Austria (Nixloch, Gamssulzen, Herdengelhöhle) giving evidence of the presence of Ice Age man, but also the development and use of new dating methods (evolutionary stages of cave bears, use of uranium series, HILLE & RABEDER 1986). A comprehensive presentation of these sites was published as a “Catalogus fossilium Austriae” (DÖPPES & RABEDER ed. 1998).

Initiated by the local spelaeological society (MAYER et al. 1983) the Teufelsrast-Felsdach in the valley of the river Krems was excavated from 1983 to 1985 which brought evidence of its use by Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers (NEUGEBAUER-MARESCH 1993 and 1999).

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