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THE DEPARTMENT FOR BIOARCHAEOLOGY AT THE AUSTRIAN ARCHAEOLOGICAL INSTITUTE (ÖAI), AUSTRIAN ACADEMY OF SCIENCES (ÖAW)



Bioarchaeological research in Austria has largely been characterised by the lack of institutionalisation for nearly a century. In contrast to the long tradition of biological anthropology research facilities, archaeobotanical and archaeozoological positions only became established in a period from the 1970s till the early 1990s. Forming a cornerstone of the Austrian Archaeological Institute’s integration process into the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the establishment of ÖAI’s Department for Bioarchaeology in 2016 marks the first time in 40 years that such a bioarchaeological research unit has been successfully established as new. The department unites researchers in archaeobotany, archaeozoology and biological anthropology under the same roof, and is embedded into the research infrastructure of the country’s largest non-university research institution. IANSA 2019 ● X/2 ● 167–175 Andreas G. Heiss, Alfred Galik, Michelle Gamble, Magdalena Srienc, Sabine Ladstätter: The Department for Bioarchaeology at the Austrian Archaeological Institute (ÖAI), Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) 168 disciplinary and methodological borders. Aside from the positive effects on communication and cooperation between the Department for Bioarchaeology and all historical-cultural units of the institute, synergies with the Department for Restoration and Conservation have proven to be extremely beneficial, due to the exchange of ideas, the possibility of supporting bioarchaeological work and archiving with the latest material knowledge, and the general optimization of workflows. This fact ensures a high degree of efficiency in the development and implementation of bioarchaeological and prehistorical and historical research aspects and strategies. Cross-disciplinary collaborations within the institute have led to rather unexpected and extremely useful outcomes, one of them being the generation of photogrammetric models of charred organic food remains (Heiss et al., 2019b; 2019c). The Department for Bioarchaeology encompasses three Research Groups (RG): RG Anthropology and Necropoleis, RG Archaeozoology, and RG Archaeobotany. In contrast to other institutions, the department is decidedly not intended as a mere biosciences service centre (or “Core Facility” as termed in Austrian academia). Quite the contrary, aside from the close integration into the ÖAI’s excavations with a focus on classical archaeology, the department’s three research groups have their own distinct diachronic and interdisciplinary research agendas. While there is more information on the ÖAI website regarding the research groups (see below for links), we will present some of the research underway at the Department for Bioarchaeology by geographical area. 3. Geographical areas of research 3.1 Central Europe A major highlight is the role of the ÖAI in the joint efforts to reinstate the Austrian research of prehistoric lakeshore settlements (UNESCO World Heritage “Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around the Alps”), fostered and directed by the Kuratorium Pfahlbauten and the Federal Museum of Upper Austria (Heiss and Jakobitsch, 2018). Within the framework of the projects “Zeitensprung” and “Beyond Lake Villages” (FWF I-1693), plant remains from underwater excavations and hinterland settlements are being analysed, with the goal of reconstructing settlement activity, economy, nutrition, and land use patterns of the Neolithic settlers (Jakobitsch et al., 2019a). This research is being complemented by the investigation of late Neolithic food remains from Austrian, Swiss and southwest German lakeshore settlements (Heiss, 2017b; Heiss et al., 2017a; Heiss et al., submitted), and extensive studies into Neolithic fishing economies of the same region (Galik, 2009). The latter has been a desideratum for a long time as evidence for prehistoric fishing is still rare, and new data are dearly needed (Galik, 1999; 2008a; 2008b; 2013; Galik et al., 2015; Galik and Küchelmann, 2008; Galik et al., 2011; Haidvogl et al., 2013; Ilon et al., 2017; Yurtseva et al., 2013; Yurtseva et al., 2015). A project which has recently started, combines archaeobotanical, archaeoichthyological and palaeohygienic research in the investigation of dog faeces from pile dwellings in the Neolithic pile dwelling settlements Črnelnik and Stare gmajne in the Slovenian Ljubljansko barje, highlighting the role of fish in domestic dogs’ diet (Tolar and Galik, 2019). The history of fisheries and fishing generally marks a strong research interest in A. Galik’s work. It is a topic that is heavily influenced by methodological choices, as the usually very small fishbones are regularly overlooked when only handpicking is applied in excavations instead of dryor wetsieving of sediment samples (Bartosiewicz, 1988; De Cupere et al., 1995; Schmölcke and Heinrich, 2006). As a local research starting point, historical fishing and exploitation behaviour in Austria and other countries can be defined, but the limits are not set to historical areas. Research initiatives into these materials are also being made in all other areas of activity of the ÖAI. The Bronze Age settlement in Drasenhofen, Northern Lower Austria, has been recently published (Galik et al., 2019). Incorporated into this was an archaeozoological analysis which demonstrated that animal protein was certainly supplied to the local populace through the slaughtering of domesticated animals, with cattle, sheep and goat the most important. While hunting was obviously less important, exploitation of aquatic resources is evidenced by the presence of fish remains and various freshwater mussel species. It was particularly interesting to observe the frequent presence of so-called “sledge runners”, which are worked animal bones, mainly made of the radii of various mammalian species. Dietary habits, resource management, and spatial organisation of industrial processes are currently under investigation at the Late Bronze Age mining site of Prigglitz-Gasteil in Lower Austria (FWF P 30289). The Department of Bioarchaeology is mainly involved in the investigation of the procurement strategies for timber, fuel wood, and food (Jakobitsch et al., 2019b; Trebsche et al., 2019; Wiesinger et al., 2019). The large La Tène period lowland settlement of Haselbach is part of the research focus of a long-term research project directed by S. Fichtl (Université de Strasbourg) and P. Trebsche (University of Innsbruck). RG Archaeobotany is involved in the analysis and evaluation of the high resolution microstratigraphical and archaeobotanical sampling (Heiss and Wiesinger, 2018b), and is aimed at elucidating local agricultural economy, and its spatial organisation. Our anthropological research has begun to contribute to the archaeology of the eastern Alpine region, where it was, until now, rare for cemeteries to be comprehensively studied. The project “Life in times of change”, financed by a Hertha-Firnberg scholarship of the FWF, awarded to M. Binder, is dedicated to research on the living conditions in the Eastern Alps at the transition between Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages (5th/6th century AD), based on the human skeletal remains from the two neighbouring cemeteries of Hemmaberg and Globasnitz in southern Carinthia. Recording of the osteobiographical data is being carried out by M. Srienc, along with several students in the bioarchaeological IANSA 2019 ● X/2 ● 167–175 Andreas G. Heiss, Alfred Galik, Michelle Gamble, Magdalena Srienc, Sabine Ladstätter: The Department for Bioarchaeology at the Austrian Archaeological Institute (ÖAI), Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) 169 research laboratory of the ÖAI. In correlation to this project, excavations which are being conducted by the ÖAI at Jaunstein/Podjuna in southern Carinthia, are adding to the human skeletal evidence for life and lifeways in the Eastern Alps. The anthropological analysis of the skeletal material from this site will be directly comparable to that from Globasnitz and Hemmaberg, and will form a portion of the PhD research of M. Srienc. In an associated project, the unknown saint excavated at Hemmaberg in 1992, whose skeleton is in a reliquary shrine below the altar of one of the churches of the pilgrimage shrine, was also investigated in a multidisciplinary project. This has now been published in a book (Binder and Ladstätter, 2018). In co-operation with project leader J. Eitler, the project “Cult continuity at the summit of the Hemmaberg” (FWF – 29452-G25) started 2017, and follows the research tradition of the Institute, but also incorporates significant bioarchaeological research to understanding this complex, multi-period site (Binder et al., 2016; Forstenpointner and Gernot, 1999; Gaggl, 1996; Galik et al., 2018; Heiss, 2018). This integrated research has acquired a unique position in Austria, with a close co-operation with the Federal Monuments Office, as well as with regional museums, and has provided a wealth of new information on this site, from the Bronze Age through the Medieval period. In addition to these site-specific research projects, a joint project between the University of Warsaw and the ÖAI is being developed, which aims to understand the connection between the Roman road system and early medieval migration. In another “cult project”, the investigation of archaeozoological finds from a Mithras cave at Gradišče, Figure 1. Biological anthropologist M. Srienc. Image: ÖAW-ÖAI/N. Gail.

 


THE DEPARTMENT FOR BIOARCHAEOLOGY AT THE AUSTRIAN ARCHAEOLOGICAL INSTITUTE (ÖAI), AUSTRIAN ACADEMY OF SCIENCES (ÖAW)


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