Research focus

The Department of Archaeometallurgy of the Vienna Institute of Archaeological Science conducts intensive research in the field of archaeometric analysis of archaeological objects. The goal is the description of a complete technology chain (raw material processing - finished product - post-processing - reuse) as well as the documentation of the changes and influences on archeological artefacts caused by the surrounding soil.


Technological description of the production and history of use of metal objects

The description, classification and typology of archaeological objects provides the basis for the treatment and processing of finds as well as for the reconstruction of prehistoric value and social systems. The metallurgical investigation and technological description of metal artefacts and the waste and by-products of their production (e.g. slag) allows the description of the material processing as well as a determination of the quality of the used raw material (alloy composition). By means of detailed archaeometallurgical analyses, it is possible to gain insights into the technical structure of an object and its specific material qualities, by means of which individual workshop circles, production centers and technology transfer can be filtered out. Based on these typological investigations on used techonology, further insights into craft and forging technology of a time period are gained. In combination with the historical sources, the results of these analyses also offer a deeper insight into prehistoric social systems.


Archaeometallurgical analyses and investigations on goldsmith's techniques of non-ferrous and precious metalls (in cooperation with the department for Technology of Gold-, Silver-, and Copper Alloy Metalwork)

Another research focus in the field of metallurgy is the non-destructive anlysis of precious metal and non-ferrous metal objects using a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and energy dispersive x-ray microanalysis. Priority is given especially to the research on manufacturing techniques of an artefact and the analysis of it's chemical composition (main and secondary elements). The documentation of technological features allows a reconstruction and description of the manufacturing process of individual objects as well as the formation of groups based on technological criteria. These groups can be compared and correlated with the results of archaeological analyses and thereby allow to reconstruct the technology development of a certain period of time.


Experimental archeology

The inclusion of experimental archeology plays a crucial role in all of the above mentioned research areas. This research method makes it possible to gain further insights into the production and use as well as the formation of artefacts. In the process, theoretical assumptions on the formation of a find are checked for accuracy by precisely documented experiments. At present, various series of experiments on iron as well as copper smelting and processing are operated and the resulting material samples can be used as a reference. This way not only a typological but also technological designation and classification of an object can be made within the analysis of a find. As a result, technological processes can be better understood and described.