Experimental Archaeology

Dr. Wolfgang Lobisser



  • Archaeological experiments on specific research questions
  • Reconstruction of archaeological showpieces
  • Conception and planning of exhibition projects
  • Construction of archaeological open-air museums

Experimental archeology is highly suited to putting our ideas of the technical capabilities of our ancestors on a lifelike basis, to review our explanations and interpretations of excavation findings.

The experiment begins where conventional methods of archeology no longer work and attempts to test, explain and ultimately reconstruct crafting practices, technical facilities and work processes.

Over the past years, members of the VIAS - Vienna Institute for Archaeological science carried out numerous archaeological experiments on variouse topics, including  prehistoric architecture, wood technology, manufacturing of pottery, textile techniques, cooking and the carving of horn, as well as the processing of leather, fur and stone.

Many of these experimental studies have been carried out in the course of contract research, during the construction of archaeological open-air museums, or while experimentally manufacturing showpieces for exhibitions and presentations.

The VIAS-Vienna Institute for Archaeological Science is available as a partner for archaeological experiments for exhibitions and archaeolocial open-air projects.

The procedure for archaeological experiments is based primarily on the natural sciences, where a formulated research question should serve as a starting point for each experiment, usually resulting from the interpretation of a current excavation, from a historical text or a pictorial representation.

The documentation relies on modern technology, measuring instruments, video recordings as well as on photographs and written records. The so obtained results are analysed and compared with the current state of research, which is either confirmed or must be corrected accordingly in new findings.

The construction of prehistoric architectural models by the VIAS using experimental archeological methods

"Archaeological parks will probably shape the image of our children and grandchildren more sustainably than all of our specialised scientific treatises put together." (W. Gauer)

Replica of a Neolithic stone adze in practical use (Project Heldenberg 2005)

Since the year of 2002, the VIAS is engaged in the planning, design and construction of archaeological open-air facilities. The construction of the facilities is carried out with extensive use of methods of experimental archeology and thus creates the opportunity to gain new insights into prehistoric architecture, as well as to the various work traditions and craft techniques.

The term "archaeological open-air museum" refers to facilities that show reconstructions of prehistoric architectural models to the visitor. These are mostly buildings, technical installations or agricultural complexes, such as show gardens, meadows or fields.

The new architectural model of a Linear-pottery longhouse at the MAMUZ (Project Asparn 2013)

Reforged woodworking tools of the younger Iron Age: left to right: socketed axe, adze, spoon bit, wood carving knife, bark needle, marking awl, open handsaw, chisel, gouge, compass (project Schwarzenbach 2004)

Archaeological open-air museums largely shape the coception of history of the general public. Thus, the great responsibility of those who plan these facilites and put them into practice becomes apparent.

The project partners and clients of the VIAS are mostly municipalities who, for their part, want to set up tourist facilities following the educational mission by presenting prehistoric realities of life.

House building techniques of the older Iron Age: left to right: Log cabin, studding construction, post technique (project Großklein 2004)

The ridge post of an early medieval pit house model is erected (project Unterrabnitz 2007)