Research project, financed by the Austria Science Fund (FWF, Project P 30790-G25)

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Roman gold mining in the „Karth“, a region near the town of Neunkirchen in Lower Austria

The Roman gold mining district in the „Karth“ is a unique site. Apart from being the only known Roman gold mining district in the Eastern Alps the individual features, such as leats and reservoirs for hydraulic mining are exceptionally well preserved. Preliminary field survey and comparison with known Roman mining sites, where hydraulic mining was practiced, show the importance of this mining district on an international level. Numerous Roman finds in the area attest to the importance of gold mining for the local Roman communities.


The project

IIn January 2018 a four year interdisciplinary research project, financed by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) has started (project manager: Brigitte Cech, Vienna).

The overall aim of the project is a detailed interdisciplinary case study of a Roman gold mining district, focussing mainly on survey, archaeology and scientific research necessary to understand the working of the mines and to reconstruct the „chaîne opératoire“ of hydraulic mining as it was practised in this mining region. Other important aspects are the reconstruction of the palaeo-environment (original topography and vegetation) with the aim of documenting changes of the environment due to Roman mining acticity and studies of the geological framework of the study area.

In order to achieve these aims a detailed survey of the topography and documentation of features still preserved, archaeological excvavations, pollen analysis, geophysical prospection, geological studies as well as studies of aspects of hydraulic technology will be undertaken. Known Roman sites in the wider area around the mining district, such as settlements, cemeteries and isolated finds, will be mapped to put the mining area into the socio-economic context of the region. Dating the mine workings can only be done by studying archaeological finds, such as ceramics, coins etc. Dendrochronolgy and radiocarbon dating can be of help in dating the mines if suitable wood samples are found during the archaeological excavations.

The approach to the project is very interdisciplinary as befits the subject. Great emphasis will be laid on communication between the involved researchers and exchange of results, so that all results will be viewed from more than one perspective and will be interpreted accordingly.


The following disciplines are involved in the first stage of the project:



Cooperation with colleagues working in other disciplines, such as analysis of soil samples, archaeometallurgy, palaeozoology, identification of wood species, and dendrochronolgy, will be initiated as required.