Department of Prehistory

The Department of Prehistory at the Natural History Museum aims to research the history of humankind based on the traces it has left behind and to share the knowledge gained through this work with the public. To this end the department’s staff collects, preserves and examines irreplaceable objects from the past. The Department of Prehistory is currently made up of the director, five research assistants, three restorers, one assistant, one project assistant and one freelancer.

The Department of Prehistory houses one of the largest and most diverse archaeological collections in Europe with outstanding individual objects of international significance such as the Venus of Willendorf, the Bull of Býčí Skála, the Dagger of Maiersdorf, the cone-necked Vessels of Sopron and the unique finds from the mine and burial site in Hallstatt. Our researchers study exclusive locations such as Hallstatt, Kranawetberg, Brunn am Gebirge and Roseldorf and make many important contributions to advancing knowledge in our discipline".

Dr. Anton Kern (Department director 2001-2021)

During the planning of the museum in the 19th century it was decided that, alongside natural science departments, there should also be an anthropological-ethnographic department dedicated to the study of humankind. This made the NHM Vienna the only state-funded research centre in Austria to cover all three classical human sciences: anthropology, ethnology and prehistory. The great progress made in these scientific fields meant that by 1924 it was necessary to divide the department into three parts, with ethnology being incorporated into the Museum für Völkerkunde in 1927. Today, the Department of Prehistory and the Archive for the History of Science are the only departments at the museum dedicated to the humanities. In the more than 100 years since it was created, the Department of Prehistory’s tasks have changed little. This continuity makes it possible to maintain research work at important sites over many decades or even centuries.