Early excavations

Mining councilor Johann Georg Ramsauer was the first person to carry out archaeological investigations in Hallstatt. For a long time this research work was led by the saltworks themselves. Museums were slow to join – first the Museum Francisco-Carolinum in Linz (today the Regional Museum of Upper Austria), then the Royal and Imperial Natural History Museum in Vienna (today the Natural History Museum Vienna). The saltworks received major support through the foundation of the Hallstatt Museum Association in 1884.

Johann Georg Ramsauer
Gustav Schubert and Eduard v. Sacken
Bartholomeus Hutter
Gustav Schubert and Josef Stapf
Josef Stapf and Ferdinand v. Hochstetter
Franz v. Hauer, Josef Szombathy and Bartholumeus Hutter
Hallstatt Museum Association
Duchess of Mecklenburg
Josef Bayer
Friedrich Morton

Johann Georg Ramsauer – excavations from 1846 to 1863

Through systematic excavations, Bergmeister (head of mining) Johann Georg Ramsauer (1795-1874) accessed the larger part of the prehistoric cemetery, unearthing a total of 980 graves. Many of his extensive protocols and descriptions, watercolour plates with types of graves and finds have come down to us, as well as plans of the cemetery furnishing valuable information on the positions and the structure. The finds from the Ramsauer excavation were taken to the k.k. Münz- und Antikencabinett in Vienna.


Gustav Schubert and Eduard v. Sacken - excavation in 1864

The name of Eduard von Sacken marks the start of the ‘scientific’ examination of the Hallstatt cemetery. Together with mine clerk Gustav Schubert, von Sacken unearthed the next thirteen graves in 1864. Unlike his predecessor, he did not keep records, and the specific locations of those graves have remained unknown.

Bartholumeus Hutter - excavations from1868 to 1874

Three further graves were unearthed by mine administrator Hutter in this period, among them grave 994 with the famous Hallstatt sword depicting figural scenes on the bronze scabbard. The first human bones from unspecified graves arrived in Vienna. Regrettably, we do not have any information on the exact locations of the Hutter finds.

Gustav Schubert and Bergrat Josef Stapf - excavations from 1871 to 1876

In 1871, mine clerk Gustav Schubert started new systematic examinations, continued from 1872 onwards by mine clerk Josef Stapf. The excavations were undertaken on behalf of the Museum Francisco-Carolinum in Linz. Although we know the area in which this work was conducted, we do not know all locations. In 1874, the finds from the Hallstatt cemetery were rated so high among European scholars that the village gave its name to the Early Iron Age.

Bergrat Josef Stapf and Ferdinand v. Hochstetter - excavations from 1877 to 1878

Ferdinand von Hochstetter is the first collaborator of the Vienna Natural History Museum actively working in the Hallstatt cemetery. He was the first director of the then recently founded museum; not an archaeologist, but a homo universalis in the understanding of the time. He headed the first excavations of the Natural History Museum in Hallstatt, which continued the Ramsauer excavations to the north. The grave goods from the 27 unearthed graves were taken to the k.k. Naturhistorisches Hofmuseum in Vienna, the Imperial and Royal Museum of Natural History.

Franz v. Hauer, Josef Szombathy and Bartholumeus Hutter - excavation in 1886

These investigations concerned the area below the ‘Steinbewahrersölde’, a cabin that accommodated the ‘Felsputzer’, those workers checking and removing loose and shaping rock - which stood immediately above the cemetery. The spot immediately under the cabin yielded 13 graves, whose grave goods were also taken to Vienna.

Hallstatt Museum Association - excavations from 1884 to 1899

The Hallstatt Museum Association, founded in 1884, also undertook excavations on the mountain. Under the direction of Isidor Engl, 28 graves were unearthed between 1884 and 1899, and the finds came to the museum.

Duchess of Mecklenburg - excavation in 1907

In September 1907, the Duchess of Mecklenburg, born Countess Marie of Windischgrätz, excavated a total of 26 graves next to the farm buildings. The finds first came into the Duchess’s private collection; after her death, they were auctioned off and went to America.

Josef Bayer - excavation in 1928

Josef Bayer, then director of the Prehistoric Department of the Natural History Museum, Vienna, wanted to add new items to the already extensive Hallstatt collection in the museum. However, the excavations failed to reveal any new graves.

Friedrich Morton - excavations from 1937 to 1938

Although the cemetery was considered exhausted, Friedrich Morton discovered 61 new burials between 1937 and 1938. He undertook excavations in the north-western part of the cemetery. The finds were for the greater part artefacts of the later period of the cemetery, and comprised items dating to the Late Iron Age (La Tène A).

(Kern, A. – Loew, C.)
: Schwert aus Grab 994: Eisen mit figural verzierter Bronzescheide. (Bild: Strasil - NHM Wien)
Schwert aus Grab 994: Eisen mit figural verzierter Bronzescheide. (Bild: Strasil - NHM Wien)