One of the most important archaeological landscapes of Austria is the lower Traisen Valley between St. Pölten and Krems in Lower Austria. Large-scale rescue excavations under the scientific direction of Johannes-Wolfgang Neugebauer (1949–2002) were triggered by the construction of the S33 expressway, gravel extraction, land consolidation and terracing.
Among the many archaeological sites documented since 1981, the cemeteries of Franzhausen I and II are among the most important. Over 2200 burials span the entire period of the Early Bronze Age from about 2300 to 1600 BC. The dead were buried in flexed, gender-specific body position, usually in individual graves. Women were placed on the right side of the body, head south, whereas men were placed on the left, head north. Grave goods comprise bronze costume and jewellery, weapons and tools, ceramic vessels as well as meat produce.
The cemetery Franzhausen I was excavated between 1981 and 1983 and includes 716 Early Bronze Age burials. A catalogue of the finds and findings of Franzhausen I is already available (Neugebauer – Neugebauer 1997), based on which numerous scientific papers on individual aspects of the cemetery have already appeared. Aspects of the physical anthropology of the cemetery Franzhausen I were investigated under the direction of Maria Teschler-Nikola (Berner 1988; Wiltschke-Schrotta 1988).
The neighbouring cemetery Franzhausen II was documented between 1985 and 1991 and is, with about 1500 burials, even larger (Neugebauer-Maresch 2009). The cemetery of Franzhausen II is still unpublished except for short overviews (Neugebauer 1994) and individual aspects, as the post-excavation work has not been completed.
Christoph Blesl (Federal Monuments Authority Austria) is responsible for the conservation of the finds and the archive of excavations for further research. The finds and documentation are located in Mauerbach, except for a small selection presented at the Museum of Prehistory in Nußdorf ob der Traisen. The human remains are curated in the Anthropological Department of the Natural History Museum Vienna (Karin Wiltschke-Schrotta).
The project ‘Early Bronze Age burials at Franzhausen’ aims to facilitate research based on these cemeteries. As a component of the research group Prehistoric Identities, its link to the Institute of Oriental and European Archaeology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences ensures a central and long-term coordination of ongoing research. Contact persons are the excavator Christine Neugebauer-Maresch and the group leader Katharina Rebay-Salisbury, who offer supervision of theses at the University of Vienna thematically linked to Franzhausen I and II. At present, we are searching for doctoral candidates interested in two topics: funerary practice/ritual and archaeothanatology/grave re-opening. Work on these topics includes the primary processing of excavation data and the contextualization of findings within Central Europe.
- M. Berner, Das frühbronzezeitliche Gräberfeld von Franzhausen I. Demographische und metrische Analyse (Dissertation Universität Wien 1988).
- C. Neugebauer-Maresch, Der Goldschmuck aus den frühbronzezeitlichen Gräberfeldern von Franzhausen, Niederösterreich, in: S. Deger-Jalkotzy – N. Schindel (eds), Gold, Origines 1 (Wien 2009) 137–142.
- C. Neugebauer – J.-W. Neugebauer, Franzhausen. Das frühbronzezeitliche Gräberfeld I, Fundberichte aus Österreich Materialhefte A 5/1 und 2 (Horn 1997).
- J.-W. Neugebauer, Bronzezeit in Ostösterreich. Wissenschaftliche Schriftenreihe Niederösterreich 98–101. Wien – St. Pölten 1994.
- K. Wiltschke-Schrotta, Das frühbronzezeitliche Gräberfeld von Franzhausen I. Analyse der morphologischen Merkmale mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der epigenetischen Varianten (Dissertation Universität Wien 1988).