Thunau am Kamp – A fortified hilltop settlement of the Urnfield Culture


The site on the ‘Schanzberg’, a ridge above Thunau, a part of Gars am Kamp, is situated in north-western Lower Austria on the eastern edge of the ‘Waldviertel’ about 80 km northwest of Vienna. The strategically favourable situation at an important north-south route through the valley of the river Kamp was used for the founding of big settlements, especially in the Urnfield Culture (c. 1050 ̶ 800 BC) and the early Middle Ages (AD 8th–11th century). From the excavation results we can suppose that there were further but smaller settlements in the developed Hallstatt and the late La Tène Cultures as well as late Antiquity and Migration periods.

An extensive settlement with fortification existed during the late Urnfield Culture (c. 1050 ̶ 800 BC) on a ridge above Thunau, on the so-called ‘Holzwiese’. Based on the topographical situation, the defensive structures and the size of the settlement, it can be assumed that Thunau had a central function for the surrounding region. Due to a natural steep slope towards the east, north and south, the settlement plateau is largely inaccessible and naturally protected. In the west, a fortification on the narrowest part of the ridge shelters it from the rest of the plateau.

The rampart leads up from the south-western end of the ‘Holzwiese’, starting directly at the steep edge and curving in a north-western direction. Here its base is nearly 20 m wide and its height is still more than 3 m and its northern course can be followed nearly to the valley. In the western part of the rampart was an entrance to the settlement on the transition to a buttress that connects the settlement with the plateau. A further incision about 2.5 m wide with traces of a path is discernible on the southern end of the fortification. The rampart was constructed from boxes set in a row, consisting of logs erected in blocks, being filled in with earth and covered.

Extensive excavations have shown that the whole area spanning 20 hectares had been densely settled. In the area of the south-western rampart, the houses were erected directly at the wall, partly with deep cellars cut into the rock. The houses were erected as post and beam buildings with walls of wattle and daub, partly also as log buildings. Numerous remains of fireplaces, baking ovens, storage pits, weaving looms, storage vessels and other household ceramics were recovered, partly still in their original settings, which provides insights into the households of the Late Bronze Age population.

A small cemetery was founded approximately 250 m west of the settlement, which was largely destroyed during the construction of the Slavic ramparts. Three simply furnished cremation graves were still preserved. Another cemetery was situated at the foot of the settlement at the exit of the northern lateral valley to the river Kamp. In 1983, during the construction of a new sewer, a further urn grave was discovered and destroyed. A larger cemetery contemporaneous to the settlement has not yet been found.

The Late Bronze Age settlement of Thunau ended with a fire around 800/750 BC and was evidently completely destroyed; the houses were never rebuilt.

Current Publications

Current Publications

  • M. Lochner, Zur Ausstattung von Hanghaus 01 der urnenfelderzeitlichen befestigten Höhensiedlung von Thunau am Kamp, Niederösterreich. In: Z Badań nad Kulturą społeczenstw Pradziejowych i Wczesnośredniowiecznych, Księga Jubileuszowa Dedykowana Profesorowi Bogusławowi Gedidze, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology Polish Academy of Sciences, Wrocław 2013 (2014), 307–319.
  • M. Lochner, Thunau am Kamp – eine befestigte Höhensiedlung der Urnenfelderkultur und der außergewöhnliche Fund eines Tonfässchens. In: W. Blajer (Red.), Peregrinationes Archaeologicae in Asia et Europa Joanni Chochorowski Dedicatae, Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytetu Jagiellonskiego, Wydawnictwo Profil-Archeo, Kraków 2012, 193–203.
  • I. Hellerschmid, D. Kern, M. Lochner, Oberleiserberg – Stillfried – Thunau. Drei Höhensiedlungen der mitteldonauländischen Urnenfelderkultur im Vergleich. In: B. Gediga, W. Piotroski (Hrsg.), Biskupin-Wrocław 2010. Rola głównych centrów kulturowych w kształtowaniu oblicza kulturowego Europy Środkowej we wczesnych okresach epoki żelaza (Die Rolle der wichtigen Kulturzentren in der Gestaltung des Kulturbildes Mitteleuropas in den frühen Perioden der Eisenzeit), Symposium Biskupin 23.–25.06.2008. Biskupin – Wroclaw 2010, 238–297.

Further Publications