Retrospect


The Institute for Oriental and European Archaeology OREA was founded as a research unit of the Austrian Academy of Sciences on January 1, 2013 and started work with a kick-off on June 21, 2013. The structural reorganization of three former scientific commissions of the Austrian Academy of Sciences started with an internal research review in July 2013 with the aim to design new research groups and address a range of common research priorities.

The study of the past was one of the main concerns when the Academy of Sciences was founded in 1847. Accordingly, the “Commission for the promotion of prehistoric research and excavations on Austrian territory", set up by the math and science section in 1878, is one of the oldest research units of the Academy. The “Egyptian Commission” was founded in 1907 and the “Commission for Mycenaean research” was added significantly later, in 1971.

Prehistoric Commission


Since investigations of prehistory in Austria started soon after the foundation of the Academy, the “Commission for the promotion of prehistoric research and excavations on Austrian territory” (Commission zur Förderung von praehistorischen Forschungen und Ausgrabungen auf österreichischem Gebiete) was founded at the request of the geologist and prehistorian Ferdinand von Hochstetter (1829–1884) on 4 April 1878. Initially, it belonged to the math and science section, before it was supplemented by members of the philosophical-historical section in 1886 and thus became a commission of the Academy as a whole. In 1939, the research unit was renamed the “Prehistoric Commission” (Prähistorische Kommission). Between 1969 and 1976, the agendas of the “Commission for castle research” (Kommission für Burgenforschung) were transferred to the Prehistoric Commission, and the “Sub-Committee for Quaternary research” (Subkommission für Quartärforschung) was initiated in 1968, which became an independent commission in 1972. Research included all periods from the Palaeolithic to the Early Middle Ages. Staff included Josef Szombathy (1853–1943), Felix von Luschan (1854–1924), Herbert Mitscha-Märheim (1900–1976) and Richard Pittioni (1906–1985). In addition to anthropological and palaeontological research, they directed numerous excavations (e.g. Kelchalpe near Kitzbühel, Krems-Wachtberg, Nußdorf ob der Traisen, Oberleiserberg, Thunau am Kamp). With the integration of the “Celtic Commission” (Keltische Kommission) in 1998, research also addresses the field of Celtic Studies.

Finds from the tumuli of Gemeinlebarn, Lower Austria, 1885 (after J. Szombathy, Die Tumuli von Gemeinlebarn, MPK I, 2, 1890, Taf. III)

Chairs

  • Ferdinand von Hochstetter (1878–1884)
  • Franz von Hauer (1885–1899)
  • Franz Steindachner (1903–1918)
  • Rudolf Much (1919–1936)
  • Oswald Menghin (1937–1944)
  • Josef Weninger (1945–1957)
  • Richard Pittioni (1957–1985)
  • Hermann Vetters (1986)
  • Herwig Friesinger (1987–2012)

Commission for Egypt and the Levant


The “Commission for Egyptology” (Ägyptologische Kommission) (from 1910 onwards “Egyptian Commission” [Ägyptische Kommission], in 2003 renamed “Commission for Egypt and the Levant” [Kommission für Ägypten und Levante]) was initiated by the philosophical-historical section on December 4, 1907. In its early years it was already devoted to major excavation projects: Hermann Junker (1877–1962) led research at the Pyramids of Giza on behalf of the commission from 1912 to 1914 and from 1925 to 1929. The work of Karl Wessely (1860–1931) on Greek and Coptic texts brought attention to the recent history of Egypt. In cooperation with Oswald Menghin (1888–1973), Hermann Junker conducted excavations in Merimde in the West Delta of the Nile from 1929 to 1939, exploring Neolithic settlements. Between 1961 and 1965, the commission under the direction of Karl Kromer (1924–2003) and Manfred Bietak contributed to the UNESCO action to save Nubian antiquities prior to the flooding of the Nile associated with the construction of the dam at Aswan. Excavations at Tell el-Dabca started in 1966, initially conducted jointly with the Institute of Egyptology of the University of Vienna and from 1975 in cooperation with the Austrian Archaeological Institute (ÖAI). From 1999 to 2011, the research focus SCIEM 2000 (The Synchronization of Civilisations in the Eastern Mediterranean in the 2nd Millennium) addressed problems of relative and absolute chronology in the eastern Mediterranean. The Commission’s research area thus comprised not only the subject of Egyptology, but also Syro-Palestinian, Nubian and Sudanese Archaeology.

Excavations at Giza 1927 (© Archiv ÖAW)

Chairs

  • Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk (1907–1914)
  • Friedrich von Kenner (1914–1922)
  • Hermann Junker (1923–1962)
  • Richard Meister (1962–1964)
  • Fritz Schachermeyr (1964–1987)
  • Manfred Bietak (1989–2012)

Mycenaean Commission


The “Commission for Mycenaean research” (Kommission für mykenische Forschung) was established on March 31, 1971 by the philosophical-historical section and united on December 11, 1974 with the “Asia Minor Commission” (Kleinasiatische Kommission) and the “Commission for epigraphy of Asia Minor and Aegean Archaeology, Department of Mycenaean research” (Kommission für kleinasiatische Epigraphik und ägäische Altertumsforschung, Abteilung für mykenische Forschung) on December 11, 1974. On April 13, 1988 it became independent and was renamed “Mycenaean Commission” (Mykenische Kommission). Research centred on the prehistoric cultures of Greece from the Neolithic to the Early Iron Age. Fritz Schachermeyr (1895–1987), Sigrid Deger-Jalkotzy and Eva Alram-Stern conducted research in Aigeira/Achaia in cooperation with the Austrian Archaeological Institute (ÖAI), which was partly published in the framework of SCIEM 2000. Particular attention was paid to the publication series “Ägäische Frühzeit” (Aegean early period) founded by Fritz Schachermeyr, which published finds and research reports that provide overviews of new discoveries and the associated findings on individual periods of Greek and Aegean Prehistory and Early History. Moreover, publications on issues of linear B-research and research history were written. The commission also housed the “Schachermeyr Collection” (Sammlung Schachermeyr), a collection of about 2.000 ceramic fragments that was bequest to the Mycenaean Commission in the researcher’s will.

The Acropolis of Aigeira/Achaia (© E. Alram)

Chairs

  • Fritz Schachermeyr (1971–1987)
  • Sigrid Deger-Jalkotzy (1988–2010)
  • Hermann Hunger (2011–2012)

References


  • R. Meister, Geschichte der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien 1847–1947 (Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie 1), Wien 1947.
  • O. Hittmair – H. Hunger (Hrsg.), Akademie der Wissenschaften. Entwicklung einer österreichischen Forschungsinstitution (Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie 15), Wien 1997.
  • Almanach der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien 1878–2013.
  • Tätigkeitsberichte der ÖAW, Wien 1978/79–2012.
  • Österreichisches Biographisches Lexikon 1815–1950 (bisher 13 Bände, A bis Te), Wien 1957–2013.
  • Biographie-Portal: www.biographie-portal.eu