SISA 2018

Swiss International Summer School for Alpine Archaeology

Exploring the mountains: overview of Julier pass (GR).

First school held in Oberhalbstein Valley, 22nd-28th July 2018

You are a PhD- or advanced MA-Student? You like hiking mountainous areas?
You are also interested in geoarchaeology? Focused on resources like ores and especially copper? Or are you already working with smelting, melting or other pyrotechnical processes of copper or bronze production? 

"Der Berg ruft" (german phrase)
Mining Gallery of Grevasalvas

So hurry up and join us exploring southeast Switzerland`s highest mountains in search for oldest mining and smelting in the Oberhalbstein Valley!

Determining ores: chalcopyrite (malachite) and...

... pyrite.

International speakers in archaeology, geology, mineralogy and cultural heritage are teaching "in the field" and "in the classroom"!

Participation fee: 300 CHF

Submission and application open till 20th may 2018, contact: Rouven Turck,, further informations, see flyer.

See you in the field!

Accommodation, 2.000 m asl, no electricity, sleeping bag necessary: 
Tga Falotta (Alp Flix/Sur; Surses, GR)

Organizing committee: UZH, UniBE, ADG

Tons of slag heaps...
Stones... or slags?

Invited speakers: 

Prof. Philippe Della Casa (Zurich), Archaeologist
Survey & methods; chaîne opératoire

Prof. Albert Hafner (Bern), Archaeologist
Alpine climate; prehistoric routes and mountain passes

Prof. Gert Goldenberg (Innsbruck), Mineralogist
Mineralogy of local ores

Dr. Thomas Reitmaier (Chur), Archaeologist
 prehistoric alpine pasture; cultural heritage (Grisons)

Dr. Stefan Heuberger & Donat Fulda (Zurich), Geologists
Geologe of the Oberhalbstein Valley

Dr. Rouven Turck (Zurich), Archaeologist
Prehistoric copper mining and smelting: features

Leandra Reitmaier (Zurich), Archaeologist 
Prehistoric copper smelting; slag technology

Mirco Brunner (Bern), Archaeologist
Bronze Age settlements in the Alps

SISA 1, 2018

23.07.2018: Theory 1, Hotel Piz Platta, 8:30-13:15 /18:30

Session 1, Part 1, Rouven Turck, UZH, FB PRA
8:30 – 9:00

Welcome to SISA 2018 – Introduction to prehistoric mining in the Oberhalbstein (GR)

Main goals and topics of the SISA 2018 contents are introduced to the audience.
The first paper deals with current archaeological research in the Oberhalbstein valley. Local features of prehistoric mining and smelting will be presented: Mining galleries, collapsed shafts, roasting beds and smelting furnaces that have been archaeologically documented since 2013.
A brief comparative overview of findings and features from Eastern Alpine mining and smelting activities completes this introduction.

Session 1, Part 2, Philippe Della Casa, UZH, FB PRA
9:00 – 9:45

Survey Methods

Alpine landscapes, and mining landscapes in mountain regions in particular, require specific and adapted methods of archaeological survey and investigation. In the Oberhalbstein valley, documental and both non-invasive and invasive prospection techniques have successfully been applied: Archival data mining, traditional ground survey by terrain walking, geophysical survey (geomagnetics, electrical resistivity tomography), sediment coring with augers, and small test pits. Together with excavations in selected sites, a wealth of complementary data could be gained in order to address spatial, chronological and technical questions on mining activities.

Session 1, Part 3, Donat Fulda SGTK/ETHZ
10:00 – 10:30

Geology 1: Geology of the Oberhalbstein valley

Why are important copper resources located in the Oberhalbstein valley? What kind of rocks do we find there? What do they tell us about their formation and origin?
We will briefly introduce the geology of the Alps and the regional geological setting during our morning lecture. Later on, with our afternoon field trip, we will focus on the geology of the Oberhalbstein area with its tectonic history, the necessary conditions for ore formation and the occurring wide variety of rock units. During that walk, we will come across marine sediments, volcanic and metamorphic rocks as well as rocks originating from the earth’s mantle that are partially enriched with copper-bearing minerals.

Session 1, Part 4, Gert Goldenberg, UIB
10:30 – 11:15

Geology 2: The use of geo-resources in alpine prehistory with special consideration of copper ore deposits, copper mining and metallurgy

- Text -

Session 1, Part 5, Leandra Reitmaier-Naef, UZH, FB PRA

Copper smelting slag from the Oberhalbstein - typology, mineralogy and geochemistry

Mining archaeologists and archaeometallurgists have attempted to decipher the prehistoric multistage process of copper smelting from chalcopyrite for a number of decades. For this purpose, various examinations of archaeological remains, historical and ethnographical comparisons, and archaeological experiments have been carried out. Apart from archaeological structures such as furnaces, very little if any of the original raw materials (copper ore) or final products (matte/raw copper) remain from which the process could be reconstructed. Only smelting slag is usually available in vast quantities. By conducting typological, geochemical and mineralogical analyses of this by-product, information can be gained concerning the reactor, process steps, raw material, charge composition, process temperature, furnace atmosphere and even the resulting (intermediate) product, as will be shown by the example of recently examined smelting slag from the Oberhalbstein.

Session 1, Part 6, Donat Fulda SGTK/ETHZ
13:15 – later afternoon

Geology 3: Landscape viewing in the field.


 27.07.2018: Theory 2, Hotel Piz Platta, 9:00-16:00

Session 2, Part 1, Mirco Brunner , UBE
9:00 – 10:00

Chronology, cultural transfer and networks in the central Alps. New examples and case studies from the inner alpine area in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
The Alps in southern Central Europe act as a barrier and communication space at the same time. While the mountains prevent mobility, the valleys and passes create natural axes for material exchange and communication. The Alpenrhein valley forms the main access to the central Alps and leads directly into the south alpine area between the Lake Maggiore and the Lake Como. In prehistoric times this central axis was used as a settlement area and formed an excellent alpine transit route. Already Neolithic finds show evidence of exchange and communication between inner alpine and pre-alpine regions. These exchanges can be traced through the pottery styles. From the beginning of the Bronze Age clear influences from the northern and southern regions are noticeably in favour of trade routes across the alpine passes. Between 3000-2500 BC the region is subject to massive changes which cause a push effect towards marginal, less densely populated areas. The broad range of local resources in new territories and strategically well-controlled areas suggest simultaneously a pull effect towards the Alps. Therefore, Bronze Age is the period for which the most intense prehistoric land expansion can be postulated in the Alps. Traditional approaches in Swiss archaeology draw borders on "Bronze Age cultures" on the basis of stylistic characteristics of ceramics differ from each other. Constructs like the "Inner Bronze Age culture” (Eastern Switzerland)" or the "Rohne culture" (Western Switzerland) are more to be seen as pottery traditions than cultures. "Foreign influences" (imports, imitations, acquisitions, new creations) also refer to a cultural transfer between social groups in space and time.
The Neolithic and Bronze Age chronology for the inner alpine area was always based on comparisons of the material culture from the Swiss Plateau and southern Germany. Until a few years ago there existed only a couple of old radiocarbon dates in this region. New radiocarbon dates from different sites such as graves and settlements give us the opportunity to get a clearer view on the absolute dating of the sites from this area. With the SNF-Project: Chronologie, Mobilität und Kulturtransfer am Beispiel einer inneralpinen Siedlungslandschaft. Eine landschaftsarchäologische Untersuchung des zentralen Alpenraums“ we were able to generate new samples for Radiocarbon dates from Sites such as Lutzengüetle, Donath, Sursés, Laax-Salums and Savognin, Padnal.
I am going to present an overview of the situation and a revised chronology of the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age sites from the inner alpine area and recommend a radiocarbon-based view and a on the development of the material culture. The second aim is to suggest possible models of mobility and cultural transfer in the central Alps. 

Session 2, Part 2, Albert Hafner, UBE
10:15 – 11:15

Early human activities in high-alpine zones: Insights on mobility, pastoralism and climate change from melting glaciers.

Alpine hunting was probably the motive for Mesolithic populations to first intrude into high altitudes of the European Alps and earliest indicators of high-alpine pastoralism probably date back to 5000 BC. In the years between 2003 and 2012, in the Bernese Alps several hundred archaeological objects appeared from a melting ice patch at the high-mountain Schnidejoch pass (2756 m a.s.l). A connection between the accessibility of the pass and changes in glacier extension due to the climate is probable. It can be assumed that advancing glaciers in the Holocene disrupted transport routes and significantly affected ways of subsistence. The lecture gives an overview on ice related archaeology of high altitudes, the site of Schnidejoch is central, but further sites are included.

Session 2, Part 3, Thomas Reitmaier, ADG/Chur

Prehistoric pastoral economy and upland exploitation in the Alps
The period in which prehistoric societies first began to move their livestock to pastureland at higher elevations is a much discussed and methodologically complex question. Thanks to a number of research projects realized in the last years, pastoral and dairy activities in mid- and high-mountain areas are comprehensibly attested for the Iron and the Bronze Age. Archaeological features connected to this form of pastoralism ("Alpwirtschaft") include seasonally occupied dry-stone buildings at altitudes above 2000 m asl as well as ceramic vessels that had been used to process milk. These finds indicate that humans had a major impact on the natural Alpine landscape during the Metal Ages as part of a typical mixed mountain agriculture. In contrast, concerning the Neolithic, archaeological and palynological evidence for pastoralism in the uplands is still sparse, contradictory and highly disputed. This paper summarizes the current state of research for the prehistoric pastoral economy and exploitation processes in the Alps within a wider spatio-temporal and cultural historical context.

Session 2, Part 4, Philippe Della Casa, UZH, FB PRA
14:00 – 14:45

Summary: chaîne opératoire

The concept of chaîne opératoire – the production chain, process workflow, or operational web – i.e. the question of how and through which technical stages ores were treated, smelted and transformed into raw copper, is crucial to the understanding of prehistoric mining and metal production. The issue is a complex one, since it encompasses a broad spectrum of sciences and approaches. To name the most important: geology and mineralogy with regard to ores; analytical archaeology in identification and interpretation of structural features and tools relating to ore mining, beneficiation and smelting; inorganic chemistry with respect to smelting processes, as well as structural analysis on semi-finished, finished, and waste products. Furthermore, a spatial, organizational and social understanding of all processes involved is sought.

Session 2, Part 5, all teachers and participants

15:00 – 16:00

SISA Schedule

Date Program
22.07.2018 Arrival at Tga Falotta, accomodation Transfer from Sur to Tga Falotta from 16 to 17 o`clock 
23.07.2018 Theory 1 & Excursion/Geology 8:30-c. 17:30
24.07.2018 Excursion "Alp Flix to Spliatsch"
Alp Flix/Tga Falotta -> Gruba (1h) -> Alp da Natons (1h) -> Clavè d'Mez (1h) -> Pra Miez/Vals (1h) -> Spliatsch (1h). From Spliatsch shuttle back to Alp Flix/Tga Falotta. 08:30-c. 16:00
25.07.2018 Field practice 1: survey and sondage 8:30-c. 16:00
26.07.2018 Field practice 2: survey and sondage 8:30-c. 16:00
27.07.2018 Theory 2 9:00-c. 16:00
28.07.2018 Departure, transports Departur time around 10 o`clock

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