VITA ANTIQUA, ISSN 2522-9419 (Online), 2519-4542 (Print)
Center for Paleoethnological Research
Archaeology of the Alpine Space. Research on the foothills, valley systems and high mountain landscapes of the Alps
Albert Hafner, Mirco Brunner, Julian Laabs¹
¹Department of Prehistoric Archaeology, Institute of Archaeological Sciences, University of Bern, Switzerland
VITA ANTIQUA 9, 2017, HUMAN & LANDSCAPE: Prehistoric Archaeology of Eastern Europe, 16-37
This paper presents examples of landscape archaeological research within an Alpine context. The landscapes around and within the European Alps are highly diversified. The most significant differences lie in the altitudes, which range between 400 and over 3000 m.a.s.l. Main topographic features are hilly pre-Alpine areas, broad inner-Alpine valleys reaching far into the Alps and high-Alpine zones above the treeline. Our examples span from wetland-related pile dwellings on lakes and bogs from the pre-alpine areas, graves and settlements on inner-Alpine hilltops and river terraces to high-Alpine passes and campsites. Archaeological evidence shows that settlement activities began to occur in all regions presented from the early 5th millennium BC onwards. Palaeoecological evidence from the pre-Alpine areas could even push this timeline back to the mid-6th millennium BC. We can assume a high degree of mobility between all these regions. Whilst lake and bog settlements have been known for a long time and have been studied in detail, researchers only began to focus on high-Alpine areas two decades ago. The Alps and their surrounding pre-Alpine landscapes are a fascinating area of archaeological research especially in terms of the period of the first farmers. Whilst we are constantly gaining a better understanding of how early agrarian societies managed to penetrate from different pre-Alpine lowland areas to the zones above the treeline, we are still far from being able to paint a clear picture. The long-term evolution of human settlement activities turned the pre-Alpine regions and parts of the large inner-Alpine valleys from pristine landscapes into urban spaces with small inner-Alpine valleys and areas above the treeline developing highly sustainable land-use activities that have left their mark on the cultural landscapes of the Alps.
Key words: Landscape Archaeology, Alpine space, Neolithic, Bronze age, pile dwellings