Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 211–221 | Cite as

Analysis of the fuel wood used in Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age copper mining sites of the Schwaz and Brixlegg area (Tyrol, Austria)

  • Andreas G. HeissEmail author
  • Klaus Oeggl
Original Article


Charcoal analysis was carried out as part of an interdisciplinary project focusing on the copper mining history of the former mining area of Schwaz and Brixlegg, a region pivotal as a copper source in prehistoric Europe. The goal was to use remains of carbonised wood to investigate environmental implications of prehistoric mining, as well as to gain new insight about the ancient mining technique of fire-setting. Charcoal samples from seven copper mining sites (Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age) were analysed. The results reveal a strong preference for coniferous wood as fuel in fire-setting, but not in ore smelting/roasting processes. Species composition at the ore-processing sites indicates moderate forest degradation processes caused by human intervention.


Charcoal analysis Bronze Age Iron Age Fire-setting Copper mining history Alps 



The current study was part of an archaeological and archaeometallurgical project (project no. P12049GEO) supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). The project was coordinated by the late Konrad Spindler whom we remember here. Our thanks go to Hans-Jürgen Beug, University of Göttingen, for helpful suggestions on the publication, and to Rainer Brandner, University of Innsbruck, for valuable information on the geology of Tyrol. We are grateful to John R. G. Daniell, University of Gloucestershire, for helpful suggestions on the manuscript. We thank the excavation director Gert Goldenberg, at that time University of Innsbruck, for encouraging the analysis of botanical remains, and for many useful comments on the archaeological contexts. For their valuable advice we are much obliged to Thomas Ludemann, University of Freiburg, and to an anonymous reviewer. We are grateful to Paula J. Reimer, Queen’s University of Belfast, for her support on 14C calibration issues. Further thanks go to Brigitte Rieser, formerly University of Innsbruck, for providing a copy of her Ph.D. thesis, and to Hans-Peter Stika, University of Hohenheim (Stuttgart), for many helpful comments. We also thank Eva Maria Wild, VERA laboratory (Vienna), for her kind cooperation in AMS dating.


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Copyright information

© Springer Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of BotanyUniversity of InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria

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