(Independent Archaeologist, Vienna, Austria)


Stimulation of discussion about post-medieval, urban archaeology in Central Europe


Post-medieval archaeology is now being taken seriously in Vienna after many years of neglect. This is reflected in large-scale excavations, for example at the Imperial Stables and at various points along the town’s defences, but is also due in no small part to buildings archaeology. Dozens of properties – from water mills, winegrowers’ houses and ground-level cottages to aristocratic town houses, religious complexes and Imperial palaces – have been analysed in recent years. This activity is necessarily interdisciplinary in character – excavators co-operate intimately with historians, while dendrochronologists and art historians are the indispensable partners of the buildings archaeologist. After completing our site reports we have a responsibility to arrange and synthesize our data around themes which will allow us to contribute more obviously to the written history of the city. Topics such as the Reformation, Transport and Industrialisation spring to mind.

It seems to this writer that the concept ‘absolutism’, meaning the growth in power of the Imperial court, is a useful tool when discussing the architecture of the earlier part of the post-medieval period (16th and 17th centuries). Four related phenomena can be identified:

·           the Vienna fortress, part of the so-called ‘military revolution’

·           the expansion of the Hofburg and the construction of a range of garden and summer palaces (Neugebäude, Favorita, Augarten… )

·           the increasing need for aristocrats to maintain a representative urban residence, leading to the transformation of the inner city

·           the wave of new religious building following the victory of the Counterreformation at the start of the 17th century


Post-medieval archaeology, Vienna, Buildings archaeology, Absolutism