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The first ‘Geoarchaeology in Vienna’ Workshop

Thomas Beard. Valentina Laaha, Doris Jetzinger

Authors: Thomas Beard, Valentina Laaha, Doris Jetzinger


At the beginning of this year, from the 11th to the 12th of January 2024, the first ‘Geoarchaeology in Vienna’ workshop took place at the University of Vienna, generously funded by HEAS. Born out of the wish to connect and create a nexus between geoarchaeologists based in Vienna, the workshop was conceived and organised by Valentina Laaha, Doris Jetzinger and Thomas Beard, all students within the University of Vienna. The vision for this kickoff-event was to get to know each other, establish connections, and lay the foundation for a network of geoarchaeologists in Vienna.

Concerning Geoarchaeology
It may have been noticed that, while there are a multitude of institutes of archaeological studies all over Vienna, there is no “Geoarchaeology” department per se. So, what is geoarchaeology then? Every geoarchaeologist has most likely been confronted with this question at some point – by members of the public, colleagues from other disciplines, colleagues from within geoarchaeology, or even by themselves. This may be closely tied to the inherently great diversity within the discipline, including many different specialisations that may, or may not decide to carry the label of ‘geoarchaeology’. This often leads to ‘missing out on each other’ by attending vastly different conferences and different sessions within those conferences, but also being housed in quite diverse institutions – ranging from ‘life sciences’, to ‘anthropology’ to ‘geology’, ‘geography’ and also just ‘archaeology’. So, our challenge and goal was to track down like-minded people, share our research and interests, and discuss what a future geoarchaeological community in Vienna would look like.  Because there is a lot of geoarchaeological research going on in Vienna!

On Talks and Talking
Hosted at the Institute of ‘Prehistory and Historical Archaeology’ (IUHA) of the University of Vienna, the workshop commenced with a remarkable public keynote presentation (titled; ‘Objects, Geoarchaeology, and Context’) by Paul Goldberg on the evening of 11 January. This lecture perfectly set the tone of curiosity and thinking outside the box for the rest of the workshop. The following, and almost as enlightening ‘Glühhudler’ reception, was perfect for participants to meet and mingle before the activities of the next two days.

The main day of our workshop was Friday the 12th.  Surrounded by a lot of local archaeological history in the study collection of the IUHA 16 speakers and 10 participants came together for a day of presentations and discussions. Each presenter was given 10 minutes to introduce themselves, their work, and their specialisations to the group, and voice their wishes for Vienna as a future hub of geoarchaeology. An overview on the presenters and their abstracts can be found in the workshop-booklet, which can be downloaded here. Here the diversity of geoarchaeology came into play, as we were challenged to fit the manifold topics under a handful of umbrella terms for the presentation blocks. The 5 resulting groups are: 1) Geophysics & Prospection, 2) Soils & Sediments, 3) Microarchaeology, 4) Provenance & Artefacts and 5) Landscapes.

As a major goal was to foster communication within the group there was ample time given after each presentation as well as at the end of each block to ask questions, discuss, and develop ideas for future collaborations. We ended the sessions with even more discourse and exchange, slowly forming ideas for future shared endeavours. Needless to say, the motivation level was high after this successful day!

Experimenting with dirt and building future paths
On Saturday the 13th, we had the opportunity to visit the soil laboratory of the University of Vienna, where we were kindly and enthusiastically hosted by the head of the lab, Robert Peticzka.
The final task was to come together once more in the study collection, to use the gained energy and inspiration to brainstorm and start building a geoarchaeology network.
Here we want to provide a small overview on our main prospects:

  • The meeting shall become an annual staple for exchange, (re)connection, and to tackle the burning questions of Geoarchaeology.
  • The meeting shall be extended to include more students as well as specialists from all over Austria.
  • A Geoarchaeology Stammtisch was founded for casual meeting opportunities.
    • The first date is set for the 9th of April – and we are excited!
  • Further meeting opportunities shall be organised including visits to our respective institutes, labs, and projects. Also field trips, along with joint events, will be organised and communicated.
    • One meeting is planned around the HEAS talk (‘Human Evolution and the Palaeolithic ‘) by Carolina Mallol (Universidad de la Laguna, Spain) on the 13th of May.
  • In a further step, a geoarchaeology contribution to the HEAS Archaeological Sciences seminar series, will be discussed.
  • Step by step the network shall grow, also by reaching out to likeminded, international associations and societies – eventually bringing conferences and events to Vienna and Austria.


In the end we can say that the workshop really turned out to be all we wished for, and more. This was only possible due the participants’ contribution with not only their talks, but also their genuine interest in each other’s work and expertise, which led to very inspiring and fruitful discussions. Here we also want to thank everyone that was involved for the great event, as well as Paul Goldberg for his talk, HEAS under its current director, Tom Higham, and the HEAS board of directors for the generous sponsoring of the event.  Along with a special thank you to Maeve Nic Samhradáin for her invaluable knowledge and assistance with planning the workshop and the keynote lecture. Without all of you, this workshop would not have been possible.

As this is the current state of affairs, we hope to further develop all the ideas mentioned and gain even more people interested in the proposed network. If geoarchaeology is something you deal with and you would like to be included in the geoarchaeology community in Vienna please do not hesitate to reach out to Thomas, Valentina, or Doris, we would be happy to talk to you about the nexus we have helped create. We will make sure to inform you about future geoarchaeological developments in another blog!

Geoarchaeology in Vienna Workshop Booklet