Archaeological Heritage Management in Austria

Submitting Institution

Bangor University

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Built Environment and Design: Architecture
History and Archaeology: Archaeology

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Summary of the impact

Bangor's research into Austrian archaeology has since 2008 resulted in significant impacts on Austrian archaeological heritage management, the archaeology labour market, and relationships between archaeologists and metal detectorists. Specifically, the National Heritage Agency (Bundesdenkmalamt; `NHA') has made significant changes to its policies, especially putting contracts to tender and introducing the first minimal standards for archaeological excavation, following a ministerial edict to change contract awarding practices. Recommendations on minimum salary levels for specific responsibilities in archaeological fieldwork have largely been adopted. The issue of how best to regulate metal detecting is being discussed on a national scale and attitudes towards detectorists are undergoing substantial change.

Underpinning research

Underpinning the impact is a systematic review of Austrian archaeology undertaken by Professor Raimund Karl (at Bangor University since 2003) and research carried out between 2003 and the present at Bangor: initially into the Austrian archaeology labour market (2003-present) [3.1, 3.2]; later (developing out of this initial work) into archaeological heritage management practices (2007-present) [3.3, 3.5] and the relationship between archaeology (and archaeologists) and the public, especially metal detectorists (2010-present) [3.4, 3.6]. Most heritage legislation and archaeological practices across much of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire are similar in many regards because they have the same roots or at least have been developed by professionals rooted in the `Viennese' school of archaeology. This research and the impact generated by it are therefore relevant for vast areas of contemporary Europe.

Research Findings

All aspects of this research were the first of their kind in and on Austria. The most significant research findings were in the contexts of:

  1. the Austrian archaeology labour market (numbers of employees, working conditions, salary levels, training needs and knowledge gaps)
  2. Austrian archaeological heritage management (underpinning legislation, awarding of contracts for archaeological works, issuing of excavation permits, minimum standards for archaeological excavation, workload of archaeology staff in NHA
  3. public perception of heritage management, especially amongst the metal detectorist community of around 2,000 individuals in Austria (lack of communication, lack of finds reporting due to legislation, negative public perception of professional archaeology)

1. The Austrian archaeology labour market

Assessment of the structure and size of the archaeology labour market in Austria identified problems in the workplace such as: the lack of career structure and pathways, no minimum pay scales, the lack of advertising of posts and the skills required in terms of those employed in site excavations were not considered in appointments [3.2]. Karl proposed specific career pathways for those involved in archaeological work, based on principles including experience, responsibilities associated with roles, and the level of training achieved. He also proposed minimum pay scales, and highlighted [3.3] that archaeological contracts were not being put out to tender but should be, for a market worth an estimated €10 million annually (see [3.2]: c. 400-600 archaeologists were employed in this market in 2008 at an average salary of c. € 20.000 including employer contributions).

2. Austrian archaeological heritage management

Significant irregularities were identified that negatively impacted on heritage management, some of which overlap with findings related to the labour market. Findings here included:

  • grants and contracts were awarded without tender, mainly to a single private contractor run by civil servants in the Austrian NHA; Karl proposed that a rigorous tendering process be initiated [3.3]
  • excavation permits were not always required for excavations conducted by some contractors, while others were always required to apply for a permits, and when granted there were inconsistencies across permits for similar types of work [3.3].
  • problems were identified resulting directly from heritage legislation or its implementation [3.4-3.6]. Specifically, the issuing of permits to excavate archaeological finds, restricted to persons with a higher education qualification in archaeology, prevents ordinary members of the public from reporting finds made during field walking and metal detecting [3.4, 3.6]. Karl argued that this was anachronistic, and that means must be developed to enable and encourage public finds reporting.

3. Poor public perception of the NHA

The perception of the Austrian NHA was identified as being poor amongst the archaeological community [3.3], and the general public [4,6], most notably the metal detectorists community [4]. This was due, most notably, to the following:

  • the process of awarding contracts by the NHA, which was perceived by Austrian archaeologists to not be transparent [3.3], and
  • the incongruity between the way in which permits for excavations were awarded, the self-contradictory nature of Austrian heritage legislation regarding finds reporting, and the lack of adequate communication between the NHA, archaeologists, and the public. Karl argued that resolving structural problems in the labour market and heritage management would resolve these negative perceptions [3.3-3.6].

References to the research

1. R. Karl & K.R. Krierer* 2004. `Habe Hunger — Suche Arbeit — Mache Alles!" Jobaussichten in der Archäologie und das Internet. Archäologisches Nachrichtenblatt 9/4, 287-96.
Article in peer-reviewed journal; first article of its kind in German-speaking archaeology discussing the archaeology labour market. A copy of this output is available on request.

2. R. Karl 2008. Discovering the Archaeologists of Europe: Austria. Profiling the Profession 2007-08. Vienna: ÖAB-Verlag. A copy of this output is available on request.
c.40,000-word monograph; first systematic study of Austrian archaeology labour market; the main Austrian output of the EU grant-funded `Discovering the Archaeologists of Europe' project UK/06/B/F/NT-162_583; and foundation for second phase `Discovering the Archaeologists of Europe 2012-2014' project also EU grant-funded 528091-LLP-2012-UKLEONARDO-LNW.

3. R. Karl 2011a. Archäologischer Denkmalschutz in Österreich — Praxis, Probleme, Lösungsvorschläge. Wien: Jan Sramek Verlag. Submitted to REF2014 (REF Identifier 3018).
c.130,000-word monograph; first systematic study of Austrian archaeological heritage management, including legislation, policies and practices; makes significant recommendations to transform Austrian archaeological heritage management practices; see 3.2.


4. R. Karl 2011b. On the highway to hell. Thoughts on the unintended consequences for Portable antiquities of § 11 (1) Austrian Denkmalschutzgesetz. The Historic Environment — Policy and Practice 2/2, 111-33. DOI: 10.1179/175675011X13122044136479
Article in international peer-reviewed journal; widely discussed in Portable Antiquities blogs (see below in Section 5.); see 3.2.


5. R. Karl 2011c. Bekanntes Wissen oder unbekannte Information? Gedanken zum eigentlichen Ziel und zur bestmöglichen Umsetzung des Schutzes archäologischer Funde. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Kunst und Denkmalpflege LXV/3, 252-75. Article in the leading peer-reviewed international Austrian journal for heritage studies identifying structural problems in Austrian archaeological heritage management. A copy of this output is available on request.

6. R. Karl 2012. Do as we say, not as we do! Archaeological heritage protection and the excluded Austrian public. In A. Lagerlöf (ed.), Who cares? Perspectives on Public Awareness, Participation and Protection in Archaeological Heritage Management, 115-22. EAC Occasional Paper No. 8, Jambes: Europae Archaeologiae Consilium. Article in the proceedings of the Europae Archaeologiae Consilium (European Association of National Archaeological Heritage Agencies) conference in Paris 2012. A copy of this output is available on request.

* PD Dr. Karl R. Krierer is a researcher at the Department of Ancient History and Antiquities at the University of Vienna, Austria.

Details of the impact

The underpinning research (which was not commissioned or in any other way instigated or facilitated by the Austrian Government) made a distinct, significant and material contribution to archaeological and heritage management, policy and practitioners in Austria. It has led to a transformation of Austrian government policy by informing and influencing policy and practice within the Austrian archaeological heritage domain and by providing expert advice. As a result, professionals and organizations have introduced minimum professional standards of investigation within archaeological fieldwork; opening up contracts through changes to the labour market and thus contributing to preserving and conserving cultural heritage. Consequentially, the research contributed to wider public access to archaeology and the heritage management process, thereby leading to improved finds reporting and the consequential positive contribution to heritage protection.

1) Changes to the Austrian archaeology labour market

  • Recommendations were distributed by Prof. Karl to, and accepted by, several archaeological employers in Austria [5.4].
  • Tendering process: A draft manuscript by Karl of output 3.3 (above) presented to the Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture (April 2008) revealed that grants by, and contracts with, the NHA were mostly awarded without tender to a single contractor managed by civil servants in the archaeology department of the Agency. This led to a ministerial edict (2009) prohibiting the practice of awarding grants and contracts without tender [5.1]. The resultant change is that a market that is worth an estimated €10 Million per annum, previously closed, was opened up to all private archaeological contractors in Austria and neighbouring countries [5.1, 5.4, 5.5, 5.6]. Already, over 30 contractors have been competing for archaeological contracts, previously inaccessible to them.

2) Changes to Austrian archaeological heritage management and policy

  • Minimum standards of excavation further implementing Karl's proposals were introduced in 2010 and revised in 2012, to the benefit of Austrian archaeologists and archaeology students [5.1, 5.4].
  • Unwarranted restriction on metal detectorists: one aspect of the underpinning research was to highlighting the heavy-handed implementation of heritage protection laws. Karl identified problematic issues with finds-reporting legislation, which led to a dialogue between the metal detectorist community in Austria and the NHA [5.1-5.3], the founding of Netzwerk Geschichte Österreich [5.2], the first Austrian association for metal detectorists, and the first code of practice for responsible metal detecting (in 2011) [5.2].
  • Inconsistencies in awarding of excavation permits were addressed, and a more transparent system was introduced during the census period [5.1, 5.6]. Consequently, there has been a transformation in heritage management that has impacted the entire Austrian archaeology domain.

3 Changes to public perception of archaeological heritage management

  • The impacts detailed in 1) and 2) have led to a transformation in attitudes by Austrian archaeologists towards the NHA, and heritage management practices more generally: Prior to these changes, the Agency was perceived as unapproachable [5.1, 5.3, 5.4]. Following recommendations by Karl, the changes made in 1) and 2) led to more positive attitudes, especially amongst archaeologists.
  • Public relations and awareness initiatives: In an explicit move by the Agency to improve its image, an annual national discussion day with the archaeological community was established (2010); academic and public debates were initiated on the theory of heritage management (2010) on the relationship with metal detectorists (2011), and on heritage values (2013) [5.1, 5.3]. A broader dialogue between archaeologists and metal detectorists began informally in 2010, collaborative projects started in 2011 in a bid to highlight responsible heritage management, and to better engage with the wider public [5.1-5.3]. A special advisory group regarding metal detecting was convened for the first time, under the aegis of the NHA, and took place on 5/4/13 [5.1, 5.3]. One change to public policy resulting from this was to start a series of information and discussion events with the wider public with Prof. Karl as one of the invited speakers [5.1-5.3]. He has meanwhile become an official member of this advisory group.
  • Beyond Austria: In an international context, specifically Britain, Poland and USA, the Austrian debate and resultant changes, initiated by Karl's research, have been widely read and are being used to inform views on benefits and disadvantages of restrictive legislation on metal detecting of metal detectorists, heritage managers, the public with an interest in archaeology and archaeological heritage management [5.2, 5.7-5.10].


This research has affected the Austrian archaeological heritage domain as a whole, but specifically, the entire archaeological and heritage profession in Austria: metal detectorists, archaeology students and contractors (both in Austria and neighbouring countries) and heritage managers and metal-detecting and collecting lobbyists in Austria, Britain, Poland, and the USA.


This research highlighted that a heavy-handed implementation of heritage protection laws mainly serves to exclude the public from participation in archaeology and results in more negative than positive effects, and is used in the debate on archaeological heritage protection by heritage managers and metal-detecting and collecting lobbyists in Britain, Poland, and the USA [5.7-5.10]. This research has transformed policy and activities of the NHA and for the first time opened up an entire a contractor's market worth an estimated € 10 million per annum (in Austria and neighbouring countries) [5.1, 5.4, 5.6]; and directly led to dialogue between metal detectorists and archaeologists with better heritage protection as a result [5.1-5.3]. The prohibition of public participation has also been discussed by the Board of Europae Archaeologiae Consilium, in its recent Vienna meeting [5.1]. Discussion of the research outcomes at this international level of policy, further illustrates the significance of Karl's findings for archaeological and heritage management policy across Europe.

Sources to corroborate the impact

External documents demonstrating the impact of labour market analysis:

1) Head of Archaeological Heritage, Austrian National Heritage Agency (Bundesdenkmalamt) Corroborates all main claims of this impact case study, in particular claims related to the changes in archaeological heritage management.

2) Chairman, Austrian Metal Detectorist and Amateur Archaeologist Association (Netzwerk Geschichte Österreich). Confirms claims of impacts on the Austrian metal detecting community.

3) Keeper of the Prehistoric Collections, Upper Austrian Museum. Corroborate impact on changes in archaeological heritage management.

4) ArcheoProspections, Zentralanstalt für Meteorologie und Geodynamik. Corroborate impact on changes in archaeological heritage management and labour market.

5) Specific reference to the research [3.2] is made at:

Austrian parliamentary questions and ministerial responses relating to archaeological heritage management issues in Austria uncovered by this research:

6)a / 108303.pdf
b / AB_04171

External documents showing impact of metal detecting research:

7) Tom King's Cultural Heritage Management blog

8) Derek Fincham's Illicit Cultural Property blog, read mostly by a different audience than 3) and with a readership of on average 200 clicks per day

9) Peter Tompa's Cultural Property Observer blog, average readership of ~100 clicks per day

10) Paul Barford's Portable Antiquities Collecting blog (various entries: 1, 2, 3, including follow-up.