Stillfried an der March and the Role of Matthäus Much in the formation of Austrian Prehistory


This is a Microgravette from Stillfried an der March. The Stillfried area is well known for several Gravettian/Pavlovian sites (at Stillfried, Grub Kranawetberg and Ollersdorf/Heidenberg). First paleolithic findings from Stillfried were published in 1881 by Matthäus Much.

Evolutionism, Positivism, and Nationalism were important sources of the formation of Prehistoric Research during the 19th century. National identities were established  through the political interpretation of finds and ancient cultures. Well known examples are the French recourse to the Celts, the Spanish identification with the Celt- Iberians and the German exploitation of a “Germanic” history.

The academic milieu in Austria before and after WW1 was deeply influenced by these ideas, as I know it from my own family. It was within this milieu where the Germanophilic interpretation of Prehistory was developed towards an anti-Semitic pseudo-scientific narrative of a Nordic master race. Unfortunately this milieu did not disappear after WW II but is still very present.

One proponent of this ideology was Matthäus Much, one of the founders of Prehistoric Research in Austria. Together with his son Rudolf, Matthäus Much was part of the German national movement, led by the radical Georg von Schönerer. This Agitator, later admired by the young Adolf Hitler, represented the German-National party in Austria and gave his support to the anti-Semitic movement. Having entered by force the office of the “Neues Wiener Tageblatt” (called “Judenblatt” by him), he was condemned inMay 5, 1888 to four months’ imprisonment and loss of his title of nobility and his immunity as a parliamentarian. Later he regained his status.

Matthäus Much was curator of the k.k. Central Commission for Art and Historic Monuments in Vienna and editor of the notifications of the Viennese Anthropological Society. He made excavations both in Austria and Moravia. Finally he was the holder of a comprehensive collection encompassing about 24,000 objects. This “collection Much ” was purchased in 1912 by the Ministry of Education and represents a large part of the teaching apparatus of the present Institute of Prehistory and Early History of the University of Vienna. Muchs research was deeply influenced by ideology and he always tried to use archaeological remains as an indication for an Aryan / Indo-Germanian past of his own homeland.

In 1872 Matthäus Much discovered the lake-dwelling of the Mondsee. Here he observed 5,000 wooden piles that were well preserved over an area of 3,000 square meters on the lacustrine clay. He was able to reconstruct some fifty plastered wooden buildings. The rich findings are now known to belong to the Neolithic “Mondsekultur”, dating to 3800–3300 BC, which covered the area of the “Salzkammergut” and some adjacent areas. Much was also interested in the questions of prehistoric metal production. This work culminated in the exploration of the prehistoric Copper mining on the Mitterberg-Bischofshofen area near Salzburg.

Much was one of the first persons in Austria who made observations at paleolithic sites. The figures, shown here are part of Much’s Stillfried publication, which deals with paleolithic findings at the Stillfried  site. Without any ideological connotations his description and discussion of the findings are clearly at the leading edge of the prehistoric research at his time.

Suggested Reading:

Some Gravettes from Grub near Stillfried, as shown in the Naturhistorisches Museum at Vienna:


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About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome! About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University. Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.
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