Lanser Kopf

The Lanser Kopf (“Lans Peak”)

 is  a rocky outcropping atop a wooded hill called the Paschberg, situated between Innsbruck, Austria, and the village of Lans. It sits just under 300 meters above the city, and a hike to the top can be done in about an hour.  It is one of the few lower hilltops which has not, to my knowledge,  been previously excavated.

Übernommen aus einem kürzlich verfassten Beitrag für einen Archäologie Online Kurs an dem ich teilnehme.
Der Lanser Kopf liegt auf dem Paschberg, zwischen Innsbruck und der Dorfgemeinde Lans, knapp 300 Meter über der Stadt, wovon man in ca. eine Stunde eine gemütliche Wanderung machen kann. Er ist eine der wenigen Mittelgebirgsebenen in der Gegend auf der man, so weit ich weiß, keine archäologischen Ausgrabungen durchgeführt wurden.

970259-51b733d484b3e5.86591292Innsbruck, Paschberg/Lanser Kopf, Patscherkofel (2246 m)

One of the most interesting things about the Lanser Kopf is that there are multiple of evidences of use over time. Schalensteine (rocks with cup markings) can be found on the lower slopes. Unfortunately it is impossible to date them. It is suspected that there may also be markings in the rocks at the peak, but these are partially covered with trees, earth and concrete. The concrete, poured in the middle of the last century, holds park benches and a marble table, and also makes up two WW2 Two flak circles. The circles were abandoned at the end of the war, and now have trees growing inside them.

Eine Besonderheit des Lanser Kopfs liegt in seine vielseitige Nutzung im Laufe der Zeit. Auf dem niedrigeren Hang findet man Schalensteine, die leider nicht datierbar sind.  Man vermutet, dass man oben an der Spitze auch Schälchen finden könnte, wenn die Steine nicht mit Erde, Bäumen und Beton verdeckt worden wären.  Der Beton wurde in der Mitte des vorigen Jahrhunderts am Kopf gebracht, um Parkbänke und eine runden Marmortafel zu befestigen, und wurde auch im zweiten Welzkrieg für die Herstellung von zwei Plattformen für Fliegerabwehrkanonen (FLAK-Kreise) verwendet. Bäume wachsen jetzt in den leer stehenden Kreisen.

970259-51b73492ce0f95.32446165Two WW2- era flak circles at the Lanser Kopf.

The earliest humans artifacts found in this region date back to about 30,000 BCE . Evidence of Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements have been discovered on other nearby hilltops, including stone residential terraces (Hohe Birga, Himmelreich), and sacrificial burning sites (Goldbichl, Bergisel.)

Die älteste prähistorische Artefakte aus dieser Gegend datieren auf 30,000 v. Chr.  Neolithische Siedlungen hat man an naheliegenden Hügeln entdeckt, Steinterrassensiedlungen (Hohe Birga, Himmelrich) und auf Brandopferplätze (Goldbichl, Bergisel).

As far as I know, the Lanser Kopf was not used for anything in the Modern Era — with the exception of the wartime use — other than as a place to rest while hiking. There is no obvious evidence of it having been used for farming or settlement. However, it’s use in the last century as a strategic point for sighting enemy planes and firing missiles at them certainly would have roughed up the area somewhat, since it can been assumed that military jeeps or trucks would have been driven at least to the plateau just below the flak circles, and the construction of the circles themselves would have affected any older formation processes.

So weit ich weiß hatte der Lanser Kopf in der jüngeren Geschichte, außer während der Kriegszeit, nie eine besondere Funktion. Es gibt dort keine offensichtlichen Anzeichen von Siedlung oder Landwirtschaft. Er diente als Rastplatz für Wanderer.  In den Kriegsjahren war die Gegend mutmaßlich von LKWs und Jeeps überrollt, und die Herstellung der FLAK -Kreise hätte ältere Spuren zerstört.

This, however, brings forward another question — which kinds of artifacts does one wish to find? There may well be modern(ish) war artifacts in the vicinity, from either the Second World War or from the battles against Napoleon’s troops in 1809. There may be man-made objects just below the surfaces. 
But could be there also be older signs of human settlement below the flak circles? One would unfortunately have to destroy them in order to see what lies below. And while the concrete flak circles may not be of much interest to people today, I find it important that they remain, as an historical testament to Innsbruck’s war involvement in the 1940s. I find that it would not be worth it to remove them in the search for earlier artifacts. The earth-covered level area just below them, however, would be a worthy site for excavation, indeed if such work hasn’t been done already.

Das alles wirft eine Frage auf:  Welche Artefakte erwartet man zu finden? Es gibt wahrscheinlich schon genug Kriegsartefakte aus dem zweiten Weltkrieg oder, weiter zurück, vom Tiroler Volksaufstand in 1809.  Könnten prähistorische Funde direkt unter den FLAK-Fundamenten liegen? Man müsste diese aber zerstören, wenn man dort richtig graben will. Obwohl sie heutzutage wenige Leute interessieren,  würde ich lieber sehen, dass sie intakt bleiben, als historische Zeitzeugnisse der Kriegsjahre Innsbrucks. Hingegen läge auf der kleinen Ebene etwas unterhalb der kreisförmigen Fundamente eine angemessen Stelle für eine Ausgrabung, wenn nicht solche schon durchgeführt wurden.

From evidence gathered by archaeologists, pre-Roman-era settlers in Tirol greatly preferred the high plateaus and hilltops between the Inn (swampy floodplain) and the mountains (rocky, barren). This middle ground was probably ideal for hunting as well as providing safety. Since the arrival of the Christian missionaries in the Middle Ages, many of those hilltops have been adorned with chapels. It has been speculated  that these  chapels might be sitting atop the remains of pre-christian structures, and often successful excavation work has been done in their immediate vicinity.  If such an excavation were done on the Lanser Kopf, one might look for pre-historic arrowheads, ceramics, stone objects, weapon depots and offerings (of which there are many in the Alps) or sacrificial burning sites, all of which have been found elsewhere in the region.

Aus archäologischen Befunden in der Region wissen wir, dass viele vorrömische Siedlungen in den Mittelgebirgen eingerichtet wurden, wo die Ureinwohner mehr Sicherheit und bessere Lebensqualität vorfanden. Seit der Ankunft christlicher Missionare im Frühmittelalter, sind viele dieser einigermaßen höheren Stelle mit Kapellen geschmückt.  Man könnte vermuten, dass manche dieser Kapellen möglicherweise auf Resten von früheren, vorchristlichen Bauwerke stehen, und tatsächlich hat man neben solchen Kapellen erfolgreiche Ausgrabungen durchgeführt. Wenn man so eine Ausgrabung auf dem Lanser Kopf unternähme, fände man möglicherweise Artefakten wie Pfeilspitze, Keramik, Steinfiguren, Waffendepots oder Brandopferstätte, welche anderswo in der Region, auf höheren Stellen, bereits gefunden wurden.


“Witch Burning”

My local newspaper reports (g) on an upcoming event called the Hexenverbrennung, or Witch Burning, an old traditional custom in the somewhat remote region of Tirol called Ausserfern. I translate directly from the article, somewhat loosely for comprehension:

On the first Sunday after Ash Wednesday, to cries of “Vivat hoch, die Hex hat Durst — sie will auch eine lange Wurst!” (“Hurrah, the Witch is thirsty, and she wants a long sausage!”*) the communities of Jungholz, Musau, Pinswang and Weißenbach bring back an old heathen custom, driving the winter away with bonfires and Witch Burning.
In earlier times, boys went on “rag Thursday” from house to house, collecting rags “for the Witch”. The Witch — an effigy of hay and straw — would be made, dressed in a gown created from the colorful rags, and hoisted up on a long pole over the pyre. The fire is lit at nightfall. The custom symbolizes the driving out of Winter and is in no way connected to the witch burnings of the Middle Ages.
This old custom from Celtic times has become a popular event with the both the local population and tourists. Above all the social part, the party which lasts late into the night.
The fire is made to drive the evil Winter spirits from the fields and epitomizes the people’s yearning for warmth.

I assumed that this custom must be an old pagan one (bonfire) with some Medieval, early Christian stuff that had attached itself to it over time (the witch), until I remembered the Wicker Man. Roman sources alledge that the Druids made burning human sacrifices to Taranis, the god of thunder. Taranis’ influence apparently covered Gaul, the British Isles, and the Rhineland and Danube regions.
One difference is that the Druids, it is written, burned men.

Supporting sources at (g).

*I’m sorry, but does this sound like gang rape to you?

Weekend Mountain Blogging

Photos taken in on and around the Via Claudia Augusta, now a hiking trail, between Landeck and Fließ.

It’s clearly late autumn in Tyrol, just before the leaves turn completely. The region is not known for spectacular fall foliage but I find it beautiful in its own, subtle way, the greens and golds mixed with grey and brown.

In Landeck, we had cut through the town to meet up again with the river after it bends south, and came out by chance right above the old “ghost railroad” tunnel, built for the Reschenbahn around 100 years ago. This was to have been a link between Mals (in South Tyrol, Italy) and Landeck over the Reschenpass (an extension of the Vinschgaubahn which runs from Meran to Mals), paralleling the old Roman Road, but plans were abandoned as Austria got caught up in the First World War the plans, started in 1918 and again in 1944, were eventually abandoned (thanks, Paschberg for the correction). It looks as if someone has been getting in. The tunnel (in better days) can also be seen here in the third image.

Wood carvings adorning a house in Fließ.


I dragged a (quite willing) friend along with me on a day excursion to Fliess (around here written Fließ), a village up on a mountainside overlooking the Upper Inn Valley. The main reason was to visit the Archaeological Museum, home of an impressive number of Roman and pre-Roman objects found in the area. While we enjoyed the Museum immensely, the journey there offered a surprising number of delights.

We had planned to take a Postbus from Landeck, but were given some misleading information (we had not realized that we were to take the bus that passes in the valley below, and walk up from there) and so we decided to walk rather than wait, and to take the trail over Landeck Castle. Without planning to, we found ourselves on the old road bed of the Via Claudia Augusta, the Roman road which ran along a portion of the Inn River on its way to Augsburg. The “Claudia” part is for Emperor Claudius, who had it built. His father Drusus, adopted son of Caesar Augustus, was responsible for the Roman march over the Alps and into northern lands.

Heumanderl, or hay racks, in a field. My friend told me a legend about our local hero Andreas Hofer using these “hay men” to make Napoleon’s troops think he had a larger army than he had.

Dramatic Squirrel has an Alpine cousin — and he’s black.

Another reason to come to Fliess was to see the Schalenstein at the Philomena Chapel, just outside the village.

The chapel was built in or around 1749. Inside, directly behind the altar hangs a painting (with reliquary) of the virgin martyr Philomena, “lying in her grave in the catacomb”, according to the information plaque on site, although she appears to be quite comfortably settled in a chaise longue. Philomena is one of those quasi-saints who were not only never canonized, but who was purged from the liturgical calendars in 1961. Her golden pendant is a reliquary for something so tiny that we could not make out what it was — possibly a bone sliver?

Ah, and here, finally, behind the church, the Neolithic Schalenstein with 70-90 markings, one of the most prominent of its kind.

A post on the Archaeological Museum to follow shortly.

Weekend Mountain Blogging/Pagans In Bavaria: Der Petersberg

In the center of the image, a mountain called the “Kleiner Madron”, just over the border in Bavaria. According to the official trail sign (which saves me from making unsupported hypotheses), it is recognized that this name suggests a Celtic ritual site (presumably with a connection to the word matrone, and possibly the viewing of these three mountains as the tres matrones.) Bronze-Age and Roman artifacts have been found at the bottom of the sheer cliffs below.

And the icing on the cake, so to speak: the church that sits atop this mountain is named for St. Peter, and the mountain is now oft referred to as the Petersberg. Which might have something linguistically to do with the Beten — which in turn has much to do with the matrones. But I’m just riffing…

The church probably built in or around the 12th century. Monks lived next to the church, and pilgrims arrived from the Inn Valley. Today the church belongs to the nearby village of Flintsbach, and the main destination for pilgrims is the restaurant with a pretty view. If you go, proceed to the sunny terrace around the back to escape the pop music.

On the lower slopes, the ruins of the “new” Falkenstein Castle. The old (12th century) Falkenstein Castle also lies in ruin, but is deeper in the forest. Only a wall remains, and so it is referred to on Wikipedia as the Troja des Inntales — Troy of the Inn valley (and while this is what drew me there in the first place, I never found that wall.) The Falkensteins ruled over much of this corner of Bavaria and the surrounding regions during the 11th and 12 centuries.

Mountain Blogging: Schönberg

Confession — when I began blogging about 4.5 years ago, I quite honestly thought I might be out of material in 6 months’ time. In fact, the opposite has happened — the ‘to do’ list just keeps getting longer. Recent discoveries (for me) have included a lot of points south of here, in the Wipp and Stubai Valleys. Above, the length of the Stubaital, ending at the Stubai Glacier (yet another thing I need to see, especially before it melts for good.)

Today I went to Schönberg on a couple of leads, and learned more there than I had expected to. In all honesty, I didn’t know a thing about this small town, as it’s not on the rail line and doesn’t seem to have any tourist industry — perhaps it’s really an insider thing. Anyway, I had read that there is a segment of the old Roman Road (Via Raetia) on display in Schönberg, and here it is.

Note the grooves left in the stones by centuries of wagon wheels.

The Via Raetia ran from Italy over the Brenner Pass to Augsburg. The primary Roman road, known as the Via Claudia Augusta, went west over the Reschen Pass (near Graun, home of the sunken village belltower), along the Inn and then over the Fern Pass.
In any event, although the road did indeed pass right through these parts, it was not right here in this exact spot — these stones were dug up and laid out here — next to a large Autobahn rest stop, of all places. And that has a certain logic, the old next to the new.

Two things about Schönberg called to mind George Washington. The first was that Goethe was here, and fortunately the small town of Schönberg has a quote to prove it. (“Goethe visited here” is the German parallel to “Washington slept here.”) On his travels to Italy in 1786 (“The Italian Journey”), the great writer penned, Up on the Brenner I saw the first larch trees, at Schönberg the first Swiss pine. This little chapel is on a spot called Goetheruhe (Goethe’s Rest) and there is indeed a Swiss pine tree on the site. The road that runs by it is called Römerstrasse, and is very likely the old road. This route through Raetia had its own alternative “bypass” route, which branched off near here and followed the upper plateau on the eastern side of the valley (and there is a “Römerstrasse” up there today too.)

The second reason that Washington comes to mind is Schönberg’s relationship to Andreas Hofer, who had friends here and used a local hotel as headquarters during the fighting — which makes it a bit like the 1809 Tirolean Valley Forge.

Schönberg, like much of the higher plateau lands above the rivers, has offered up archaeological evidence pointing to pre-historic settlement. Armed with GPS coordinates from the internet and a google map print-out (yeah, I need a smartphone), I went to search for this area which has been designated as a protected historic monument — and only found this flat-topped hill on private, apparently inaccessible ground, so I can’t say. Then again, the high ground is absolutely lousy with archaeological finds all up and down the valley, so we might as well assume that every hill and dale were inhabited since the end of the last ice age.

To see the Via Raetia road segment without a car: ST Bus from Innsbruck Train Station to Schönberg Ortsmitte. Follow “Römerstrasse” signs to the Autobahn underpass. It’s at the far end of the rest stop, which includes a McDonalds with the best views I have ever seen.

“Tyrolean Landscape” — Or Is It?

This is by Albert Bierstadt, the 19th-century painter who’s best known for his landscapes of the American West. It’s from 1868 and titled “Tyrolean Landscape“, but I am not so sure. There may very well be a duet of jagged mountain peaks in Tirol that look just like this…

…but it bears an uncanny resemblance to the Watzmann, which is in Berchtesgaden.(Image found here.

Yes, I can sense you shrugging your shoulders and rolling your eyes all the way from here — does it matter, you ask? Why yes, it does. Try calling a Tiroler German someday, see where that gets you. 🙂

And since Berchtesgaden belongs to a little dangling peninsula that’s surrounded by Austria, I looked on a map to see if it were possible that one could paint the Watzmann this large while actually standing in Tirol — nope, it’s Salzburg Land all around for kilometers. Was he (1) misinformed about his location, (2) is this indeed another mountain group, or (3) am I missing some important border realignment from the First World War?

But as long as we’re discussing the Watzmann, here is one by Caspar David Friedrich, who had never actually seen the Watzmann with his own eyes and only knew the mountain from others’ works (come to think of it, we’ll call that (4) and it may be the best answer to the above question.)

and one by Adrian Ludwig Richter, which I happen to like the most. It reminds me little of landscapes by the Tirolean artist Rudolf Lehnert.

Friedrich and Richter images found here.

Cozens in Brixen*

I had already been toying with the idea of a series of alpine paintings accompanied by photos of the mountains which inspired them, when Paschberg sent me the link to this watercolor by the 18th century British artist John Robert Cozens, with the somewhat clunky but informative title The Valley of the Eisak Near Brixen in the Tyrol, 1783/84. It currently belongs to the Art Institute of Chicago.

Looking around online for more information, I found a “2.0” version; In the Tyrol, the Valley of the Eisack, near Brixen, 1791 The painting, like the name, is similar but not identical — the view looks to be from further down on the floodplain, closer to the winding river. This version belongs to the National Gallery of Canada.

Near Brixen, June 7 appears to be the original sketch for both paintings. The Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection owns it…

…as well as this sketch with the same name. Since they are both dated June 7, one can assume the two scenes are not far away from each other. Perhaps all Cozens did was turn around, and sketch the view in the opposite direction.

There are tentative plans for a trip into that area next month. I can’t spend days hunting down this particular place but I’m going to keep my eyes open for it. The river may have changed since Cozen’s trip (dredged, straightened) but the mountains will still be there.

*Brixen is a town in the German-speaking, northernmost region of Italy. The Italian name, which may be all you find in an American atlas, is Bressanone.

The Albrecht-Dürer-View, in Mösern

Do you remember the local theory that Pieter Breugel sketched out his “Hunters In The Snow” while sitting on the shady banks below Schloss Ambras, at Innsbruck? This is Albrecht Dürer’s Self-portrait at 26, which is hanging in the Museo del Prado in Madrid.

Dürer traveled from Nuremberg to Italy in 1494, and like Breugel he was impressed by the alpine landscape and made sketches which he would use in later works. The village of Mösern, near Seefeld in Tirol, claims that the landscape visible from the window is clearly of the Inn Valley as viewed from Mösern, and has named this particular vista the “Albrecht-Dürer-View”.

I’d say this is a pretty good match, especially for a painting made from a sketch, itself made years before on a journey.

Above photo by Veronika Freh found here. Image of Dürer’s self-portrait from Wikipedia.