Jaunstein/Podjuna: The (early) Medieval cemetery

The study of the environment of Slavic populations in the eastern Alps

In the early Middle Ages the eastern Alps underwent considerable changes that continue to have an effect to the present day. Starting from a micro-region the living conditions of a rural Slavic population buried around a church are being retraced. However, these are the basis for far-reaching conclusions on late antique-early medieval transformation processes as well as subsistence-based settlement patterns.

Historical context of the settlement


While in late antiquity (4th–6th century) naturally protected heights were settled in the eastern Alps, in the early Middle Ages the villages relocated to the valleys where in many cases they reveal a continuity to the present day. This is also the case for the settlement cluster Globasnitz/Hemmaberg/Jaunstein where the hilltop settlement was destroyed and abandoned in the early 7th century. This break has been connected with the immigration of the Slavic population at the time. Massive destructions of the early Christian churches have been documented archaeologically which were not followed by restorations and traces for the continued settlement following the 7th century is lacking.

It is very likely that these are represented by the early medieval villages located on the plateau to the north of the Hemmaberg. In particular from a settlement archaeology and etymological perspective Jaunstein/Podjuna is a likely candidate. While the first decades of Slavic settlement were likely dominated by villages in wooden construction as well as cremation, the Christianization in the mid-8th century initiated a transition to inhumation burial. At approximately the same time the first churches were likely built that were probably still made of wood. In the course of the 9th century the first stone churches were constructed and cemeteries developed around them. Following this period the Carantanian Slavs are archaeologically well attested.

 

Research questions and methods

The aim of the systematic study of the church and cemetery in Jaunstein/Podjuna is to reconstruct the living conditions of the inhabitants of the region in the early and high Middle Ages as well as to retrace the chronology of the church. The basis consists of 122 burials excavated in 2008/2009 and 2018 and the stratigraphy of the churchyard from 2018.

One focus has been placed on the chronological classification of the burials which is conducted on the basis of relative-stratigraphical sequencing, meaningful jewelry and costume elements as well as 14C-datings in order to identify the beginning and duration of the internment activity. Using osteological and palaeopathological analyses and supplemented by scientific investigations, questions regarding nutrition, stress and deficiency diseases, pathologies, but also social and gender defined differences. DNA-analyses are of particular interest also in relation to questions of continuity and in comparison with already existing series from the cemetery of Hemmaberg and from Globasnitz.

Likewise the church construction is also of interest since no early medieval church has been archaeologically attested in Lower Carinthia and most are only known through mentions in documents. This phenomenon is also witnessed in Jaunstein/Podjuna where the earliest interments from the 8th century suggest a church building, however, the first documentary mention does not appear until 1154. Excavations in the interior of the church will provide insights into the previous buildings, their architecture and chronological classification.

Research questions and methods


The aim of the systematic study of the church and cemetery in Jaunstein/Podjuna is to reconstruct the living conditions of the inhabitants of the region in the early and high Middle Ages as well as to retrace the chronology of the church. The basis consists of 122 burials excavated in 2008/2009 and 2018 and the stratigraphy of the churchyard from 2018.

One focus has been placed on the chronological classification of the burials which is conducted on the basis of relative-stratigraphical sequencing, meaningful jewelry and costume elements as well as 14C-datings in order to identify the beginning and duration of the internment activity. Using osteological and palaeopathological analyses and supplemented by scientific investigations, questions regarding nutrition, stress and deficiency diseases, pathologies, but also social and gender defined differences. DNA-analyses are of particular interest also in relation to questions of continuity and in comparison with already existing series from the cemetery of Hemmaberg and from Globasnitz.

Likewise the church construction is also of interest since no early medieval church has been archaeologically attested in Lower Carinthia and most are only known through mentions in documents. This phenomenon is also witnessed in Jaunstein/Podjuna where the earliest interments from the 8th century suggest a church building, however, the first documentary mention does not appear until 1154. Excavations in the interior of the church will provide insights into the previous buildings, their architecture and chronological classification.


Initial results


Following Christian burial customs the majority of the burials do not contain grave goods. Fortunately, on the basis of a few costume and jewelry components it was possible to date the beginning of the cemetery to the 8th century. Simple loop earrings but also small chain pendants and half-moon shaped earrings of the Köttlach-Karantanian culture circle are particularly meaningful and were still worn in the 9th and 10th century. These pieces of jewelry leave no doubt that those buried in Jaunstein/Podjuna represent a Slavic population group.

In the church of Jaunstein/Podjuna clear evidence for earlier buildings was discovered, however the dimensions of these earlier phases differ significantly from those of the later phases. Burials in the west area of the church indicate a significantly smaller church that was likely made of wood. Older phases are also attested by several adobe floor layers in which silver coins, Friesach pfennige, among other things were discovered. Based on their identification in the early 12th century the documentary mention of the church is archaeologically confirmed.

Outlook


The study of the anthropological material is being conducted as part of a dissertation at the Department for Anthropology at the University of Vienna by Magdalena Srienc. An application for a DOC-scholarship at the OeAW has been submitted. The initial results of the research project will be presented in 2020 in the pilgrimage museum Globasnitz on the occasion of the commemoration of the Land Carinthia for 100 years referendum and will promote the early medieval Slavic history of the country.