Zollfeld: Necropolis of Virunum

For the first time a representative section of the Roman burial ground of the provincial capital of Noricum is being archaeologically and anthropologically evaluated in the project »Necropolis of Virunum«. 179 cremation and inhumation burials provide numerous points of contact for research questions that reach from origin, identity, status of the dead, and their human biology to changes in burial forms and funerary rituals.

In cooperation with the BDA (J. Fürnholzer, B. Hebertt) the scientific study of the rescue excavations from 2001 to 2003 (ARGIS, G. Fuchs) in the southern necropolis of Virunum (Zollfeld, Carinthia) are taking place at the OeAI. 

Data basis


As part of the fieldwork 179 burials and 31 grave enclosures were documented including contexts that are unique for Austria and have a great potential for the in-depth discussion of provincial Roman research questions. In general it must be noted that with the underlying burial contexts for the first time a representative section of the burial ground of the provincial capital of Noricum is available to scholarship. Furthermore, based on the Necropolis Virunum it is possible to trace how a flat cemetery with simple cremation and inhumation burials developed into a necropolis with elaborate burial monuments in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. 

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Social structure


In terms of the social stratification of the burial ground the possible use of individual burial quarters by various family associations must be noted. Furthermore, the inhumation burials of the 1st–2nd century CE are a poorly known research aspect because it has generally been assumed that cremation was the common form of burial ritual during this time period. It must be researched whether these inhumations of adult individuals reflects the continuation of autochthonous traditions (»conservatism«), changes in the structure of the population through migration (»migration«), or the socio-economic and legal conditions of the buried (»status«). Additionally, attention must be drawn to the numerous burial contexts dated through chronologically sensitive artifacts and the exemplary documentation of the relative sequence of burial contexts that cover two occupancy horizons.

The burial objects of the Necropolis of Virunum compose a close and fine chronological web that is without parallel among the Roman burial grounds in the area of the Alps and the Adriatic.