Migration Period and Early History

The Migration Period (until 568 A.D.) and Early History, which end with the conquest by Charlemagne following his victories over the Avars around 800, are still relatively unexplored in the Vienna region. As no settlements for this period have yet been discovered, it is primarily burial grounds that provide evidence of the presence of various ethnic groups.

The Wien Museum houses the inventories of several significant burial grounds from this era. As early as 1897 and 1898, a key chance discovery occurred during construction work around today’s Kurzgasse and Mittelgasse near to the Mariahilfer Gürtel. Some 30 skeleton graves arranged in rows with partially rich furnishing were found. These derive from the era of the Lombards, who settled in the Vienna area from 558/59 to 567/68 A.D.

Two burial grounds with their inventories stand out from the Avar Period which followed. Firstly, the one located in Carlberggasse in the 23rd district, where in 1943 and 1947, rare documented horsemen’s graves were found. Of great importance for the exploration of Avar culture is the burial ground excavated in 1976 and 1977 during construction work for a housing estate in Csokorgasse. Some 700 graves yielded jewellery, weapons, parts of traditional costume, loom weights and hygiene articles. Moreover, food supplements were also discovered, which otherwise can rarely be attested. The number of such richly furnished graves suggests that a significant Avar power base was located in the Vienna region. 

As the Wien Museum’s Early History Collection is sorted by topographical criteria, it can easily be seen that findings from the Migration Period mainly arise in those areas of the city which in earlier epochs had barely been settled. In Vienna’s inner district – i.e. in the area in which previously the centre of the Roman settlement had been situated – only few relics from the Migration Period can be identified. This may be due to the horse peoples’ preference for settling on uninhabited land reflecting their nomadic lifestyle.