Oetzi-Land Excursion Neolithic sites in the Rhine Valley, Lower Engadine and South Tyrol
Organizer: Jean-Nicolas Haas, University of Innsbruck
Local guides: Mathias Seifert & Thomas Reitmaier – Archäologischer Dienst Kanton Graubünden
Subject of this excursion through the Canton of Grisons and the South Tyrol was the landscape, environment and societal surroundings of the Neolithic Ice Man Oetzi living 5300 years ago. Apart from archaeological key sites for this region, we also discussed mid-Holocene vegetation, climate and fire history revealed from bog and rock glacier stratigraphies, and finally visited the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bozen where the corpse of Oetzi is currently exhibited and preserved. Apart from fascinating information about early cultures, the exchange of knowledge of history between Swiss and Austrian participants and the culinary experiences enriched this interesting and entertaining excursion.
Thursday, August 23 – Rhine Valley
Our fist stop led us to Zizers where Mathias Seifert from the Archeological Service of the Canton of Grisons showed us the castle ruine of Fridau at whose feet a Middle Neolithic archeological site was found and excavated. We had the chance to climb the castle ruine and to enjoy the view over the Rhine Valley, at the same time imagining the landscape during the Neolithic and the routes people travelled through the Alps already at that time. Our own journey continued at the Rhätisches Museum in Chur, where we could marvel at some objects found during the excavations in Zizers. We continued our way to the Lower Engadine where we stayed in Ftan for the night.
Friday, August 24 – Lower Engadine
Guided by Thomas Reitmaier from the Archeological Service of the Canton of Grisons we visited the sites of Mesolithic and Neolithic settlements (Plan d’Agl, Urschai) in the Val Tasna. The non-archeologists among us were fascinated by the skill of archeologists to identify signs of early settlements in today’s landscape.
After two stops for culinary reasons at the Valmala cheese farm and the bakery in Ardez, Jean-Nicolas Haas led us to the plains below Ardez and to the ancient pastoral terraces above Ramosch where we learned about the Neolithic to Bronze Age reconstruction of early pastoral activities. Cereal fields arranged on terraces began to shape the landscape at that time and nowadays, after a period of abandonment, these former fields start to be used again for growing primarily rye and barley for the production of local bread and beer.
Saturday, August 25 – Vinschgau and Schnalfs Valley
This was the day for discovering the Vinschgau and the Schnalfs Valley in the South Tyrol. We climbed high in the Schnalfs Valley, where we visited the active rock glacier of Lazaun and the alluvial plain below used for the reconstruction of Holocene vegetation development. In addition, our Austrian participants shared numerous interesting historical facts and anecdotes about this region. The night we spent on the Passo della Mendola above Bozen from where we enjoyed the view over Bozen, Meran and the Dolomites.
Sunday, August 26 – Oetzi Museum in Bozen
Now it was time to visit Oetzi the Ice Man in the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bozen. We enjoyed a guided tour and were fascinated not only by the corpse but also by the details of Oetzi’s cloths and tools. Finally, strengthened by a real Italian espresso we returned to Sargans via Innsbruck.