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Raimund Karl


Raimund Karl currently teaches Archaeology and Heritage at the University of Vienna, Austria and is Emeritus Professor of Archaeology and Heritage at Bangor University in Wales (UK), where he taught both subjects from 2003-2020. As a native Austrian, he did his Master and Doctoral degrees in Pre- and Early Historic Archaeology at the University of Vienna, where he also holds a Habilitation in “Celtic Archaeology” since 2006. His main research interests are later Prehistoric to Early Medieval “Celtic” Archaeology, Archaeological Theory and Method, the History of Archaeological Thought, Heritage Law, Management, and Practice, Public Archaeology and Heritage, the Role of Archaeology in Society, Epistemology, and Ethics in Archaeology and Heritage Management. He is also currently involved with a major movie and television series production as its chief historical advisor. He has published widely across most of these subjects, having authored and/or edited over 250 major academic articles, edited volumes and monographs. Among his major publications are Altkeltische Sozialstrukturen (2006), a study examining “Celtic” social organisation; Macht und Ohnmacht des positivistischen Denkens (2010), an examination of the dominant positivistic epistemological approach to archaeological discovery in the Germanophone countries; Archäologischer Denkmalschutz in Österreich (2011), an overview of practice, problems and possible solutions for AHM in Austria; and Rechtswidrige Denkmalpflege (2019), a study of unlawful practices in AHM in Austria and Germany. He is currently working on a major monograph (working title: Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?) on the inherently authoritarian ideals and ethics underlying much of modern AHM and their often totalitarian consequences in historical and current practice.


“Look, don’t touch!”: Ruskin, Dehio and Riegl and the authorized heritage discourse in Central European Archaeology

This lecture examines the 19th and early 20th century origins and development of the “conservation paradigm” in archaeology and its consequences for and in archaeological heritage management in Central Europe up until the present. This paradigm, which currently (still?) is the (internationally) dominant approach to Cultural Heritage (Preservation), is deeply rooted in authoritarian concepts. It elevates “heritage experts” to the position of “philosopher kings” as imagined by Plato in his “Republic”: absolute, willful, authoritarian rulers with the exclusive right to determine both what is, and the fate of, “heritage”. Particular attention will be paid to the notion of the (alleged) need to preserve archaeology “for future generations” by excluding (practically) everyone in “the present” (naturally apart from the “high priests” of Ruskin’s and Riegl’s “Heritage Cult” – that is, us “experts”) from engaging with “Heritage” in any other manner than worshipping it from a safe distance. We will inquire whether such approach to (Archaeological) Heritage Management is compatible with the increasing commitment of modern democratic nations to an essentially liberal, egalitarian human rights-based world order which enshrines the individual civil and human right to self-determined participation in the cultural life of the community and in scientific research (as found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and high-level international Heritage Law like the Council of Europe’s Valletta and Faro and UNESCO’s Diversity of Cultural Expressions and Intangible Heritage Conventions). Should “the public” only be allowed to look at, but not touch, what we experts have declared to be (Archaeological) Cultural Heritage; or should everyone be left to do with “their” Cultural Heritage as they will?


Dehio, G.G. 1905. Denkmalschutz und Denkmalpflege im 19. Jahrhundert. Strassbourg: Heitz und Mündel.

Holtorf, C. 2012. The Heritage of Heritage. Heritage & Society 5/2, 153-174

Lowenthal, D. 1998. The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History. Cambridge: University Press

Plato, Republic

Riegl, A. 1903. Der moderne Denkmalkultus. Sein Wesen und seine Entstehung. Wien & Leipzig: Braumüller

Ruskin, J. 1849. The Seven Lamps of Architecture. London: Smith, Elder & Co. [1880 edition] ).

Smith, L. 2006. Uses of Heritage. London & New York: Routledge. [especially Chapter 1]

Sometimes (in)visible, but definitely intangible heritage: “Doing” archaeology for everyone, or with everyone (who wants to)?

This lecture takes a closer look at the issue of public participation in “doing” archaeology, the Faro Convention, and the concept of different stakeholder groups (or “heritage communities” in the terms of the Faro Convention) all being entitled to self-determined engagement with archaeology / the archaeological heritage and what that (should? or even must?) mean for a modern, democratic approach to AHM. It also examined the necessary consequences of the need for equal access rights and processes of fair conciliation between stakeholder groups ascribing different values to the same (archaeological) heritage and wanting to do different (and sometimes diametrically opposed) things with (or to) it. We will examine whether it is possible at all to create a fully participative archaeological heritage management, a truly “public’ or “community” archaeology; and how such a heritage management system might look like if it were implemented. We will also engage with the question what that would mean for us “heritage professionals”, and how it would affect our own identity construction as (self-appointed?) guardians of the (archaeological) heritage of mankind; a heritage we always profess “belongs to everyone”. What if we were not “special” and privileged, but just another “heritage community” with particular partisan interests in a collective good?


Council of Europe 2005a. CoE Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society.

Council of Europe 2005b. Explanatory Report to the Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society.

UNESCO 2003. Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Holtorf, C. 2015. Averting loss aversion in cultural heritage. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 21/4, 405-421.

Karl, R. 2019. Authorities and Subjects? The legal framework for public participation in Austrian archaeology. European Journal of Post-Classical Archaeologies 9/2019, 219-256.

Langford, R.F. 1983. Our Heritage – Your Playground. Australian Archaeology 16, 1-6.

Tully, G. 2007. Community archaeology: general methods and standards of practice. Public Archaeology 6/3, 155–187.


“To observe and define is to know”: Logical positivism, the Vienna “School of Archaeology”, and their influence on Central European archaeological thought since c. 1892

This workshop examines the epistemological foundations underlying much of Central European prehistoric archaeology via the “method” of archaeological discovery developed by Moriz Hoernes, the first professor of prehistoric archaeology at a Central European University (in Vienna) and since transmitted (mostly “thoughtlessly” as described for “German” archaeology more generally by Rączkowski) by his successors and students. Many of the latter – given that he developed his method while working at the Natural History Museum in Vienna as curator of its prehistoric collections and taught it in the final three decades of the Habsburg Monarchy at its “leading” University – then spread his (perceived) wisdom across all the (then) “provinces” of the k.k. Empire, where it since has remained quite influential, too. Following the strongly neopositivist epistemological approach taken by Hoernes in his Habilitation thesis in 1892 – which effectively established prehistoric archaeology as an academic subject in Central Europe – only inductive reasoning is considered a valid means of archaeological discovery (of what is misconstrued to be the “positively proven” archaeological “truth”) in much of Central Europe. That, in turn, has (mostly unrecognized) consequences: for the value assigned by professional archaeologists to what they have determined to be “their sources” (of “true” knowledge), how these must be treated, and that they must all be preserved in perpetuity; but also that there is a “natural” hierarchy of authority permeating all archaeological discourse and determining who must be heard and who must not be permitted to speak about archaeology.


Hoernes, M. 1892. Die Urgeschichte des Menschen nach dem heutigen Stande der Wissenschaft. Wien: Hartleben.

Karl, R. 2015. Every sherd is sacred. Compulsive hoarding in archaeology. In G. Sayeh, D. Henson, Y.F. Willumsen (eds), Managing the Archaeological Heritage: Public archaeology in Europe, 24-37. Kristiansand: Vest-Agder-Museet.

Karl, R. 2017. Moriz Hoernes and his network. Transfer of epistemology into and in archaeology, past and present. In K.R. Krierer, I. Friedmann (eds.), Netzwerke der Altertumswissenschaften im 19. Jahrhundert, 95-109. Wien: Phoibos Verlag.

Rączkowski, W. 2011. The “German School of Archaeology” in its Central European Context: Sinful Thoughts. In A. Gramsch, U. Sommer (eds.), A History of Central European Archaeology. Theory, Methods, and Politics, 197-214. Budapest: Archaeolingua.

Rebay-Salisbury, K. 2011. Thoughts in circles: Kulturkreislehre as a hidden paradigm in past and present archaeological interpretations. In B.

Roberts and M. Vander Linden (eds.), Investigating archaeological cultures: cultural transmission and material culture variability, 41-59. New York: Springer.