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Archeology Path Warmbad

Hiking route · Villach - Faaker See - Ossiacher See · closed
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Region Villach - Faaker See - Ossiacher See Verified partner  Explorers Choice 
  • Naturpark Dobratsch
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    Photo: Region Villach, Region Villach - Faaker See - Ossiacher See
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The archeology path Warmbad offers a trip to the past! 13 information boards (in German, English , Italian and Slovenian) give new insights into the historical settlement and the earlier use of the area on  a beautiful 6 km long hiking trail.
closed
easy
Distance 6 km
2:11 h
208 m
203 m
695 m
495 m

Table 1

This 695 metre high limestone crest on the eastern slopes of Villach mountain was given its name by the Tscheltschnigg family, who lived in the township of Judendorf and had owned one of the farms there for centuries. The name "Kadischen" comes from the Slav word "grad" (castle) and refers, like the German word "Burgkopf", to the fortified village from late antiquity located in the area.

The panoramic view from Gummern over the Villach basin as far as the Federauner saddle and the high sheer rock faces form a natural protection to the north and the south that provided the local population with the ideal conditions for building a fortification. This fortification from the fifth and sixth centuries and the many finds dating from periods ranging from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages, which also come from the many caves, pits and holes, make Mount Tscheltschnigkogel and the surrounding area a focus point in the history of human settlement in Villach.

The only residential structures on Mount Tscheltschnigkogel are the fortifications from late antiquity. They were discovered in the 1930s. Similar constructions to those found on Mount Tscheltschnigkogel are found in Duel near Feistritz on the Drau and on Hoischhügel Hill near Thörl-Maglern. The Duel-Hoischhügel-Tscheltschnigkogel triangle of fortifications seems to have also been built to protect northern Italy from depredations by peoples in search of plunder.

 

Table 2

During the excavations that started in 1936 the remnants of a building were discovered that measured 15.6 x 7.5 metres and was divided into five rooms of varying size. Inside the largest of these rooms there was a smaller one, the semicircular closure of which abutted directly on the eastern wall. In addition to some building remnants such as pieces of white and multicoloured plaster, glass for windows, two fragments that each belonged to a marble column and the fragment of a marble altar table, the skeletal remains of a person of high rank were found. It was accordingly assumed that the building remains were part of an early Christian basilica that must have been connected in some way to the fortification.

Nevertheless, a little later archaeologists were persuaded that they had discovered a villa from the middle period of the Roman Empire on the site of which a funeral chapel had been built in late antiquity. More recent investigations have shown - as was thought originally - that the ruins really are part of an early Christian church and thus mark the location of the first church in the Villach area. The holy building must have made a striking and at the same time imposing impression on people arriving from the north or north-east.

Owing to their poorly preserved state, the vestiges of wall were buried again. The only part that has stood the test of time and is still visible is the presbytery, which was the funeral chapel described above, with the semicircular bench for the clergy.

 

Table 3

Already before, but above all after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the second half of the fifth century AD unsettled times began. The Goths and Huns came to ravage the country. The unprotected Roman settlements in the valley were abandoned for this reason. Upland areas like Mount Tscheltschnigkogel were fortified to act as refuges in times of danger. This cave settlement was occupied intermittently in the fifth and sixth centuries.

The eastern entrance was protected by a wall that extends from the sheer drop of the "Kadischen" wall to the summit, passes through a small plateau, crosses the path and ends on the side of the mountain in an almost vertical rock wall. At this point there is a base, which was built in the same period as the wall, for a considerable wooden building measuring 3.7 metres in length by 2.9 metres in width.

The enclosed space below the path is 7 metres long and is 4.3 metres wide. Owing to its position, it is thought that it was a watchtower. Three of the four walls were made of quarry stone whereas the side facing the road is mostly built with blocks of dressed marble: these are the remains of an older building whose location is unknown.

In this area objects from different periods have been found, such as four small capitals with column shafts, bronze fittings and lock of a chest, a bronze wine sieve, an iron spade, a knife with a circular iron hole, bone plates with circular ornaments and a receptacle with carbonised rye seeds.

 

Table 4

Here, on the site known as "Sabinianus-Boden" the remains of the walls of a building consisting of two rooms from late antiquity can be seen. The room to the north (D) had some form of underfloor heating. It was heated from the adjacent heating chamber (E). The heating channel between the rooms was protected from overheating by slabs of mica slate. The raised floor in room D rested on pillars that were arranged irregularly. It was covered by marble, limestone and mica slabs. The northern wall contained hollow tiles that acted as a fume flue and provided wall heating. The building was obviously a lodging for the commandant of the fortified complex that could be used throughout the year.

The excavations in 1934 uncovered a marble basin destroyed by fire, different fragments in the ground of green bottles with Greek markings on the bottoms, silver tweezers and coins from the third and fourth centuries A.D.

One important discovery was an altar in pristine condition from the second century AD that was dedicated to the "VIBES" goddesses. The altar's secondary use was as a step between the rooms with its inscription facing downwards. It is considered to be the first written reference to the use of the springs of Warmbad.

 

Table 5

As Mount Tscheltschnigkogel is particularly easy to reach from the western side because of the almost total absence of natural barriers, great efforts had to be expended to protect the western structure, unlike the eastern structure. Protection was provided by a wall that was over 120 metres long and had a width at the base of between 0.9 and 1.1 metres. At the time of the excavations in 1933-34 the wall was still 2.1 metres high at one point.

The defensive wall starts at the vertical rock wall in the northern part of the crest and goes as far as the peak, veers to the west and ends, after a short stretch, on the north-eastern wall of a bastion that opens inwards (Room C). It then continues on the south-west wall of the room, runs directly south and ends after a few metres above a steep rock fall.

The objects found in the western structure basically consist of the head of a small marble statue, which is probably the Celtic-Roman divinity VIBE, of a right hand holding the upper part of a container which is thought to be part of the same statue, of an altar dedicated by a town councillor from Virunum to the VIBES divinities which was used as a step, and of iron knives, keys, nails, fittings, coins from the second century AD and different pottery shards dating from the Hallstatt period to the early Middle Ages. Inside the northern wall of the bastion the skeleton of a man measuring 1.65 metres was discovered. The body was buried without grave goods and probably in a hurry.

 

Table 6

In December 1989, members of the "Landesverein für Höhlenkunde" (provincial speleology association), started to explore a pit cave on the site. When the first remains of human and animal skeletons were discovered, work was initially suspended. Then in July 1996 it resumed under the direction of Dr Paul Gleirscher, an archaeologist at the Landesmuseum für Kärnten (museum of the province of Carinthia).

By the end of the dig almost 40 thousand bones and bone fragments of animals and about 20 thousand human bones and bone fragments had been recovered. Many of the animal bones belonged to amphibians and small mammals that had, however, ended up by accident in the pit cave. The other animal bones belonged to domestic and wild animals. After months of study, Professor Dr. Egon Reuer and Dr Susanne Fabrizii-Reuer established that at least 138 people had been found in the pit cave and that they ranged from babies to individuals of 65 years of age. The objects such as glass jewellery, brooches (fibule) for fastening clothes, bronze earrings and bracelets have been identified as late Hallstatt period. Although at the moment it is not possible to give a clear answer to the question whether the Durezza cave was a sacrificial pit cave or simply a place of burial, current knowledge provides limited but nevertheless impressive insights into the life of the people who settled here about 2500 years ago. The settlement that was part of the Durezza cave must have been in the immediate vicinity and was probably occupied continuously by about 40 people for about 100 years.

 

Table 7

Natural stone, together with wood and clay, is one of the oldest materials. Rough-hewn or after being dressed, it was mainly used in the construction of buildings and structures. It was broken down into chippings for roads or was turned into grit of different dimensions to be added to concrete and mortar.

The stone quarries at Warmbad date back to the first half of the nineteenth century. For a short time, there was a very small and hardly noticeable quarry just by the Maibach spring, but today it is almost unrecognisable. The lovers of the "Maibachl", as it is known locally, used the vestigial stone and gravel to build their swimming pools. There was a large quarry in the so-called "Gräflach", a group of limestone rocks to the west of the Schiessstattwiese (firing range meadow). Amongst other things, it provided the building material for the Walterhof that was built in 1847-48 by Ludwig Walter. The "Tschamer Quarry" was directly at the southern foot or "Kadischenwand" of Mount Tscheltschnigkogel. Both quarries were for a long time leased to the River Gail building authority. They made slabs for the embankments regulating the river.

It seems that the quarrying affected the system of caves and the adjacent hot springs. After blasting was prohibited, the quarries shut down permanently.

 

Table 8

In 1816 Filippo della Torre built a factory for making shot for shotguns at the southern foot (or "Kadischenwand") of Mount Tscheltschnigkogel (1). The factory consisted of a 70-metre high wooden tower backing directly onto the vertical wall of rock. At the base of the wooden building there was a masonry chamber housing a pump well, two water containers and a kiln for drying the shot.

About 20 metres to the south of the tower stood the so-called "sorting house" consisting of a kitchen, a living room and a workroom that could be heated. In another room there was a melting pot for smelting lead arsenate.

Despite constant financial difficulties, della Torre began making bricks and in 1820 erected a brick kiln (2) just a few metres down from the shot factory. The heart of the works were two large kilns made of stone and brick that could fire 80 thousand bricks. Next to the kiln, there were two drying rooms. The bricks were stored and the workers were housed in a large wooden building.

Bricks for walls and ovens, hollow bricks, bricks for flooring and tiles for roofs, roof ridges and eaves were made. The clay for making them came from a natural, partially dried-up, clay pit south of the factory. The clay pit is today full of water and is known locally as the "pond" or "firing range pool".

All the efforts to avoid bankruptcy were in vain so in 1825 the heavily indebted businesses were put up for auction. Within a very short time, the new German proprietor, Ernst Diez, was able to successfully refurbish the factories that had fallen into rack and ruin.

When the entrepreneur died in 1865, all the businesses were wound up.

 

Table 9

From ancient times, water, sand and slaked lime have been used to make mortar. It not only gives the necessary stability to masonry but is also used as plaster and as floor screed.

Before industrialisation, the lime was melted in small, mostly dry-stone, kilns, the remnants of which can still be seen today. They were located as close to the quarry as possible or directly alongside it.

The kiln shell consisted of fragments of quarry stone and wooden cladding. The resulting cavity was filled with earth as insulation. Trunks of spruce were arranged vertically in the vault of the kiln and then burnt to draw a greater quantity of air into the kiln. Depending on the size of the kiln, firing could last for as long as four days and four nights. Two or three lime burners burnt up to 30 cubic metres (steres) of wood per shift.

One of the first references to lime burning dates from 1351. The last mention of the kilns goes back a few decades to the period of reconstruction of the town on the Drau after it was bombed in the second world war. However, as there have been no precise investigations, the age of the kilns in the Warmbad Villach district can be estimated only approximately.

Only circular depressions in the woods today bear witness to the many kilns between Mount Tscheltschnigkogel and Graschelitzen that supplied the prized quick lime. They are surrounded by low embankments that are interrupted at the points where the kiln was loaded. They are often mistakenly thought to be bomb craters or profaned burial mounds.

 

Table 10

The field of burial mounds on the Napoleonswiese ("Napoleon Meadow") are together with the graves in Gratschach/Landskron and Möltschach the oldest records of human civilisation in the Villach area. The burial mounds on the Napoleonswiese were used between 850-800 to 550 B.C.

The burial mounds provide insight into the burial rituals and ideas of the afterlife of that period. The dead were cremated together with their clothes and other grave goods. The bone fragments were collected carefully and placed in urns together with the grave goods. The urn was placed in a burial pit or chamber that was covered with a mound that was often several metres thick. Most of the graves were, however, already emptied in antiquity by grave robbers.

At the start of the nineteenth century there were still about 60 of these giant pagan graves. In 1871 Count Gundacker von Wurmbrand had 13 of them opened and Felix von Luschan had another 17 opened. On that occasion, von Luschan discovered the "Villach Warrior's Grave", which was of national importance. In September, Anton Ritter von Gallenstein ordered another 30 burial mounds to be opened.

At the end of the nineteenth century the Napoleonswiese became a military training ground. To set up the "Schiessstattwiese" or firing range meadow, most of the burial mounds were flattened.

 

Table 11

In 1871 Felix von Luschan opened what was probably the only still intact grave, which is known to archaeologists as the "Villach Warrior's Grave". Chronologically, it can be dated to the start of the Hallstatt period (about 800 B.C.). It shows clear links to the area of northern Italy.

Inside a smaller burial mound, a stone chest measuring 0.60 by 0.75 metres was found. There were four receptacles inside the chest, two of which were used as cinerary urns. One contained the ashes of a middle-aged man. The other contained the remains of a young woman.

A high-ranking sword-bearing warrior had been buried there. The sword had been ritually broken into five pieces to make it unusable. In addition to the sword, his grave contained a razor, a knife and a needle. The "Villach Warrior" was a high-ranking person around 800 B.C. It has not been possible to find the village in which he lived, which was probably on Mount Tscheltschnigkogel.

 

Table 12

Goods from the Mediterranean were exported north and products were imported from the province of Noricum along the "Via Norica". This important route for the exchange of goods in the eastern Alps started in Italy in Aquileia and passed through the Canal del Ferro and Valcanale. From Camporosso it went through Tarvisio to the late-Roman settlement of Meclaria (Thörl-Maglern), then continued down the lower Gail valley to Unterfederaun, where the River Gail was probably crossed by a bridge. From here, the road climbed up to the Fedauner Pass to Oberfederaun, skirted the Napoleonswiese to the north-east until it reached Judendorf, St. Martin and Villach (Santicum).

Even today, this route, which was vital for Villach's accessibility from Oberfederaun as far as Warmbad, can be clearly traced for about 5 kilometres where in places deep cart ruts have been cut into the rocky terrain.

The many vehicles that travelled along this road from antiquity, the continuous increase in traffic from the fifteenth century and the erosion over the centuries seriously damaged the road. In the sixteenth century it became necessary to repair and widen this important north-south link between Villach and the Italian border at Pontebba. The bishop of Bamberg Veit II and his deputy Georg von Wichsenstein, who held office in Wolfsberg, instructed the toll collector of Villach, Christoff della Grotta, to improve the 60-kilometre long road and to lay out new sections where required.

A commemorative marble plaque in Unterfederaun still records today the end of the work on this important long distance route in 1575.

Author’s recommendation

After the hike, a visit to the spa resort is recommended - either for refreshment in the Warmbaderhof or for bathing fun and wellness in the KärntenTherme.
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Author
Region Villach
Update: July 07, 2022
Difficulty
easy
Technique
Stamina
Experience
Landscape
Highest point
Römerweg Beginn, 695 m
Lowest point
Schützenpark Warmbad, 495 m
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Safety information

Tips and hints

 Region Villach Tourism

 +43 4242 42000

 www.visitvillach.at/en

 

Start

Schützenpark Warmbad (495 m)
Coordinates:
DD
46.589496, 13.824423
DMS
46°35'22.2"N 13°49'27.9"E
UTM
33T 409944 5160219
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Destination

Schützenpark Warmbad

Turn-by-turn directions

This easy tour is suitable for the whole family. The starting point is at Schützenpark, near the hotel Warmbaderhof. From there the way leads through the park and to the chapel and up towards the area called Napoleonswiese. Here are the first burial mounds and remnants of an old Roman road. Then you walk to the north on the wide footpath through beautiful mixed forests, opposite a small pond there are the remains of lime kilns and the rock face of Tscheltschigkogels (also called Kadischen) is already visible. Here there is not only a cave called the Egger Loch, but until the 19th century there was also a grist mill and a brick factory. Walking past the "Schmettelingswiese", the way is heading north towards the Tscheltschnigkogel. Past the walls of the oldest church in the region you can discover the hilltop settlement, the protection in times of barbarian invasions from intruders. On the way towards the summit are the remains of walls of a late antique building with underfloor heating. Once at the top of the 696m high Tscheltschnigkogels you will be rewarded with a magnificent view of the Karawanken mountain chain and Warmbad. Passing by the Durezza shaft cave with more than 40,000 animal and 20,000 human remains, you walk back to the starting point.

Note


all notes on protected areas

Public transport

Public-transport-friendly

Take the train or the bus (S2 / 10) to the thermal spa "KärntenTherme".

Click here for timetable information.

Click here for the Carinthia train station shuttle.

Getting there

Take the A2 exit Villach-Warmbad and follow the signs toward the thermal spa "KärntenTherme".

Parking

Free parking is available at the Orthopaedic Clinic Warmbad.

Coordinates

DD
46.589496, 13.824423
DMS
46°35'22.2"N 13°49'27.9"E
UTM
33T 409944 5160219
w3w 
///blanks.grandson.wiser
Show on Map
Arrival by train, car, foot or bike

Author’s map recommendations

Kompass Nr. 064 - Villacher Alpe Unterdrautal (M 1:50 000)

Equipment

Outdoor shoes with good profile sole, food and drink, rain protection, etc.

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Status
closed
Difficulty
easy
Distance
6 km
Duration
2:11 h
Ascent
208 m
Descent
203 m
Highest point
695 m
Lowest point
495 m
Public-transport-friendly Circular route Family-friendly Cultural/historical interest Geological highlights Botanical highlights Flora and fauna Suitable for strollers

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