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Bündner Kupfer

Come with us on a journey through time.

The project in a nutshell

Since 2013, the Prehistoric Archaeology Division (UZH) has been researching prehistoric copper mining in the Surses (Oberhalbstein, Grisons) in cooperation with the Archaeological Service of the Canton of Grisons (ADG). The focus of this SNF project (Nr. 100011E-153668) is the investigation of the primary metallurgical chain - i.e. the processes of extraction and processing - of copper "from ore to metal".

Meanwhile, the project is in a second phase, in which the so-called "human impact" of prehistoric mining on the local environment is being investigated. Such as its impact on the tree population or the environmental pollution in the moors. The cooperation of the numerous citizens, who are organized through museums, associations, or privately, is an integral part of this archaeological project.

Cooperations with associations

For the research and the presentation of the research findings on-site, close cooperation with local experts, lay researchers, and volunteers are indispensable:

Numerous potential sites and finds have been communicated to us by active members of the local associations "Freunde des Bergbaus Graubünden" (FBG) and the "Verein Erzminen Hinterrhein" (VEH). Without this support, nearly 100 local mining and copper smelting sites would never have been found in the short research campaigns of a few weeks per year.

The fact that local amateur researchers also "go underground " themselves has also become known, for example, through the joint expiration of the "Cotschens" mining tunnel, which is always filled by meltwater at an altitude of just under 2400m: cooperation that has been presented in detail through publications by the association in the journal Bergknappen and the researchers (Reitmaier-Neaf et al. 2020).

The project is so well received throughout Switzerland that a general assembly with workshops and excursions was held in 2018 with the supra-regional association Swiss Society for Historical Mining (SGHB). Since then, the association and researchers have regularly published research results in the association's own journal Minaria Helvetica.

Lectures and Public Relations

Repeatedly public lectures were organized in cooperation with Parc Ela in 2014 and 2019 in Bivio and Cunter. With more than 100 participants these lectures met with great interest. Since 2013, the research team has also been regularly represented at the "Felsenfest" festival in Bivio in the Surses to inform locals and tourists about the research.

An exhibition on the history of copper mining is being planned with the local museum of local history in Savognin for the coming years.


The archaeological and scientific data collected is published in a blog and thus made accessible to all. The blog serves as a communication channel for scientists and lay researchers as well as local and national associations.

Weiterführende Informationen


Rouven Turck, Dr.
Department of Archaeology
University of Zurich