Hard – village life and rule in the Middle Ages

Historical sites


Hard is the only deserted medieval town or village in Austria that has been completely excavated. As a result, the finds give us a detailed picture of life in the Middle Ages.

Between 1977 and 1999, the deserted village of Hard bei Thaya was investigated by archaeological excavations led by Fritz Felgenhauer and his wife Sabine Felgenhauer-Schmiedt. One of the most important findings of the dig was that the medieval settlement of Hard developed in two stages.

The older settlement
Hard was first mentioned in Prima Fundacio, a tithe register from the late 13th century. The older Hard (Kleinhard) of the 12th and 13th centuries was a stone house measuring 24 x 8 m that consisted of one room and a tower with several storeys. It was probably built by a follower of the nobleman von Raabs. Those who used the room included a blacksmith. Pollen analysis provided evidence of forest clearings used for arable and livestock farming.

The newer settlement
When the stone house was abandoned around 1240, a ‘cul-de-sac village’ (a kind of circular village) developed about 100 metres to the south. The ten houses stood in two rows facing each other on their gable ends. At the south end was a village square with a well, adjoined by a manor house. The farmhouses were wooden structures built on drystone foundations. They had two rooms, were used for living and storage, and consisted of three parts with a central entrance area or an attached stable. A ground-level hearth or cupola oven was used for heating and cooking. Archaeological finds suggest that a farrier or blacksmith worked in one of the houses.

The manor house, which had its own well, was surrounded by a shallow ditch and built on three sides. The ground-level floors were mainly used for business purposes, the upper floors as living space. In terms of their social standing, the inhabitants were somewhere between farmers and the lower nobility. This is also shown by the finds, which indicate a sophisticated style of living, writing and leisure activities. It is unclear whether the inhabitants were subjects of the Babenbergs, Hirschbergs or the counts of Plain-Hardegg. The village was abandoned by its inhabitants during the 14th century. Other neighbouring villages were also abandoned, probably to create larger forest areas that were more economically viable.

Location and how to get there

  • Contact

    Hard – dörfliches Leben und Herrschaft im Mittelalter

    3842 Thaya

    Phone: +43 2842 52663

    E-Mail: gemeinde@thaya.gv.at

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