At the end of June 2019, Christian Jirkal made an extraordinary find during a forest hike – a throwing axe from the Early Middle Ages, i.e. a medieval weapon from the time period between 800 and 1000. After seeking the expertise of Mr. Seiwald, he decided to donate the valuable piece originating from the area to the Leogang Mining and Gothic Museum.
Christian, first of all, briefly tell our readers about who you are and how you came to Leogang.
I was born in 1973 in St. Martin bei Lofer. After running an inn in Maria Alm, we decided to open our travel agency “Flugfieber” in Leogang in 2012.
Was there a particular trigger for your interest in the history of your home and your desire to discover historical sites?
There are several reasons for this curiosity. On the one hand, I practically spent my entire childhood at the Lamprecht’s cave through my grandmother Marianne Schreder. She was the first female cave guide in Austria and operated the cave for many years. Later, we ran the Schmidt-Zabierow mountain hut in the Lofer Mountains and then the Peter-Wiechenthaler mountain hut in Saalfelden. All of this increased my interest in extraordinary places and the history of the region. Family history research also plays a major role for me, as I have been told before that my family is an oddly assorted mix of nations.
Now on to your sensational discovery – please tell us in a few sentences how and where you found this axe.
It was one of those hot summer days when I went on a cooling hike through the bed of the Weißbach stream with my partner. At the edge of the shore I suddenly saw the tip of a metal piece sticking out of the sand. After pulling it out, I immediately saw that it was an axe.
The Weißbach stream marks the border between Saalfelden and Leogang – on which side of the stream did the axe stick out?
Quite honestly, I must admit that the tip of the iron piece protruded from the left side of the stream – the side that belongs to Saalfelden.
Why exactly did you turn to the Leogang Mining and Gothic Museum with your discovery?
The unusual shape of the axe made me suspicious, so I turned to Martin Seiwald because of our good contacts to the Leogang Mining and Gothic Museum. In the blink of an eye, he confirmed to me that it was a throwing axe from the Middle Ages.
According to the expertise of Martin Seiwald (exhibition designer, restorer, and expert on medieval weapons), it was certain that this throwing axe was from the Early Middle Ages. How could this be determined? Which signs point to this decision?
On the one hand, it is the round shape of the head as well as the very narrow eye to fit the haft. I couldn’t imagine that you could work with it. On the other hand, Martin confirmed to me that this is a weapon that was created in the region in the Early Middle Ages – pieces created at a later time were made much more precisely. I never thought that this thing that I found could be that old. What fascinates me is that it has been in the ground for so long and is still in such a good shape.
We are grateful that you trust us and give us this axe as a gift to the Leogang Mining Museum Association – we whole-heartedly thank you for that.
Christian Jirkal is the deputy managing director of flugfieber.com-Reisen, amateur archaeologist from Leogang and supporter of the Leogang Mining Museum Association.