Intangible Cultural Heritage in Austria

Charcoal burning

Applicant: Peter Wieser, Vorstandsmitglied im Europäischen Köhlerverein und Sprecher der österreichischen Köhler
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna
Domain: Traditional Craftsmanship
Year of inclusion: 2011

Charcoal burning ("Köhlerei") is a traditional craftsmanship derived from rural life, which primarily serves the manufacturing of wood charcoal. Hermetically sealed wood is heated up by way of dry distillation and carbonised across a period of several weeks, turning it thereby into preferably pure carbon.

This way of charcoal burning used to be very important, as one could reach much higher temperatures with this type of wood charcoal than with wood itself. Over time, the extraction of mineral coal and the lower costs of transport in connection with the coming of the railway have diminished the importance of charcoal burning. Nowadays, only about 15 persons in Austria still understand and practise the tradition of charcoal burning.