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Intangible cultural heritage

Traditions, knowledge, craftsmanship techniques  
Photo: © UNESCO/James Muriuki

The Knowledge of Artisanal Millers
Traditional craftsmanship in Burgenland, Carinthia, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Vorarlberg, inscribed 2021

The knowledge of artisanal millers includes a great deal of practice and experience, experimentation, and technical knowledge about the processing of various grains into flour, coarse grit, wholegrain products, and oils. Working with traditional milling machines to produce milled products, such as milling with millstones, is now confined to just a few artisanal mills.

The historic roots of the miller’s trade extend all the way back to antiquity. Even as early as in the Neolithic Age, stone tools were used to make flour from grain prior to every meal. Despite consistently adapting to up-to-date technologies and the corresponding methodologies concerning grain processing over the centuries, it is still artisanal millers who safeguard and pass on the largely lost knowledge and forgotten customs. Amongst other things, this knowledge comprises working with traditional milling machines (milling with millstones, tapping of millstones), the composition of various grains and the method in which they are processed, as well as dealing with local processing chains.

Artisanal mills process up to eight different types of grains; as such, different kinds of flour, semolina, and grain products are produced. Knowledge is primarily passed on to the next generation within a family unit or at artisanal mills and is only partially transmitted within vocational training which is otherwise mostly focussed on industrial enterprise.

The social and cultural significance of artisanal millers is especially reflected at the local level. Thanks to the small volumes that they process and the broader spectrum of processed grains, these artisanal millers contribute to the preservation of biodiversity. In close collaboration with farmers, commission grinding is still carried out by artisanal millers, whereby the grains are exchanged for flour.

Between 1994 and 2016, the number of working artisanal mills in Austria decreased from 278 to just 99 active mills. Formal and informal transmission to the next generation, prioritisation of regionality, public mill tours, baking and cooking classes, and further local and national initiatives contribute to keeping this knowledge alive. 



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