As the ruins of Ephesus had already appeared in the journey reports of the 17th – 19th centuries, British Museum in London began archaeological investigations at Ephesus. The architect, John Turtle Wood, lead the excavations of 1863–1874 which served the search for the Artemision: at New Year’s Eve of 1869, Wood came across the marble revetment of the temple at a depth of 7 m. However, because the expected finds were not discovered, excavations were disrupted in 1874, and excavations under David G. Hogarth in the years 1904/05 were the end to the English investigations at Ephesus.
Otto Benndorf, Professor of Classical Archaeology at Vienna University and the first director of the Austrian Archaeological Institute wanted Ephesus to be a research area for Austrian science; his initiative was supported by the Turkish and German sides. The beginning of activities was enabled by the proprietor Karl Mautner Ritter von Markhof’s donation in April 1895. The finds from the first excavations were partly transported to Vienna and today these are exhibited in the Ephesus Museum of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Since 1906 all finds are left at the country of origin, Turkey, and they can be seen at the Ephesus Museum in Selçuk.
Since 1898, the yearly excavation license issued by the host country is used by the Austrian Archaeological Institute with the aim of topographic, historical and architectural research of the city. Disruptions in 1909/10, 1914–1925 and 1936–1953 did occur.
Otto Benndorf and Rudolf Heberdey, the first excavation directors, concentrated their research on the area between the harbour and the agora as well as on the Artemision. Josef Keil, who followed in 1926, initiated the excavations in the great gymnasia, at the Seven Sleepers Cemetery and St. John’s Basilica. Under the direction of Franz Miltner with the new onset of the excavations in 1954 not only vast excavations in the area of the Curetes Street and the Byzantine city were undertaken, but also monuments such as the Hadrian Temple and St. John’s Basilica were partially reconstructed for the first time. Under the direction of Fritz Eichler a new excavation team was formed in 1960, who also initiated long-term projects in the Terrace Houses and Artemision areas. From 1969 onward his successor Hermann Vetters continued the research of the Terrace Houses 1 and 2 consequently; the Celsus Library was reconstructed during his management. During Gerhard Langmann and Stefan Karwiese’s direction research in historical topography was intensified and excavations at the Agora, in the Artemision and Theatre, at the Church of St. Mary and in the area of the Stadium were accomplished. Since 1998 Friedrich Krinzinger is leading the research activities.
Today, in accordance with the modified objectives of archaeological knowledge, the point of interest at excavations is not the vast uncovering of antique ruins, but the systematic research and publication of various eras from the more than thousand-year history of the former metropolis of Asiae. Besides this, conservation and restoration of finds and monuments, and above all the scientific monitoring of monument preservation activities directly at such a touristically developed region as Ephesus is meaningful.
The research budget consists of means from the Austrian Republic, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Foundation for Promoting Scientific Research and contributions from private sponsors. Since 1970 the ‘Society of Friends of Ephesos’ is one of the biggest promoters of the Austrian excavation.