The Austrian Denkmalschutzgesetz (heritage protection law) aims to give total protection to all archaeological heritage. To achieve this, it takes a ‘finds-centred’ approach: chance finds are protected by some provisions in the law, searching for archaeology is restricted severely, and exclusively to archaeology graduates, by others. Yet, what has been completely forgotten is that most archaeology, and particularly the most threatened archaeology, is the one that has neither been found yet nor is being searched for. The reasons for why this approach was taken are both historical and rooted in archaeological prejudices and self-interest. The law was first passed in 1923 and has since only been revised in ways that served to give archaeologists greater legal control (or in other words, ownership) over what is archaeology and what should happen to it. Yet, significant changes to the way farming, forestry and development works in the contemporary world were completely missed, and no serious attempts made to identify where archaeology might be actually threatened. In this paper, I examine how the Austrian archaeological heritage hell came to be and what lessons can be learnt from it.