Panagyurishte Gold Treasure (4th - 3rd century BC), found in the vicinity of Pistiros.


SUPER EARLY BIRD SPECIAL available for this project by November 30, 2014 - see details below!

Project type: field school (excavations).  The variety of activities and team flexibility make this project suitable for both Beginners and Advanced in Field Archaeology. 


Site: Emporion Pistiros, between the small towns of Septemvri and Vetren,  Southern Bulgaria.

Period(s) of occupation: Classical, Hellenistic (5th - 2nd century BC)

Project Venue: "Villa Terres" is a newly built tourism SPA complex, located in the southern part of the village Karabunar, 8 km from the motorway exit "Trakia" on the way to Velingrad. During the project work days all participants will be given a lift from the hotel to the site (that is located 14 km away) and back. 

The nearest air terminals: Sofia (Bulgaria, 85 km) and Plovdiv (Bulgaria, 50 km) - don't forget checking the low cost  flight options! If participants arrive at the one of these airports, a transfer to the project venue in Karabunar may be arranged by request (Please, specify this in your application form!). Individual or group transfers' price may vary depending on both distance and number of passengers from 25 to 100 EUR.  Ask for details!

How to get there? The village of Karabunar is located in Thrace, Southern Bulgaria, 9 km from the municipal town of Septemvri. It may be reached by both bus and train from either Sofia (app. 1 1/2 - 2 hours) or Plovdiv (app.1 hour).



Sessions' dates:

Field School Session 1: 26 July - 9 August, 2015

Field School Session 2:  9 - 23 August, 2015

Field School Session 3 (Session 1 Extended): 26 July - 16  August, 2015

Application Deadlines: until the places are filled or latest 1st of July, 2015  

Minimum length of stay for participants: Two weeks

Minimum age: 18 (16, if the participant is accompanied by an adult family member)

Number of field school places available: Maximum 20

Project language: English

Experience required: No

Special requirements: The project is not recommended for individuals with solar allergies or other special illnesses that might be exacerbated during the intensive outdoor activities. The average summer temperatures in the area are 30-38 C or higher, that is why the participants should bring clothes and cosmetics suitable for hot and sunny weather. All participants are expected to get prepared for the dig by reading (at least) the BHFS handbook chapter about archaeological excavation techniques and methods (the BHFS e-handbook will be sent by e-mail to all registered students before the beginning of the project)! Participants will use the tools and equipment available at the site and are not expected to bring any additional equipment.

The site: In 1988 prof. M. Domaradzki (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences) uncovered on the left bank of the Maritsa  River (ancient Hebros) between the towns of  Vetren and Septemvri (in present day Bulgaria)  the ruins of the Ancient Greek trade centre (emporion) once located deep in Thrace, in the Odryssian kingdom (the strongest and mightiest of all Thracian kingdoms existing at the time). Prof. M. Domaradzki started regular excavations there and in 1990 his team found the stone inscription (known as "Vetren inscription") that helped the scholars to identify the site as the Ancient Greek emporion named Pistiros. Merchants from Greek coastal cities of Maroneia, Thassos and Apollonia lived and traded there with their Thracian neighbours under the supreme protection of the Thracian Odryssian kings. The emporion was also a major metallurgical centre and a key harbour for export of metals and metal products from Thrace to Greece in the Classical and Early Hellenistic periods (from the middle of the 5-th to the beginning of the 3-rd  century BC). The trade contacts of the emporion are evident through finds of numerous  imports such as Attic red-figured and black-glazed pottery, amphorae (mainly Thasian) and coins (including several hoards of cooper, silver and gold coins found during the excavations - they represent the coinage of different Odryssean kings (e.g. Amatokos I, Bergaios, Kotys I, Amatokos II, Teres II, Kersebleptes, Teres II), Greek cities (Thasos, Maroneia, Parion, Thracian Chersonese, Kypsela, Enos, Apollonia, Messabria etc.) and Macedonian rulers (Philip II, Alexander the Great, Kassandros, Demetrios Poliokretes, Lysimachos etc.).

Most of the ancient authors and the majority of the modern scholars consider the cult of Dionysos rooting in Thrace. It played a very important role in the emporion's religious life. For instance the Vetren inscription informs about the oath taken in the name of Dionysos by the Odryssian king: Kotys I (383-359 BC) and his successor from the citizens of Pistiros - this how they guaranteed the integrity of their lives, properties and activities in their town under the sovereignty of the Thracian kings.  

Pistiros history in brief:

  • around 500 BC - Date of the earliest artifacts found on the territory of Pistiros.
  • 475 - 450 BC - Date of the the earliest Attic pottery found at the site - the foundation of Pistiros (like the foundation of the most Greek collonies elswhere) was probably preceded by varios pre-colonial economic and political activities. Greek economic and cultural penetration in the interior of Thrace was intesified after the Persian withdrawal from the Balkans following the battles of Marathon (490 BC) and Salamis (480 BC);
  • 450 - 425 BC - Foundation of the emporion by colonists from the Aegean cities of Maronia, Thassos and Apollonia. Major structures and features of fortification and drainage system were constructed along with tracing and paving of the streets; 
  • 370-s BC - Period of significant reconstructions in the emporion during the reign of the Thracian Odryssean king Kotys I;
  • 359 - 357 BC - Citizens of Pistiros re-contract their rights and obligations with the successor of Kotys I;
  • 350/345 BC - The emporion suffered from the invasion of Philip II Macedon in Thrace;
  • 300 BC - Devastation of Pistiros by the Celts;
  • 278 BC - Massive invasion of the Celts in the Balkans: Ultimate devastation of the emporion. Afterwards the settlement lost its trading importance and turned into a metal production centre with local importance.


In the course of time after 1988 the Pistiros Excavation Team lead by representatives of National Archaeological Institute with Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) was joined  by the following institutions:
  • National Museum of History, Sofia, Bulgaria;
  • Regional Museum of History, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria;
  • Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski", Bulgaria;
  • Archaeological Museum "Prof. M. Domaradzki", Septemvri, Bulgaria;
  • The Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic;
  • Liverpool University, Great Britain;
  • The French School at Athens, Greece;
  • The Balkan Heritage Foundation, Bulgaria.

So far archaeologists uncovered the Eastern fortification wall of the emporion (having one gate, several towers, and a bastion - all built of stone blocks analogically to the Thassian fortification system), streets paved by stone plates, solid stone foundations of buildings as well as an efficient drainage system. Despite the long period of study there are still many questions concerning Pistiros to be answered - for instance:

  • what is the dynamic of architectural evolution of the settlement  following the disasters such as devastations, earthquakes, fires and floods;
  • which Ancient cults were practiced in Pistiros;
  • what were the relations and the interactions between the different ethnical groups in Pistiros: Greeks, Thracians, Celts.

The Field School: In 2015 the Ancient Greeks in the Land of Dionysus - Excavation of Emporion Pistiros, Thrace Project envisions further excavation of the following site's areas:

  1. the South-Eastern sector - an area next to the fortification wall with higher concentration of cult artifacts and features: pits, clay escharae (cult altars) etc.  
  2. the Central sector of the site, where remains of the earliest period of the emporion's existence are expected to be found.
  3. the Extramural sector (outside of the fortification wall), where archaeologists aim to collect further data about the settlement structure and history.

The project sessions available in 2015 include the following three modules: 1. fieldwork  including excavation, maintaining a field journal on a daily basis, filling context sheets and labels, drawing an elevation plan / a ground plan/ a cross-section, 3D positioning of finds, taking coordinates with a level device, and taking photographs at the site; 2. lectures, workshops and field trainings in Classical and Field Archaeology, finds' processing and documentation; 3. excursions to various cultural and archaeological sites in the region such as the ancient town of of Plovdiv (Please refer to the Course Program and Agenda below!).

The participants who join either the three-week (3) and four-week (1&2) sessions will be able to  develop further their skills and competences regarding the field work and finds processing, gained during the first two-week session and to attend a number of extra lectures, workshops and an excursion to some of the most remarkable Thracian royal tombs in the Rose valley in and around Kazanlak and Starosel, Bulgaria (Please refer to the Course Program and Agenda below!).

The participants who join the two project sessions (1&2) will be able to  attend a 5-dayworkshop on advanced digital imaging and surveying for archaeological and architectural recording alongside the excavation (it is optional and covered by the admission fee), taught by Canadian professor Dr. George Bevan (Queens University, Canada). Students will continue to excavate in the morning session but will have the option of additional training in Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) and photogrammetry of small finds such as coins or ceramics in the afternoon as well as of larger-scale features in excavated units on site. Further training will be given in the operation of a Total Station and the establishing of a survey control network on site. 

All participants will receive:

  • Project handbook (in PDF version by e-mail and a hard copy on arrival);
  • Balkan Heritage Field School Certificate specifying the fieldwork hours, educational modules, and sites visited.

CREDIT HOURS: New Bulgarian University grants 6 credits to students for participation in one project session (1,2,3) and 9 credits for participation in two sessions (1&2). Transcripts of Records (ToR) are available upon request for an additional tuition fee. For details please read the BHFS Regulations for obtaining ToR!

Collaborating Universities & Institutions: the Balkan Heritage Foundation, Pistiros Excavation Team: National Archaeological Institute with Museum at Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Regional Museum of History, Pazardzhik, "Prof. Mieczyslaw Domaradzki" Archaeological Museum in Septemvri, "Pistiros" Association  and New Bulgarian University (Bulgaria);  University of Liverpool (England); Charles University in Prague (Czech Republic) and Queen's University, Department of Classics, Canada.



Dig Director/s: 

Ass. Prof. Alexey Gotsev, PhD in Archaeology, Department of Thracian Archaeology, National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences; Director of Pistiros Excavation Team.

Ass. Prof. Zofia H. Archibald, PhD in Archaeology; University of Liverpool - Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology Department, Great Britain; Dig Director of the British Excavation Team at the emporion Pistiros.

Visiting Professor: Dr. George A. Bevan (Ass. Prof., Department of Classics, Queen's University, Canada);

Project Coordinator: Angela Pencheva, Balkan Heritage Program Manager; PhD student in Classical Archaeology at Humboldt University-Berlin, Germany.

    Instructors, Trainers and Area Supervisors:
    • Gavrail Lazov (PhD in Archaeology), Archaeologist and Museologist; Director of Department Archaeology in the National Museum of History, Sofia, Bulgaria, Visiting professor at the National Academy of Arts, Sofia, Bulgaria;
    • Valentina Taneva (MA in Archaeology), Archaeologist and  Numismatis; Director of "Prof. Mieczyslaw Domaradzki" Archaeological Museum in Septemvri;
    • Lidia Domaradzka (PhD in Classical Philology), Visiting professor at Sofia University "Kliment Ohridski" and National School for Ancient Languages and Cultures "Constantine-Cyril Philosopher", Sofia, Bulgaria; President of the "Pistiros" Association;
    • Viara Petrova, Curator at the Archaeological Museum "Prof. M. Domaradski", Septemvri, Bulgaria; PhD Student in Archaeology at Sofia University "Kliment Ohridski", Bulgaria; 
    • Matthew Schueller - Balkan Heritage Affiliated Archaeologist; PhD Student in Classical Archaeology at UNC Chapel Hill, USA;  
    • Ewa Domaradzka - (MA in Archaeology), Balkan Heritage Affiliated Archaeologist.
    • Emilia Ivanova (MA in Art Conservation), Conservator of Coins and Metal Artifacts, National Military History Museum, Sofia, Bulgaria; Visiting professor at at the National Academy of Arts, Sofia, Bulgaria.


    Lectures (L), Workshops (W), Guided Tours (GT) and Field Instructions & Trainings (FIT):
    • Introduction to the History of Ancient Thrace in the first millenium BC (L);
    • Emporion Pistiros: History and Archaeology (L);
    • Epigraphic Monuments and Artifacts from in Pistiros (L);
    • Ancient Pottery Forms (Ancient Greek and Thracian) found in Pistiros (L);
    • Ancient Trade in Pistiros according to the Data about Circulation of Coins and Goods (L).
    • Basic Field Methods and Practices for Excavation and Documentation (FIT);
    • Introduction to the Field Journal; Contextual Sheets, Log Book and Other Forms (FIT);
    • Use of Tools and Working Techniques (FIT);
    • Three Dimensional Positioning of Finds, Features and Structures (L);
    • How to Use a Dumpy Level? (FIT);
    • Stratigraphy: Horizontal and Vertical and Chronology (L);
    • Field Graphic and Photographic Documentation:
      • Scale-drawing of: Ground-plan/Elevetion-plan/Cross-section  (FIT);
      • Photography for Archaeologists (FIT);
    • Excavations Preparation. Preliminary Indoor Research (L);
    • Field Reconnaissance Survey. Geophysical (Electrical and Magnetic) Methods in Archaeological Reconnaissance Survey (L);
    • Excavation Completion. Post Excavation Work and Analyses (L); 
    • From the Field to the Storage: Review of Basic Methods for Uncovering, "First Aid", Consolidation in Situ, Cleaning, Sorting, Labeling, Documenting and Storing Ceramic Artifacts (L);
    • Basic Principles of Finds Processing (W);
    • Artefact Recording and Illustration in Archaeology: Pottery shards (W);
    • History of Plovdiv (GT).

    Only for students in the three-week session (3) and the two project sessions (1&2):

    • Burial Customs and Sepulchral Architecture in Thrace (5th -  3rd century BC) (L);
    • Urbanization of Ancient Thrace (L);
    • Standards in Archaeological Reports and Publications (L);
    • Artefact Recording and Illustration in Archaeology: Entire Ceramic Vessels (W);
    • Thracian royal tombs in the Rose valley in and around Kazanlak (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Starosel (GT).

    Only for students in the two project sessions (1&2)

    • Practical total station operation (L, FIT);
    • Technical photography (L);
    • Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) capture and processing (L, FIT);
    • Photogrammetry capture and processing (L, FIT).


    First day

    Arrival and check-in at Villa Teres in Karabunar by 7.00 pm

    8.00 pm - 9.30 pm - Traditional Bulgarian welcome dinner.

    A pick-up may be arranged either from the  Sofia or Plovdiv airports upon request.

    Second day

    Morning: Presentation of the Balkan Heritage Field School and colaborative universities & institutions, the project and the participants. Ice-breaking.

    Afternoon: Orientation walk around the village of Varvara and the site of Pistiros. Lectures.

    Day-off during the second project session for participants, who join either session 3 or two project sessions.

    Working days

    6.30 am - 7.00 am - Breakfast

    7.00 am - 7.20 am - Travel to the site

    7.30 am - 10.00 am - Fieldwork*

    10.00 am-10.15 am - Break

    10.15 am - 12.30 pm - Fieldwork*

    12.30 pm - 1.30 pm - Finds processing

    1.30 pm - 5.00 pm - Lunch and Siesta break

    5.00 pm - 6.30 pm - Lectures/Workshops/Finds processing **

    8.00 pm - 9.00 pm - Dinner

    *In rare cases of rain, the project envisions substitute activities including finds processing workshops and film projections at the guest house.

    **Lectures and workshops in the area of Classical and Field Archaeology, focused on Ancient Greek and Thracian culture in Pistiros and advanced digital imaging and surveying for archaeological and architectural recording.




    Saturdays: Visit to the ancient town of Plovdiv

    Sundays:  Day off.

    Optional excursions to North-western Thrace (Bulgaria):

    • Koprivshtitsa (a historical town and architectural reservation keeping the traditional look of Bulgarian towns in the 18th and 19th century);
    • Recently discovered Thracian sites (castles and shrines) in Sredna Gora Mountains.
    • Panagyurishte (including the History Museum with the famous golden treasure of Panagyurishte)



    session 1 and session 2

     1-day excursion to the Thracian royal tombs in the Rose valley in and around Kazanlak (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Starosel for participants, who join either session 3 or two project sessions.

    Last day

    Departure day.Check-out by 11.00 am.

    A drop-off may be arranged from Varvara to the airports  in Sofia and Plovdiv upon request.

    Thracian royal tomb in Starosel, Bulgaria

    Thracian royal tomb in Kazanlak, Bulgaria (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

    Plovdiv Old Town Quarter, Bulgaria

    The Roman Theater, Plovdiv, Bulgaria



    Accommodation and Food: in cosy hotel rooms with two beds and suits with three beds (bathrooms with shower and WC), equipped with air-conditioning and TV in the newly built "Villa Terres". The hotel swimming pool & SPA facilities  as well as Wi-Fi can be used for free. Cheap laundry service is available. During the project work days all participants will be given a lift from the hotel to the site (that is located 14 km away) and back. Three meals (fresh, organic Bulgarian homemade food) per day are covered by the admission fee. They usually take place (except the lunch packages during the excursions) in the hotel's restaurant. Requests for vegetarian food are accepted. Staying an extra day at the guest house costs 30 EUR. Single rooms in the guest-house are limited but available upon request for the supplement of 240 EUR (for two-week period).

    Free time: Guided visits to the Archaeological Museum, Roman monuments and the Old Town Quarter of Plovdiv will be organized for all field school participants. Participants in session 3 and the two project sessions (1&2) will visit also Thracian royal tombs in the Rose valley in and around Kazanlak (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Starosel. The above mentioned trips are covered by the admission fee. Possible leisure activities during the siesta and days off in and around Karabunar are: swimming in/sunbathing around a pool with mineral water, hiking in the Rhodopi Mountains, wine-tasting at one of many local wineries, visiting local tourist sites, traveling by the narrow gauge train to Velingrad (popular and larger spa and wellness town) or doing shopping and sightseeing in the neighboring cities of Pazardzhik and Plovdiv.

    Extra trips and excursions: The BHFS participants could take advantage of their stay in the Balkans and take part in the optional excursions to worth seeing historical sites and towns in North-western Thrace (Bulgaria) during the  field school. 



    The Admission fee includes:  educational and fieldwork activities, full-board accommodation (hotel + 3 meals per day), tools, materials, Project Handbook, issue of Certificate of Attendance, excursions/sightseeing tours/entrance fees and administrative costs.

    SUPER EARLY BIRD SPECIAL by November 30, 2014 (includes 15% discount off the admission fees)!

    Super Early Bird Admission fee for either session 1 or session 2 is 1147 EUR / app.1479 USD* - SAVE 202 EUR / 260 USD* 

    Super Early Bird Admission fee for session 3 is 1742 EUR / app. 2249 USD* -SAVE 307 EUR / 400 USD*

    Super Early Bird Admission fee for two project sessions (1 & 2) is 2293 EUR / app. 2959 USD* - SAVE 270 EUR / 350 USD*

    EARLY BIRD SPECIAL December 1, 2014 - January 31, 2015 (includes 10% discount off the admission fees)!

    Early Bird Admission fee for one project session is 1214 EUR / app.1539 USD*.   SAVE 135 EUR / 175 USD*

    Early Bird Admission fee for session 3 is 1844 EUR / app. 2249 USD*  - SAVE 205 EUR / 265 USD* 

    Early Bird Admission fee for for two project sessions is 2307 EUR / app.2969 USD*.   SAVE 256 EUR / 330 USD*


    REGULAR Admission Fee after January 31, 2015:

    The regular admission fee for either session 1 or session 2 is 1349 EUR / app.1739 USD*

    The regular admission fee for session 3 is 2049 EUR /app. 2649 USD*. 

    The regular admission fee for two project sessions (1 & 2) is 2563 EUR / app. 3309 USD*. (Includes 5% discount for participation in 2 sessions).

    *(please check current exchange rates!)

    Admission fee transfer options (for further information contact Admissions Office at

    - Bank transfer
    On-line transfers  



    5% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:

    1. Participation in more than 1 BHFS project or project session in 2015. (5% discount is valid for all projects/sessions to be attended).
    2. Membership in the Archaeological Institute of America.

    10% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:

    1. Participation in any BHFS project/s in the past.

    12% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:

    1. Group Participation (three or more people, who participate together in one project session in 2015 (the discount is valid for each participant)

    15% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee is available in case of:

    1. Group Participation (three or more people, who participate together in more than one BHFS project or project session in 2015 (the discount is valid for each participant for all projects/ sessions to be attended).
    2. BHFS alumni, who participate in more than one BHFS project or project session in 2015. (15% discount is valid only for the second, third etc. project/session to be attended).
    3. BHFS alumni, who participated successfully in at least two sessions of this project in the past.


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