Apollonia Pontica Excavation Project

Period: Archaic Greek, Hellenistic and Early Byzantine
Code: AP.EXC 15
Session 1: 27 June - 11 July 2015
Session 2: 11 - 25 July 2015
Session 3: 27 June - 18 July 2015
Academic credits available: 9
Admission fee starting from: 1189 EUR (app.1329 USD)

The Project and the Course

General Information

Project type: field school (excavations). The variety of activities and team flexibility make this project suitable for either beginners or advanced in Field Archaeology.

Site: Apollonia Pontica - sector of the the ancient city's sacred precinct (temenos) located on St. Kirik Island, Sozopol, Bulgarian Black Sea Coast.   

Venue: Sozopol, Bulgaria

Period(s) of occupation: Archaic and Classical Greek, Hellenistic and Early Byzantine (seventh - third century BC and fifth - seventh century AD)

Collaborating Universities & Institutions: the Balkan Heritage Foundation, Apollonia Pontica excavation team, Archaeological Museum of Sozopol, New Bulgarian University (Bulgaria).

Dig director: Krastina Panayotova, PhD in Archaeology, Associated professor and Head of the Department of Classical Archaeology, National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

Deputy dig director and chief instructorTeodora Bogdanova, Ph.D. Candidate in Archaeology, Department of Classical Archaeology, National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences; Adjunct Professor, CPCE, New Bulgarian University, Bulgaria

Field school coordinator: Nayden Prahov, PhD in Archaeology, Program Director of the Balkan Heritage Foundation and Expert Archaeologist at the National Centre for Underwater Archaeology, Ministry of Culture, Bulgaria.      

Field school session 1: 27 June - 11 July, 2015

Field school session 2: 11 July - 25 July, 2015

Field School Session 3 (Session 1 Extended): 27 June - 18 July, 2015  

Application Deadlines:

For sessions 1, 1+2 and 3: 15 May 2015

For session 2: 1 June 2015   

Minimum length of stay for volunteers: 1 session (two weeks)

Minimum age: 18

Number of field school places available: Maximum 35

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 25-35 C or higher. All participants should bring clothes and cosmetics suitable for hot and sunny weather. Bear in mind that chilly, windy and rainy days are very rare but not uncommon. All participants are expected to prepare for the dig by reading the BHFS handbook (the BHFS e-handbook will be sent by e-mail to all registered students before the beginning of the project) and the recommended readings! Participants will use the tools and equipment available at the site and are not expected to bring any additional equipment.

If you are interested in an even more comprehensive experience with classical antiquity, check our project packs: ANCIENT GREEK PACK and the ANCIENT GREEK AND ROMAN PACK each combining 2 different Balkan Heritage Field School projects!

The Site and the Excavation Project


Ancient Apollonia Pontica (present-day Sozopol, Bulgria) is one of the earliest towns on the Western Black Sea coast. The city, founded by Miletian colonists around 610 BC, was named Apollonia Pontica in honour of the patron deity of Miletus - Apollo. The Ancient authors identify the philosopher named Anaximander as the founder of the city. It became an autonomous and strong democratic polis and important trade center between Ancient Greece and Thrace. Thanks to its strong navy and naturally protected harbors, Apollonia kept control of the major merchant road along the Western Black Sea Coast, called Via Pontica, for several centuries. The city preserved its independence during the campaigns of Phillip II of Macedon (342-339 BC) and Alexander the Great (335 BC) but in 72 BC it was conquered, pillaged and burned by the Roman legions of Marcus Lucullus. The city succeeded in restoring its former glory and was known in the Roman World as Apollonia Magna (Great Apollonia). Following the Christian mainstream tradition, its name was changed to Sozopol, town of salvation, in the 4th century AD. Despite the damage, it survived the period of the Great Migration of People (4-7 century AD) and entered the Middle Ages as a focal point of long-lasting Byzantine-Bulgarian conflicts.

Despite being one of the largest and richest Ancient Greek colonies in the Black sea region, Apollonia Pontica was famous in Antiquity because of the colossal statue of Apollo made by the notorious Greek sculptor Calamis. According to Pliny the Elder (Pliny 34.29) and Strabo (Strabo, 7.319) the 13-meter high bronze sculpture cost 500 talents. It was raised in the fifth century BC in front of the temple dedicated to Apollo Ietros (the Healer) - patron deity of Apollonia Pontica. In 72 BC the Romans under Marcus Lucullus sacked the city and the colossal sculpture was taken to Rome as a trophy. It was exhibited for several centuries on the Capitoline Hill. During the Early Christian period it was lost - probably destroyed as many other pagan artefacts were.

Epigraphic sources mention that the temple of Apollo was situated on an island, identified by most of the scholars with St. Kirik Island - the closest one to the ancient city. However, until recently there was no archaeological evidence suggesting where the temple was situated. During the Balkan Heritage Field School excavations in 2013 a fragment of East Greek pottery with inscription - dedication to Apollo was found, what is an important evidence about the location of the temple. In 2014 the artefact was exhibited in the Louvre along with other precious artefacts representing the Bulgarian archaeological heritage.

The tiny island of St. Kirik is connected with the Old Town Quarter of Sozopol by a short and narrow breakwater (built in 1927). Its name originates from the medieval monastery dedicated to St. Cyricus and his mother St. Julitta that once existed there. The first archaeological survey on the island was conducted in 1904 by the French consul and scholar L. Degrand. The results from the excavations were never published and many artefacts from Archaic and Classical Greek period found there were transported to France and exhibited in the Louvre. For approximately 100 years after that the territory of St. Kirik Island was used as a military zone by the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence. In 2005 the island was demilitarized and in 2009 the Apollonia Pontica Excavation Team lead by Dr. Krastina Panayotova restarted the excavations. The archaeologists and the Balkan heritage students have discovered there:

  • The earliest Greek settlement that existed here prior to the temenos (seventh-sixth century BC);
  • A Late Archaic temple complex: a temple and an altar (late sixth - early fifth century BC) - presumably belonging to the famous temple of Apollo;
  • An oval altar and a temple from the Hellenistic period (fourth century BC);
  • An Ancient Greek tholos;
  • Several Ancient Greek bothroi (pit altars);
  • An Ancient Greek Copper Foundry;
  • Early Byzantine basilica and necropolis (fifth - seventh century AD).

The great discovery convinced the Bulgarian Government to declare the island a cultural heritage site and designate some of the abandoned military buildings to be turned into a Museum of the Maritime Contacts and Civilizations.


The Field School

The Field School Season 2015 envisions excavations at the top of the island, in the area of the Archaic and Classical Greek and Hellenistic temples, Ancient Greek Copper Foundry and the Early Christian basilica and necropolis, where the excavations from 2012 take place. The discoveries from the last seasons were quite exciting and included:

  • Two ritual pits (botroi) from the Archaic period containing: elaborated aribaloi (small pottery containers for perfumes and make up) shaped as: a bullhead, a ram, warrior heads, goddess Artemis; several alabastroi (pottery and alabaster containers for perfumes), bronze phialae, an iron sword, numerous pottery vessels, bones, etc;
  • Several Early Christian (V-th century AD) graves;
  • A Hellenistic ritual fireplace with remains of a clay wreath;
  • Architectural structures from the Archaic Period;
  • Numerous finds, including: several lamps from Archaic and Roman period, numerous pottery shards from Archaic, Hellenistic, Roman and Late Roman period, fragments of marble decorative elements from Archaic and Hellenistic public buildings, coins, bone objects, etc.

Come and help the project team to reveal the secrets of the lost temple of Apollo! Two field school sessions are available every year and each includes the following three modules: 1. fieldwork including excavation, developing of archaeological field documentation by keeping a field journal on a daily basis, filling out context sheets and labels, drawing ground plans and cross-sections, 3D positioning of finds, taking coordinates with a level device, taking photographs at the site, flotation, sifting, etc; 2. lectures, workshops and field instructions in Classical and Field Archaeology, finds' processing and documentation (including pottery cleaning, sorting, drawing, conservation and restoration) and 3. excursions to archaeological and cultural sites (refer to the Course Program and Agenda!).

The participants who join either the three-week session (3) or the two project sessions (1&2) will be able to develop further their skills and competences regarding the archaeological field work and finds' processing gained during the first two-week session, to attend a number of extra lectures and workshops for analyzing, recording and illustration of archaeological artifacts (esp. Ancient Greek pottery) and to join an excursion to the natural megalithic and archaeological site of Begliktash.

Only the participants who join the two project sessions (1&2) will take part in the workshop for conservation and restoration of pottery.

After the field school the participants could join the optional 5-day trip to Istanbul, Turkey.

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 topics and the hours of the fieldschool activities (fieldwork, lectures, workshops, educational trips, ets.).

The Program

55 / 85 / 120 astronomical hours of fieldwork in two / three / four-week sessions;

20 / 25 / 30 astronomical hours of Lectures (L), Workshops (W), and Field Instructions & Training (FIT) in two / three / four-week sessions;

10 / 15 astronomical hours of Guided Tours (GT) in two / three & four-week sessions;

10 / 15 / 20 hours of individual work in two / three & four-week sessions.


Lectures (L), Workshops (W), Guided Tours (GT) and Field Instructions & Training (FIT):

  • History of Apollonia Pontica in Antiquity (seventh century BC - sixth century AD)(L);
  • Technology, Typology and Chronology of Ancient Greek and Hellenistic pottery with examples from Apollonia Pontica (L);
  • The Island Saints Cyricus and Julitta during the Archaic Period (L);
  • Ancient Greek Cemeteries and Funeral Rites with Examples from the Western Black Sea Coast (L);
  • History and Archaeology of Sozopol/ Visiting the Archaeological Museum and the Old Quarter of Sozopol
  • History and Archaeology of Nesebar/ Visiting the Archaeological Museum and the Old Quarter of Nesebar;   
  • Stratigraphy and Chronology (L);
  • Dating Artifacts and Materials (L);
  • Three Dimensional Positioning of Finds, Features and Structures (L);
  • Excavations Preparation. Preliminary Indoor Research (L);
  • Excavation Completion. Post Excavation Work and Analyses. Excavation and Reconnaissance Survey Report (L);
  • Conservation and Restoration of Ancient Greek Pottery (L);
  • Paleobothany (L);   
  • Basic Field Methods and Practices for Excavation and Documentation (FIT);   
  • Use of Tools and Working Techniques (FIT);
  • Introduction to the Field Journal, Contextual Sheets, Log Book and Other Forms (FIT);
  • Field Graphic and Photographic Documentation:

- Scale-drawing of Ground-plan and Cross-section (FIT);

- Field Photography (FIT);

  • Review of Basic Methods for Uncovering, “First Aid”, Consolidation in Situ, Cleaning, Sorting, Labeling, Documenting and Storing of Ceramic Artifacts (FIT);
  • How to Use a Dumpy Level? (FIT);
  • Basic Principles of Finds Processing (W);
  • Archaeological Documentation (Drawing, Graphic Reconstruction, Photographing, Description, etc.) of Ancient Pottery (W);
  • Guided tour of Sozopol. Visit to the Archaeological Museum (GT);
  • Guided tour of Nesebar. Visit to the Archaeological Museum (GT).

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

  • Workshop for sorting and analyzing of artifacts, esp. Ancient Greek pottery (W);
  • Flotation (W);
  • Guided tour to the natural megalithic and archaeological site of Begliktash (GT).

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

  • Conservation of Ancient Pottery (W).


  • NB - expect to perform all types of fieldwork at the site, from digging, sifting, flotation and brushing to mapping and sampling as well as finds processing (finds cleaning and sorting and pottery drawing, photographing, analizing and restoring).

The Agenda


First day

By 7.00 pm - Arrival and check-in. Registration.

8.00 - 9.30 pm - Traditional Bulgarian welcome dinner.

A pick-up may be arranged from Burgas and Varna airports, train or bus stations upon request.

Second day

Presentation of the Balkan Heritage Field School and collaborative universities & institutions, the project and the participants. Ice-breaking. Town sightseeing and orientation walk.

During the second session participants who are attending either session 3 or the two project sessions will follow the agenda concerning regular working days.

Working days

6.30 - 7.10 am - Breakfast

7.10 - 7.30 am - Walk to the excavation site;
7.30 am - 1.00 pm - Fieldwork, including 30 min break*
1.00 - 5.30 pm - Lunch and siesta break
5.30 - 6.30/7.30 pm - Lectures/Workshops /Lab work
8.00 - 9.00 pm - Dinner

* in rare cases of rain, the project envisions finds' processing workshops, lectures and film projections   

Lectures and workshops in the area of Ancient Greek History and Archaeology/Finds processing


BHFS team could organize/assist with organization of various leisure activities for participants during their free time such as visiting beaches and sites, attending cultural events, etc.

Mid-session weekends

Saturday:Visit to the ancient coastal city of Nessebar (UNESCO World Heritage Site).*

Sunday: Day off

* Participants who attend either session 3 or the two project sessions will visit the natural and megalithic site of Begliktash.

Days between session 1 and 2

Days off for participants who join either session 3 or two project sessions.

Optional leisure activities: excursions, sites visiting, boating, sailing, fishing, etc.

Last day

Departure. Check-out by 11.30 am.

A drop-off may be arranged from Sozopol to Burgas and Varna upon request.

Reading Background   


Boardman, J. 1999. The Greeks Overseas. Their Early Colonies and Trade (fourth edition). Thames & Hudson.

Bouzek, J. 2003. Studies of Greek Pottery in the Black Sea Area. Oxford.

Grammenos, D. V., Petropoloulos, E. K. 2003. Ancient Greek Colonies in the Black Sea. Vol. 1. Publications of the Archaeological institute of Northern Greece, Nr. 4.

Grant J., Sam Gorin and Neil Fleming. 2008. The Archaeology Coursebook: an introduction to themes, sites, methods and skills. Routledge.

Renfrew, Colin and Paul Bahn. 2006. Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice. New York.

Sparkes, B. 1991. Greek Pottery. The Introduction. Manchester University Press.

Theodore Pena, J. 2007.Pottery in the Archaeological Record.Cambridge University Press.

Tsetskhladze, Gocha R. 2006, 2008. Greek Colonisation: v. 1, 2: An Account of Greek Colonies and Other Settlements Overseas. Brill.

Travel, Accommodation & Practicalities   



Project venue: the picturesque, small Black Sea coastal town of Sozopol, Bulgaria is a popular summer destination for tourists.  

The Nearest Air Terminals: Burgas airport (45 km), Varna airport (160 km).Don't forget checking the low cost flight options! If participants arrive at one of these airports, a transfer to Sozopol 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 20 to 100 EUR. Ask for details!

How to get there? Bus lines connect Sozopol with Burgas, Sofia (the Bulgarian capital) and Plovdiv.   


Accommodation & Meals

Accommodation: Accommodation is either at Dom Mladenovi guest house or at VMK Military Club, both of which have comfortable rooms with ensuite, with two to three beds, bathrooms with shower and WC, equipped with air-conditioning, refrigerators, TV and Internet. The hotels are located very close to the town beaches, the Old Town Quarter, the Archaeological Museum and within 15 min walking distance from the archaeological site. Wi-Fi is available on the first floor of the hotel. Staying an extra day costs 27 EUR. Single rooms are available upon request for an additional fee of 150 EUR per week.

For those who prefer higher class accommodation, the BHFS would recommend to make reservations with the following hotels in Sozopol: Hotel Casa del Mare and Hotel Fiesta. All participants who organize and pay extra for their own accommodation will receive a discount of 75 EUR (per week) off the admission fee.     

See all accommodation options on our Information page!   


Meals: Three meals (fresh, organic Bulgarian food) per day are covered by the admission fee. They usually take place (except the lunch packages during the excursions) in a local tavern. Requests for vegetarian food are accepted. All participants who prefer to organize and pay extra for their own food will receive a discount of 75 EUR (per week) off the admission fee. 

Participants must pay on their own for extra days and for single room accommodation as well as for extra meals, beverages, services and products!


Free Time & Trips


Free time: Guided visits of Sozopol and Nessebar (UNESCO World Heritage Site) including their archaeological museums will be organized for all field school participants. Participants in session 3 and the two project sessions (1&2) will visit also the natural megalithic and archaeological site of Begliktash. The above mentioned trips are covered by the admission fee. During the summer Sozopol offers a lot of opportunities for sports and entertainment. Possible leisure activities during the siesta and days off in and around Sozopol are: swimming, sunbathing, beach sports including surfing, visiting local beaches and tourist (natural and heritage) sites, scuba diving, fishing, sailing & boating, attending cultural events, seeing movies in an outdoor cinema or just shopping.  

Extra trips and excursions: The BHFS participants could take advantage of their stay in the Balkans and take trips to worth seeing historical sites and towns in the region.    

Please follow the links above for excursion details and information on how to join!   


Technicalities & Practicalities

Insurance: The admission fee does not cover insurance. It is necessary to arrange your own insurance before your trip to Bulgaria. All EU citizens can use Bulgarian medical services, just like Bulgarian citizens, as long as they can provide evidence of their home-country health insurance with a card/certificate, etc.

Weather: A southern European (subtropical) climate dominates in the region, making summers hot (30-40 C) but breezy. Rainy and chilly days in this season are rare but not excluded.

What to bring?

  • Work shoes (preferably closed shoes like sneakers or running shoes) as well as comfortable shoes for walking and hiking! Take clothing suitable for outdoor activities (consider weather conditions from hot and sunny to rainy and chilly). Light clothes (with long sleeves and legs protecting from the sun) and sun-hats for the sunny days as well as raincoats for probable rainy and windy days are recommended.
  • Medication - It is not necessary to bring over-the-counter medicine from your country since you can buy all common types in Bulgaria (e.g. aspirin and anti-insecticides (esp. anti-mosquito), sunscreen/tanning lotion, etc). It is recommended that you bring your individual prescription medicines if any.   
  • Don’t forget to bring a converter to EU type electricity wall-plug if needed.
  • A good attitude for work, fun, study and discoveries ;)

The Admission Fee   


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.   

The price in USD is for orientation. Please check current exchange rates!        


Super Early Bird Special - by November 30, 2014:

Super Early Bird Admission fee for either session 1 or session 2 is 1189 EUR* / app.1329 USDSAVE 210 EUR / 240 USD 

Super Early Bird Admission fee for session 3 is 1784 EUR* / app. 1999 USD -  SAVE 315 EUR / 360 USD 

Super Early Bird Admission fee for two project sessions (1 & 2) is 2378 EUR*/ app. 2669 USD  - SAVE 280 EUR / 320 USD    


Early Bird Special - from December 1, 2014 until January 31, 2015:

Early Bird Admission fee for one project session is 1259 EUR* / app.1419 USD - SAVE 140 EUR / 160 USD 

Early Bird Admission fee for session 3 is 1889 EUR* / app. 2119 USD - SAVE 200 EUR / 230 USD 

Early Bird Admission fee for for two project sessions is 2518 EUR* / app. 2829 USD -  SAVE 140 EUR / 160 USD 


Regular admission fee - after January 31, 2015:

The regular admission fee for either session 1 or session 2 is 1399 EUR* (app.1569 USD)

The regular admission fee for session 3 is 2099 EUR* (app. 2359 USD). 

The regular admission fee for two project sessions (1 & 2) is 2658 EUR* (app. 2989 USD). (Includes 5% discount for participation in 2 sessions). 



* All participants who are willing to organize either their food or accommodation or both separately, outside the project package, will receive a discount of 75 EUR per weeks (for each) and 150 EUR per week (for both) off the regular admission fee! For instance, if Your admission fee for two-week session is 1259 EUR (the Early bird) and you prefer to organize and pay extra for your food and accommodation oustide the project package, your admission fee will be reduced to 959 EUR (1240 USD).

Admission Fee Transfer Options:

- Bank transfer
- On-line transfers via the Balkan Heritage virtual POS Terminal VISA, MASTERCARD & MAESTRO cards are accepted.

For further information contact Admissions Office at bhfs.admissions@gmail.com!

Discounts off the regular admission fee:


* 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.


Note, 5% of every admission fee for this project directly supports the Balkan Heritage Protection Fund's activities!


For more information about scholarships, low-cost flights, hotels, etc. please feel free to contact us or look at our recommended links

Academic Credits   


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 Regulations for obtaining Transcripts of Records!

Tuition fee: starting from 282 EUR for six ECTS credits / 423 EUR for nine ECTS credits




Apollonia Pontica Excavation Project

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