This project is included in the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans
Project type: Field school & archaeological excavation. Suitable for both beginner and advanced students as well as those interested in archaeology and history of the eastern Mediterranean and Europe during the Copper and Early Bronze Age periods. Individual program and task assignments are available to advanced students.
Project Started: 2013
Site: Prehistoric tell next to the village of Yunatsite, Southern Bulgaria.
Period(s) of occupation: Copper Age (or Chalcolithic, 4900-4100 BCE), Early Bronze Age (3100-2200 BCE), Iron Age (800-600 BCE), Antiquity (200s-500s CE) and Middle Ages (1200s-1500s CE).
Project venue: "Villa Terres" is a newly built countryside spa hotel and winery (with an outdoor swimming pool). It is located in the village of Karabunar, 84 km/52 mi away from the Bulgarian capital Sofia and just 8 km/5 mi away from "Trakia" motorway exit to Velingrad.
Major field school topics/activities: Archaeological Field Techniques and Methods for Excavation and Documentation (with regard to the specifics of the tell's excavation); Europe's First Civilization in the Copper Age; Warfare in Prehistory; 3D Intra-site Modelling and Documentation/GIS Spatial Analysis in Archaeology; Documentation of Prehistoric (Copper and Bronze Age) Weapons, Tools and Shards; Processing of Finds and Samples; Excursions to Significant Heritage Sites in Thrace, Bulgaria.
Project partners: Balkan Heritage Foundation (BHF), Bulgaria; Institute for Field Research (IFR), USA; Tell Yunatsite Excavation Team from the National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences; Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History; New Bulgarian University (Bulgaria).
Dig co-director and field school coordinator: Asst. Prof. Kamen Boyadzhiev (PhD in Archaeology), Department of Prehistoric Archaeology, National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
Dig co-director: Ass. Prof. Yavor Boyadzhiev (PhD in Archaeology), National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
Field school sessions available:
Application deadline: Until the places are filled, or latest 1 June, 2016
Minimum length of stay: 1 session (two weeks)
Minimum age: 18 (16, if the participant is accompanied by an adult family member)
Number of field school places available: Maximum 17
Project language: English
Academic credits available: Students who study in Europe can receive up to 12 ECTS credits through the New Bulgarian University, Bulgaria. Students who study outside Europe can obtain 12 semester credit units (equivalent to 18 quarter units) through IFR’s academic partner: the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Extension. See more details below!
Experience required: No
Special requirements: Participation in 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. Participants should bring clothes and cosmetics suitable for hot and sunny weather but should consider also possible rainy, windy and chilly days. They are expected to prepare for the dig by reading at least the BHFS handbook that will be sent by e-mail 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.
If you are interested in an even more comprehensive experience with Old World Prehistory, please see also the PREHISTORIC PACK (combining 2 to 3 different Balkan Heritage Field School projects)!
In the 7th millennium BCE the Balkan Peninsula was a gate through which farming, animal husbandry and generally Neolithisation spread to Europe from Anatolia and the Near East. Approximately 1000 years later in the very beginning of the 5th millennium BCE, the prehistoric population in the Central and Eastern Balkans turned known metal-processing technologies into an industry for the first time in human history (the world's most ancient copper mines are found near Mechi kladenets/Aybunar near Stara Zagora, Bulgaria and Rudna glava, Serbia). Archaeological evidence shows that in the fifth millennium BCE these prehistoric cultures enjoyed a constant increase in population and wealth, while simultaneously experiencing social stratification due to the intensive trading of metal products, salt, flint, Spondylus shells and other goods with the rest of prehistoric Europe and Asia. These Balkan Copper Age cultures had all characteristics of the first civilizations including: the very first urban settlements in Europe like Tell Yunatsite, Tell Durankulak and Tell Provadia in Bulgaria; a dense network of settlements; the production of "industrial" quantities of goods, esp. metal products and salt; developed trade; social and professional stratification; pictograms and characters interpreted by some scholars as the world's oldest script (the "Gradeshnitsa tablet", for instance, dates back to the fifth millennium BCE); as well as precious artifacts made of gold, clay, bone and stone (the world's oldest gold treasure found in the Varna Copper Age necropolis). This very first civilization in Europe was Pre-Indo-European and emerged in less than a millennium, spreading across large parts of the Balkans, northwest Anatolia and Eastern Europe. It collapsed around the end of the fifth millennium under the pressure of both drastic climatic changes and invasion by early Indo-Europeans. Along with the economic advance of the Copper Age societies, evidence of war and developed warfare are more frequent than before. New weapons and strong fortifications did not protect the inhabitants of the Copper Age Balkans - the end of their civilization at the end of the fifth millennium BCE is connected with dramatic, armed conflicts. This is clearly illustrated by the evidence of cruel massacres and devastation of the latest Copper Age building level at Tell Yunatsite.
The study of this very first complex society in Europe was accelerated 40 years ago with the excavation of the Varna Copper Age necropolis. Nowadays scholars from all over the world are still discovering new facts and adding new data about the "lost" first civilization in Europe.
Tell Yunatsite is located near the modern village of Yunatsite in southern Bulgaria. It is among the biggest tells in Europe with a diameter of approximately 110 m/360 ft and a height of 12 m/39 ft above the modern surface. Tell Yunatsite was first excavated in 1939 by the Bulgarian archaeologist Vasil Mikov. Since 1976, regular excavations have been carried out on an annual basis. Since that time, research at Tell Yunatsite has grown into an important research program under the National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. At times, Greek and Soviet archaeologists joined the Bulgarian researchers at the site and today this is an international research effort directed by Bulgarian scholars and supported by the Balkan Heritage Foundation, Bulgaria and the Institute for Field Research, USA.
To date, approximately one third of the tell has been excavated. This work has yielded rich collections of archaeological materials, and the sterile soil has not yet been reached. There is a medieval cemetery (1200s-1500s CE) century at the top of the tell, followed in depth by Roman and early Byzantine periods (200s-500s CE) level, two Iron Age levels (800-600 BCE), a thick layer dated to the Early Bronze Age (EBA) (3100-2200 BCE), a hiatus (4100-3100 BCE) and finally a thick Copper Age (Chalcolithic) layer. It is unknown if the cultural history of the tell begins in the Chalcolithic period or whether older human occupation layers exist.
Recent excavations at Tell Yunatsite indicate that the Chalcolithic period settlement covered an area far larger than the tell itself and consisted of an uptown (acropolis?) and a downtown district (having a diameter of 400 m and surface of app. 100,000 sq.m). The earliest artifacts date to 4900 cal. BCE and mark either the establishment or extension of the prehistoric settlement. The uptown section was surrounded by a 5 m wide clay wall and a broad and deep ditch. Buildings located at this part of the settlement were placed closed to each other, creating an almost unbroken urban fabric. Three remarkable discoveries highlight the excavation of the Copper Age uptown area in recent years: 1. a wooden platform, probably the floor of a burnt edifice that collapsed vertically (along with numerous artifacts) onto the walls of a huge pit beneath (maybe tower or gate-tower); 2. a human skeleton with the earliest evidence of amputation in Southeastern Europe and 3. a perfectly-preserved unburnt wooden floor (on which the floor patterns are preserved).
The Chalcolithic settlement experienced a violent event at ca. 4200-4100 BCE. Evidence suggests deliberate destruction by outsiders. Many skeletons of children, elderly men, and women were found scattered on floors, suggesting a massive massacre. Those who survived returned and resettled at the tell, but soon even they left. At that point, Tell Yunatsite and the area around it were abandoned for more than 1000 years. During this time, a 0.45 m thick sterile layer accumulated over the last Chalcolithic layer.
Archaeological Context: The Copper Age (Chalcolithic) period in Tell Yunatsite corresponds chronologically (4900 - 4100 BCE) with other European and Near Eastern sites and cultures such as: Varna, Kodzhadermen-Gumelnita-Karanovo VI (Eastern Balkans), Vinca and Krivodol-Salcuta-Bubanj hum (Central and Northern Balkans), Dimini (Southern Balkans), Early Cucuteni-Trypillian culture (Eastern Europe), Ubaid period (Mesopotamia).
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This field school provides a unique glimpse into the transition between the Copper and the Bronze Ages in European and Mediterranean prehistory and is an amazing opportunity for all participants:
Since 2013 the BHFS project has been taking place at the lowest excavated level of Tell Yunatsite, which corresponds to the time of Europe’s first prehistoric civilization in the fifth millennium BCE. The Field School assists archaeologists in the study of the Copper Age fortification and the inner parts of the uptown area seeking answers to the following questions: why and how did one of the earliest proto-urban centers in Europe emerge in the beginning of the fifth millennium BCE; and what are the reasons for their devastation 800 years later? In 2016 students and archaeologists will continue excavating various Copper Age structures in the three earliest tell building levels excavated so far, including the foundations of dwellings, the collapsed roofs and walls, the amazingly well-preserved wooden flooring and several ovens.
Three field school sessions (2 two-week sessions and 1 four-week session) are available every year. Each two-week session includes the following modules: 1. fieldwork including excavation of the Chalcolithic layers and structures, which includes practicing basic excavation techniques as well as screening, sifting and flotation; the development of archaeological field documentation by 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 dumpy level, as well as taking photographs at the site; 2. lectures/instructions on prehistoric and field archaeology and warfare in prehistory; 3. workshops for finds' and samples processing and documentation; 4. two of the excursions mentioned above (see the excursion schedule in the Field school agenda). The four-week field school session is a logical upgrade of a two-week project session. The participants who join the four-week project session will be able to develop even more skills and competences regarding field work and finds and samples’ processing, and to attend a number of additional lectures, workshops on 3D intra-site modelling and documentation/GIS spatial analysis in archaeology as well as documentation of prehistoric (Copper and Bronze Age) weapons and all the excursions mentioned above, in addition to a wine-tasting tour to the Bessa Valley Winery. An Optional tour of the Bulgarian capital Sofia is available to all students on 10 July, 2016 for an additional fee. Students participating in the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans can visit Sofia for free. The field school is followed-up by an optional tour of Istanbul, Turkey on 24-28 July, 2016.
Students who are required to prepare field reports and presentations for their universities can receive additional instruction and assistance.
All participants will receive:
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The two-week field school sessions provide a minimum of 90 hours of fieldwork, workshops/lab work, lectures/instructions and guided tours as follows:
The four-week field school session provides a minimum of 180 hours of fieldwork, workshops/lab work, lectures/instructions and guided tours. The four-week session incorporates all of the activities of the two-week sessions in addition to the following:
After the field school the participants could join the optional tour of Istanbul (Turkey) after the field school for an additional fee.
Arrival and check-in at Villa Terres, in Karabunar, Pazardzhik district, Bulgaria by 7.30 pm
8.00 pm - 9.30 pm - Traditional Bulgarian welcome dinner.
A pick-up may be arranged either from the Sofia or Plovdiv airport upon request.
Meeting time/point on arrival date: 8.00 pm, Villa Terres Restaurant, Karabunar
Morning: Presentation of the Balkan Heritage Field School, the program partners and the participants. Ice-breaking and orientation.
6.15 - 6.30 am - Travel to the site
6.30 am - 8.30 am - Fieldwork*
8.30 - 9.00 am - Breakfast at the site
9.00 - 11.00 am - Fieldwork*
11.00 - 11.15 am - Break
11.15 am - 1.00 pm - Fieldwork*
1.00 - 1.15 pm - Travel to the hotel
1.15 - 2.15 pm - Lunch
2.15 - 4.45 pm - Siesta break **
4.45 - 5.00 pm - Travel to the site
5.00 - 8.00 pm - Lectures/Workshops/Finds' processing at the site
8.00 - 8.15 pm- Travel to the hotel
8.15 - 9.15 pm - Dinner
* In case of rain, the field school program envisions substitute activities including finds' processing workshops and film projections at the hotel.
** Siesta break will be shorter on the fourth field school day due the excursion to Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History.
29 June/ 13 July, 2016: Tour of the Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History, Bulgaria. The excursion is covered by the admission fee.
2 July, 2016: Plovdiv (the ancient city of Philippopolis) – European capital of Culture 2019. Guided tour of the Archaeological Museum, Roman monuments, and the Old Town Quarter. The excursion is covered by the admission fee.
10 July, 2016: Sofia. Guided tour of Bulgarian capital including the National Archaeological Museum, the Cathedral, the 4th century rotunda of St. George, and the 6th century church of St. Sofia. Students participating in the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans can visit the Bulgarian capital Sofia for free. Others are expected to pay extra for the trip.
16 July, 2016: Stara Zagora (the ancient city of Augusta Traiana). Guided tour of the Regional Museum of History, Roman monuments, and the Museum of Europe's best-preserved Neolithic (5600 BCE) dwellings. The excursion is covered by the admission fee.
Participants who attend the four-week session will be able to attend all the tours.
3 July, 2016
10 - 11 July, 2016 - for participants in the four-week session.
17 July, 2016
Villa Terres provides spa center with sauna, steam bath and swimming pool for free to all field school participants as well as ATVs and bikes to hire. The BHFS team can assist with the organization of additional leisure activities for participants upon request such as hiking, wine-tasting outside the Villa, movies and fishing etc.
Departure. Check-out by 12.00 pm
A drop-off may be arranged to the airports in Sofia and Plovdiv upon request.
Aslanis, I. Settlement Patterns in the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age: the Case of the Prehistoric Settlement of Yunatsite, Bulgaria. – In: Neolithic and Copper Age between the Carpathians and the Aegean Sea. S. Hansen, P. Raczky, A. Anders, A. Reingruber (eds.). DAI, 2015, 395-402 (Archäologie in Eurasien, 31).
Aslanis I., Y. Boyadziev. Fleißdeponierung in der chalkolithischen Siedlung von Yunatsite – Іn: Prehistoric Thrace. Proceedings of the International Symposium in Stara Zagora, Sofia – Stara Zagora 2004, 370-378.
Balabina, V., T. Mishina. Considering the Destruction of the Latest Eneolithic Village at Tell Yunatsite – In: Boyadzhiev, Y., S. Terzijska-Ignatova (eds.) -The Golden Fifth Millennium. Thrace and Its Neighbour Areas in the Chalcolithic, Sofia 2011, 39-47.
Boyadzhiev K. Development and Distribution of Close Combat Weapons in Bulgarian Chalcolithic - Studia Preahistorica 14, Sofia 2011, 265 – 281.
Boyadzhiev Y., I. Aslanis, S. Terzijska-Ignatova, V. Mazanova. Yunatsite: Ein Bulgarisch–Griechisches Grabungsprojekt. Die Jahre 2002–2008 - In: Boyadzhiev, Y., S. Terzijska-Ignatova (eds.) -The Golden Fifth Millennium. Thrace and Its Neighbour Areas in the Chalcolithic, Sofia 2011, 21-37.
Boyadzhiev Y. Ethnocultural Interrelationships in the Lower Danube Area during the Second Half of the Sixth and the First Half of the Fifth Millennium BC (According to Evidence from Cemeteries) - Studia Preahistorica 14, Sofia 2011, 205 – 223.
Boyadziev, Y.Chronology of Prehistoric Cultures in Bulgaria. – In: Bailey D. and I. Panayotov (eds.). Prehistoric Bulgaria. Monographs in World Archaeology № 22, Madison, Wisconsin 1995, 149-191.
Boyadziev Y.Chalcolithic Stone Architecture from Bulgaria - Archaeologia Bulgarica VIII, Sofia 2004, 1-12.
Boyadzhiev, Y. Tell Yunatsite: Development and Absolute Chronology of the Settlements from the Beginning of the Chalcolithic to the Early Bronze Age. – In: Neolithic and Copper Age between the Carpathians and the Aegean Sea. S. Hansen, P. Raczky, A. Anders, A. Reingruber (eds.). DAI, 2015, 381-394 (Archäologie in Eurasien, 31).
Grant J., Sam Gorin and Neil Fleming. The Archaeology Coursebook: an Introduction to Themes, Sites, Methods and Skills. Routledge, 2008.
McIntosh, J. Handbook to Life in Prehistoric Europe. New York, 2006.
Merpert N. J. Bulgaro-Russian Archeological Investigations in the Balkans. Ancient Civilisations from Scythia to Siberia – In: International Journal of Comparative Studies in History and Archeology, Vol. 2, N 3, Leiden 1995, 364-383.
Merpert N. J. The Problem of Transition from the North Balkan Aeneolithic to the Early Bronze Age in the Upper Thracian Valley – In: Europa Indo-Europea, Roma 1994, 41-50.
Tell Yunatsite. The Bronze Age, Vol. 2, Part 1 (Moscow, 2007). (In Russian; a summary in English is available after each chapter.)
Todorova N., Mazanova V. Late Chalcolithic Ceramic Style at Yunatsite Tell (Approach to the Systematization of the Ceramics from the Newly Excavated Levels) – In: Nikolova L. (ed.) - Technology, Style and Society. BAR International Series 854, Oxford 2000, 331-361.
Todorova N.The Ornamentation of Late Chalcolithic Pottery from Yunatsite Tell, Pazardzhik District- – In: Nikolova L. (ed.) Early Symbolic Systems for Communication in Southeast Europe.BAR International Series 1139, Oxford 2003, 291-311.
Zäuner, S. The Dark Side of the Chalcolithic. Evidence for Warfare at Tell Yunatsite? An Anthropological Approach – Boyadzhiev, Y., S. Terzijska-Ignatova (eds.) -The Golden Fifth Millennium. Thrace and Its Neighbour Areas in the Chalcolithic, Sofia 2011, 49-56.
Project venue: "Villa Terres" is located in the village of Karabunar, 84 km/52 mi away from the Bulgarian capital Sofia and just 8 km/5 mi away from the "Trakia" motorway exit to Velingrad. The distance from the villa to the site is app. 15 km/9.5 mi, app. 15-20 min drive. A daily BHFS shuttle service is arranged for the participants to bring them to the site and back. The site has running water, electricity and a squat toilet.
The nearest air terminals: Sofia (Bulgaria, 84 km/52 mi away) and Plovdiv (Bulgaria, 50 km/ 34 mi away) - don't forget to check the low cost flight options! If participants arrive at one of these airports, a transfer to Villa Terres in Karabunar may be arranged by request (Please, specify this in your application form!). Individual or group transfer prices may vary, depending on the number of passengers, from 25 to 100 EUR. Ask for details!
How to get there?: Participants who arrange their travel individually will be expected to arrive at Villa Terres on the arrival day by 7.30 pm. It may be reached by bus from Septemvri (15-20 min) and Sofia (app. 1 ½ hrs). A detailed travel-info sheet will be provided to enrolled students.
Visa requirements: Citizens of EU, EEA, USA, Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand do not need a visa to visit Bulgaria for up to 90 days or any of Bulgaria’s neighboring countries,except Turkey. However, the Turkish government facilitates tourism by providing the option for obtaining an e-visa at www.evisa.gov.tr/en/. Citizens of all other countries may need a visa.The Balkan Heritage Foundation can send an official invitation letter that should be used at the relevant embassy to secure a visa to the program. For further details please visit our Visa information page.
Accommodation: In comfortable rooms with two to three beds (bathrooms with shower and WC, TV, air-conditioning and free Wi-Fi) of the newly built countryside hotel and winery Villa Teres. The hotel has an outdoor swimming pool and spa center with sauna and steam bath, all free of charge for the participants in the field school. There are cheap laundry services available. Participants are not expected to bring any additional equipment, bedclothes or towels. Single rooms are available upon request for the supplement of 120 EUR per week. Staying an extra day at the hotel costs 30 EUR (per night per person).
Meals: Three meals (fresh, organic Bulgarian homemade food) per day are covered by the admission fee. They usually take place (except the breakfasts during the workdays and brown-bag lunches during the excursions) at the hotel’s restaurant. This field school can accommodate vegetarians, vegans, and individuals with lactose intolerance. Kosher and gluten-free diets are impossible to accommodate in this location.
Participants must pay on their own for extra days and for single room accommodation as well as for extra meals, beverages, services and products!
See all projects' accommodation options on our Information page!
Free time: Guided visits to Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History, the Plovdiv Archaeological Museum, Roman monuments and the Old Town Quarter of Plovdiv, the Stara Zagora Regional Museum of History, Roman monuments of Stara Zagora and the Museum of Europe' best-preserved Neolithic (5600 BCE) dwellings. Possible leisure activities during the siesta and days off in and around Karabunar are: swimming in/sunbathing around the swimming pool, 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 spa and wellness town) or shopping and sightseeing in the neighboring cities of Pazardzhik and Plovdiv.
Extra trips and excursions: The BHFS participants can take advantage of their stay in the Balkans and take part in the optional excursions to:
Insurance: The admission fee does not cover insurance. It is mandatory to arrange your own health 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: South-European (Transitional Mediterranean to Continental) climate with hot summers (30-40° C) dominates in the region. Rainy and chillier days in this season are not unheard of.
What to bring?
Excavation & documentation tools and materials, as well as working gloves are available at the site!
The admission fee is valid only for students who enroll in this field school through the Balkan Heritage Field School (BHFS). Students wishing to benefit from the advantages of the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans shall enroll through the Institute for Field Research (IFR), USA and pay different admission fees corresponding to the IFR's terms and conditions.
BHFS admission fee includes: Educational and fieldwork activities, full-board accommodation (hotel + 3 meals per day), tools, materials, project handbook and issue of Certificate of Attendance, administrative costs and excursions included in the field school program plus relevant entrance fees.
The price in USD is approximate. Please check current exchange rates!
Super Early Bird Admission fee for two week project session is 1147 EUR / app.1209 USD - SAVE 202 EUR / 220 USD
Super Early Bird Admission fee for four week project session is 2293 EUR/ app. 2429 USD - SAVE 270 EUR / 320 USD
Early Bird Admission fee for two week project session is 1214 EUR / app.1279 USD - SAVE 135 EUR / 150 USD
Early Bird Admission fee for four week project session is 2428 EUR / app. 2569 USD - SAVE 256 EUR / 275 USD
The regular admission fee for two week project session is 1349 EUR / app.1419 USD.
The regular admission fee for four week project session is 2563 EUR / app. 2709 USD
Admission Fee Transfer Options:
- Bank transfer
- Online transfers via the Balkan Heritage virtual POS Terminal. VISA, MASTERCARD & MAESTRO cards are accepted.
For further information contact Admissions Office at: firstname.lastname@example.org!
* 5% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:
* 10% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:
* 12% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:
* 15% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee is available in case of:
NOTE, 5% OF EVERY ADMISSION FEE FOR THIS PROJECT DIRECTLY SUPPORTS THE BALKAN HERITAGE PROTECTION FUND'S ACTIVITIES!