This project is included in the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans
Project type: Field School & Archaeological Excavation. The project is suitable for both beginners and advanced in archaeology. Individual program and task assignment are available to advanced students.
Site: Prehistoric tell next to the village of Yunatsite, Southern Bulgaria.
Period(s) of occupation: Chalcolithic (or Copper Age, 4900 - 4100 BC), Early Bronze Age (3000-2000 BC), Iron Age, Antiquity and Middle Ages.
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. During the work days all field school participants will be given a lift covered by the Balkan Heritage Field School (BHFS) from the hotel to the site (located 14 km/9 mi away) and back.
Major field school topics/activities: archaeological field techniques and methods (in regard of specifics of tell’s excavation), Europe's first civilization in Chalcolithic, 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, find’s and samples’ processing, excursions to significant heritage sites in Thrace, Bulgaria.
Program partners: Balkan Heritage Foundation (BHF), Bulgaria and 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
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 25-38 C or higher. All participants should bring clothes and cosmetics suitable for hot and sunny weather. All participants are expected to prepare 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.
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 seventh millenium BC the Balkan Peninsula was a gate through which farming, animal husbandry and generally Neolithisation spread to Europe from Anatolia and the Near East. App. 1000 years later in the very beginning of the fifth millennium BC, the prehistoric population in 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 BC these prehistoric cultures enjoyed a constant raise rise in population and wealth, simultaneously experiencing social stratification due to the intensive trading of metal products, salt 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 (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, distinguished social and professional stratification, pictograms and characters interpreted by some scholars as the World's oldest script (Gradeshnitsa tablet for instance dates back to the sixth or early fifth millennium BC) as well as precious artifacts made of gold, pottery, bone and stone (the World oldest gold treasure found in the Varna Copper age necropolis). This very first civilization in Europe was Pre-Indo-European and emerged in under a millennium, spreading across large parts of the Balkans, NW 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. The study of this, the very first civilization in Europe, has only arisen very recently, beginning about 40 years ago with the excavation of the Varna Copper Age necropolis, which brought to light the first certain evidence for its existence. 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 in the fields next to the Bulgarian village of Yunatsite, NW Thrace. Its diameter is app. 110 m and the maximum height is 12 m above the modern surface. The tell was excavated for the first time in 1939 by Bulgarian archaeologist Vasil Mikov. The result was a 12 meter-deep trench known also as the Vasil Mikov's trench in the eastern part of the tell that did not reach its base but significantly contributed to the interpretation of tell's stratgraphy and history. However, regular excavations of the site did not start before 1976, when the archaeological project was initiated by the National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. In the course of time the project was joined by Soviet and Greek excavation teams.
So far one third of the tell's surface has been excavated in its eastern part, still without reaching the sterile layers. The tell is topped by a medieval cemetery, the ruins of a Roman fort and two layers from the Early Iron Age followed in depth by a thick Early Bronze Age (EBA) layer (3100-2200 cal. BC) with 17 building levels and a sterile layer (hiatus) that separates the EBA layer and the Chalocolithic layer. Under all these sequences is found the 4 m thick Chalcolithic layer.
In 2006 archaeologists discovered by excavating numerous test pits and trenches in the area around the tell that the actual size of the Copper Age settlement was far larger (having a diameter of 400 m or surface of app. 100 000 sq.m) than the tell and and was composed of two areas separated (around 4750 cal. BC) by a five meter wide cob wall and ditch (2 meter deep and 6 meter wide): the larger downtown and the uptown (acropolis) at the tell. The earliest artifacts from these pits and trenches date 4900 cal. BC and mark either the establishment or extension of the prehistoric settlement. Inside the fortified uptown the buildings were placed close to each other because of the limited area. Thus the accumulation of the layer was faster than in the downtown and as a result the tell was rising gradually above the surrounding surface. The Copper age settlement was destroyed by invaders around 4200-4100 cal. BC. Among the ruins of the last Chalcolithic horizon are found the skeletons of its last inhabitants (mainly children and elderly men and women): a testimony of a cruel massacre. Those who survived returned and briefly resettled the devastated settlement but soon they too departed and Tell Yunatsite was abandoned for more than 1000 years. During this period a 0,45 meter-thick hiatus (sterile layer) covered most of the Chalcolithic layer.
Unlike the excavations in 1970 - 1990s (dealing with exploration of upper layers) recent excavations uncover mainly the Chalcolithic layers of the tell. The recent discovery of a wooden platform, probably the floor of a burnt building that collapsed vertically (along with numerous artifacts) onto the walls of a huge pit beneath, is considered a very rare occurrence in archaeological practice. These excavations are assisting archaeologists in the study of the Copper age fortification and the inner parts of the uptown.
Archaeological Context: The Chalcolithic (Copper age) period in Tell Yunatsite, Bulgaria corresponds chronologically (4900 - 4100 BC) to other European and Near Eastern sites and cultures such as: Varna, Kodzhadermen-Gumelnita-Karanovo VI (Eastern Balkans), Krivodol-Salcuta-Bubanj hum (Central and Northern Balkans), Dimini (Southern Balkans), Early Cucuteni-Trypillian culture (Eastern Europe), Ubaid period (Mesopotamia).
In 2015 the RISE AND FALL OF THE FIRST EUROPEAN CIVILIZATION field school project will continue exploring in depth the earliest stages of the tell's history through further excavation of the Vasil Mikov's trench. This is an area of app. 300 sq.m. where the first excavations at the tell took place in 1939 and reached the deepest culture layers found so far. Archaeologists have not yet reached the tell's base. With this aim they restarted the excavation in Mikov's trench in 2012. This where the Balkan Heritage Field School project has been taking place since 2013. During the small-scale excavations there from 2012 to 2014 the BHFS archaeologists and students found various Copper age structures: foundations of dwellings, collapsed roofs and walls, amazingly well preserved Chalcolithic wooden flooring and a high number of ovens, numerous artifacts such as weapons, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figurines, Spondylus jewels, decorated fine pottery ware and sherds marked by characters/pictograms). All of them belong to the three earliest tell building levels excavated so far (dated to the Late Chalcolithic). The site provides an amazing opportunity for all field school participants to dig at a real tell, to study textbook clear stratigraphy, to practice all basic excavation techniques in the field and to look through centuries of the everyday life of the Copper age inhabitants of Tell Yunatsite.
Two field school sessions are available every year and each includes the following three modules: fieldwork including excavation of the Chalcolithic layers and structures: practicing basic excavation techniques as well as screening, sifting and flotation and developing 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; lectures, workshops and field training in Prehistoric and Field Archaeology, Finds' Processing and Documentation as well as excursions to the Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History and the ancient town of Plovdiv (including the Archaeological Museum, Old Town Quarter and major Roman monuments) in the first field school session and to Stara Zagora (including the Regional Museum of History, Roman monuments and the Museum of the Europe' best preserved Neolithic (5600 BC) dwellings in the second field school session.
The participants who join the two project sessions (1&2) 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 (with an emphasis on Chalocolithic Studies) and all the excursions mentioned above plus a wine-tasting tour to the Bessa Valley Winery.
Optional tour of Troy and Istanbul (Turkey) is available for all students after the field school (9-13 August, 2015).
All participants will receive:
50 astronomical hours of fieldwork per session;
25 astronomical hours of Lectures (L), Workshops (W), Guided Tours (GT) and Field Instructions & Trainings (FIT) during the first session:
Only for students in the two project sessions (1&2): 25 astronomical hours of Lectures (L), Workshops (W) , Guided Tours (GT) and Field Instructions & Trainings (FIT) during the second session:
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 airports 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 cases 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.
The following excursions are included in the field school program and covered by the admission fee:
2 July, 2016: Plovdiv (the ancient city of Philippopolis) – European capital of Culture 2019. Guided tour of Archaeological Museum, Roman monuments, and the Old Town Quarter
10 July, 2016: Bulgarian capital Sofia. Guided tour of Sofia Downtown including National Archaeological Museum, the Cathedral, the 4th century rotunda of St. George, and the 6th century church of St. Sofia. The excursion is available only for students in the four-week session!
16 July, 2016: Stara Zagora (the ancient city of Augusta Traiana). Guided tour of Regional Museum of History, Roman monuments, and the Museum of the Europe's best preserved Neolithic (5600 BC) dwellings
Participants who attend the four-week session will be able to attend all the tours.
3 July, 2016
11 July, 2016 - only for participants in the four-week session
17 July, 2016
Optional tours to historical sites and towns in North-Western Thrace (Bulgaria).
Departure. Check-out by 12.00 pm
A drop-off may be arranged to the airports in Sofia and Plovdiv upon request.
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 could assist organization of additional leisure activities for them upon request during their free time such as hiking, wine-tasting outside the Villa, movies and fishing etc.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tell Yunatsite. The Bronze Age, Vol. 2, Part 1 (Moscow, 2007). (In Russian; a summary in English is available after each chapter.)
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.
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 "Trakia" motorway exit to Velingrad.
The nearest air terminals: Sofia (Bulgaria, 84 km/ 52 mi away) and Plovdiv (Bulgaria, 50 km/ 34 mi away) - don't forget checking the low cost flight options! If participants arrival 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 transfers' price may vary depending on both distance and number of passengers from 25 to 100 EUR. Ask for details!
How to get there?: Participants who arrange individually their travel 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).
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 is a cheap laundry service available. Participants are not expected to bring any additional equipment, bedclothes or towels. Single rooms are available upon request for the supplement of 200 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 work days 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: The town of Pazardzhik and its surroundings offers a variety of opportunities for good entertainment, sightseeing, sports, wine-tasting and shopping. A number of guided visits to Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History, Plovdiv Archaeological Museum, Roman monuments and the Old Town Quarter of Plovdiv, Stara Zagora Regional Museum of History, Roman monuments of Stara Zagora and the Museum of the Europe' best preserved Neolithic (5600 BC) dwellings is a part of the field school program and are covered by the admission fee.
Extra trips and excursions: The BHFS participants could take advantage of their stay in the Balkans and take part in the optional excursions to:
Please follow the links above for excursion details and information on how to join!
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: South-European climate dominates in the field school area, making summers hot (30-40 C). Rainy and chilly days in this season are rare but not excluded.
What to bring?
The admission fee is valid only for students who enroll in this field school through Balkan Heritage Field School (BHFS). Students willing to benefit from the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans advantages and enroll through Institute for Field Research (IFR), USA shall pay different admission fees corresponding to IFR terms and conditions.
BHFS admission fee includes: educational and fieldwork activities, full-board accommodation (hotel + 3 meals per day), tools, materials, project handbook and at least 50% of the readings posted online in advance likely using a Dropbox shared folder, issue of Certificate of Attendance, administrative costs and excursions included in the field school program plus relevant entrance fees.
The price in USD is for orientation. Please check current exchange rates!
Super Early Bird Admission fee for two-week session is 1147 EUR / app.1285 USD. SAVE 202 EUR / app. 26 USD
Super Early Bird Admission fee for four-week session is 2293 EUR / app.2568 USD. SAVE 270 EUR / app. 302 USD
Early Bird Admission fee for two-week session is 1214 EUR / app.1360 USD. SAVE 135 EUR / app. 152 USD
Early Bird Admission fee for four-week session is 2428 EUR / app.2719 USD. SAVE 135 EUR / app. 152 USD
The regular admission fee for two-week session is 1349 EUR / app.1511 USD
The regular admission fee for four-week session is 2563 EUR / app. 2871 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: 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!