BHFS Year 2019 in Review

Balkan Heritage Field School & Foundation withstood another amazing year full of amazing projects, opportunities, new partnerships and most of all over a hundred newcomers to our field school program! As said in the end of the field school season, it will be said again: The Balkan Heritage Foundation team is extremely grateful to all organisations who worked with them on different occasions, their amazing field school project partner institutions and museums and everyone that participated in the projects as students, volunteers or supervisors.   


Balkan Heritage Field School   


The BHFS recipe for archaeological preservation are archaeological field schools projects which act as a system for training, research and exchange of professionals in benefit of sustainability & protection of the cultural heritage of the Balkans. The program is open for everyone studying or interested in archaeology, cultural anthropology and heritage preservation. The financial contribution of each participant directly sustains the historical sites and provides them with theoretical knowledge, on-site practical skills and exploration of nearby sites of historical significance. With more than 12 years worth of archaeological field schools, the BHFS program has concluded more than a hundred field schools that provided experience to several generations of archaeologists, provided the progression for many of the sites the BHFS works with, acted as ground for many researches and fostered the sensibilisation of local communities towards cultural heritage.   


The Archaeological Excavations & Field School Projects of 2019:    


Apollonia Pontica Archaeology Field School   

Sozopol, Bulgaria   

In 2019 students and their instructors continued the excavations of the sacred precinct (temenos) of the Ancient Greek colony Apollonia Pontica on St. Kirik Island. Another part of a massive pit, found in 2016 was excavated. It was filled with abundant archaeological material – mostly animal bones and Roman pottery shards. The pottery is the first clear archaeological evidence from the Roman period on St. Kirik island. As part of the workshop of animal osteology students and their instructor started the initial processing of the animal bones. The primary observations were that the bones are of very young animals. This gives ground of the hypothesis that the pit had ritual functions. If the further analyses of the pit materials confirm this assumption it will prove the sacral continuity on St. Kirik island in the Roman period. Several Early Christian graves have been excavated. They belonged to a Late Antique necropolis situated around a 5th – 6th century basilica. A lot of pottery from the Archaic, Classical and Late Antiquity period, ancient glass shards, animal bones, coins as well as elements from the elaborated marble decoration of the Archaic age Greek temple have been found.   

Read about the full project and 2020 projections here:



Stobi (The Capital City of Macedonia Secunda) Excavation Project    

Stobi, North Macedonia   


The participants in the field school projects (2014-2019) excavated an area next to one of the most representative, residential buildings in Stobi – the Theodosian Palace – located at the center of the city, bordered by two main streets: Via Principalis Inferior and Via Principalis Superior. The building, which is richly decorated with mosaics, was given its name by early scholars under the assumption that the Emperor Theodosius I was accommodated there during his visit to Stobi in 388 CE. The excavations in the last five years brought to light late antique buildings situated between the Theodosian Palace and an adjacent building, called “the Jail” due to the discovery of shackled skeletons in the 1920s. Although built around the 4th century AD with multiple reconstructions they were still in use until the end of the 6th century AD.

Very important and existing discoveries made in 2019 were six reused marble column fragments and a marble sculpture of god Dionysus with a panther. The sculpture dates between 2nd and - 3rd century AD and it was inserted as ordinary building material when reconstructing the building in the 6th century. The concentration of these finds in the area in front of the so-called “Jail”, suggests that the initial function of this building might have been a temple. Archaeologists expect to find more evidence in favor of this theory in 2020!   

Read about the full project and 2020 projections here:



Tell Yunatsite Excavations – Seeking Europe's First Civilization   

Pazardzhik, Bulgaria


The archaeological season of 2019 was one of the most rewarding for the field school held on the prehistoric settlement mound Yunatsite, Pazardzhik district, Bulgaria. Thanks to the larger number of participants and their motivation, the detailed exploration of buildings from several consecutive residential horizons, from the late Early and Late Chalcolithic period (5th millennium BC) continued. A thorough study allowed the differentiation of several levels of habitation and alteration of building Bill-1 from the beginning of the Late Chalcolithic, some of which uncovered charcoal - probably related to floor structures. As in the previous season, a large number of pieces of jewelry (mainly beads) made from a species of spiny mussel (Spondylus), imports from the northern Aegean coast, as well as their stone replicas, were found in the building. Among the most interesting finds from the 2019 season are a copper awl with a bone handle and a figure of a two-headed bird.    

Read about the full project and 2020 projections here:



Underwater Archaeology Field School in the Black Sea      

Nessebar, Bulgaria


Season 2019 was quite successful and exciting. Students and their instructors continued the survey of the submerged fortification of Nessebar, Ancient Greek colony Mesambria, UNESCO world heritage town in Bulgaria. New parts of the massive block foundations of Classical or Hellenistic period fortification walls were discovered under the carpet of seaweeds and were cleaned and documented with photogrammetry. New parts of Early Byzantine walls were found during the underwater excavations. The epigraphic research of ship graffiti in Medieval churches in Nessebar also continued. This year in the scope of the survey was St. Stephen church. Dozens of ship graffiti have been documented with Reflectance Transformation Imaging technique. While studying and practicing the students contributed to the research, preservation and presentation of these important heritage monuments of the Western Black Sea Coast.    

Read about the full project and 2020 projections here:



Ancient Greeks in the Land of Dionysos - Excavation of Emporion Pistiros, Thrace

Karabunar, Bulgaria      

The area excavated during the field school since the BH project began in 2013, is situated next to the fortification wall where two horizons of buildings indicate two different chronological phases of the emporion’s existence. The latest one, dated approx. to the first quarter of the 3rd century BCE which can be connected to the last phase of the emporion’s existence before the Celtic invasion in the Balkans (in the 270ties BC) which probably caused its devastation and abundance. Underneath a horizon with the so called “negative features”, dated around the second half of 4th CBC was investigated over the last 6-7 years. Their fill is very soft soil with grayish color, presumably result of the decayed organic materials. The artifacts discovered in all the above-mentioned features consist of fragments and entire local handmade, wheel made, as well as imported vessels; big number of loom weights; handmade clay figurines, amphora fragments, animal bones and pieces of wattle and daub. According to parallels with some similar dug in houses, discovered in the Greek apoikias at the Black sea coast, we can suggest that the “negative features” at Pistiros are remains of similar buildings. Presumably, the houses used to have mud-brick walls which have melted completely. During the Workshop for Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) in the last week of the project the students captured some finds from the museum collection which gave interesting results e.g. an amphora handle with scratched image of fish and ship which were invisible to the naked eye.    

Read about the full project and 2020 projections here:



Bona Mansio - Roman Road Station on Via Diagonalis    

Karabunar, Bulgaria 


The excavations of the Late Antique fortress Mansio Lissae in 2019 was highlighted with the surveying of the sector around the Eastern gate and the open space around the southeast corner tower, and also continued the sector beyond the fortress walls south of the fortress. In the sector around the fortress gate was discovered a building, floor of which dates from the 6th century AD. Two more graves were found just outside the gate, an amusing iteration from last the excavation year of 2018, but this time, one of them was of a child. In the sector outside the fortress were identified the ruins of another building which hints about the possible objectives of Season 2020. The finds were a few bronze ornaments, including a fibula, a bracelet and a ring, and many bronze coins mainly from Late Antiquity, but also Medieval ones.   

Read about the full project and 2020 projections here:



Romans in Illyricum - Doclea Excavations         

Podgorica, Montenegro


Dioclea was met this year with a lot of rainy weather and plenty of peculiar finds. One of the buildings being dug was east of Jupiter's temple - number IX with rooms 12 and 13 - It has at least 2 periods: The earlier was interpreted as a glass workshop. The second represented a residential building with a mosaic. The findings in 2019 were mostly bronze coins, a few decorative objects, numerous bone and bronze needles, bone, as well as playing tokens made of bone. The main attraction though is the aforementioned mosaic that the students have completely unearthed. It was poorly preserved, much is missing, but animal figures are recognized on it - a bird and a panther. Dioclea’s test wasn’t only of time but of weather as well as in the beginning of the project the excavations were done underneath military tents and good practical systems which divide the group in to utilize the limited excavation space via putting half of them to excavate, the other half to process finds in the lab.   

Read about the full project and 2020 projections here:



Byzantine Cold Case File: Excavations of an Early Christian Мonastery on the Black Sea   

Varna, Bulgaria


We made a number of new architectural discoveries, with three particular achievements regarding the overall plan of the complex at the site. Firstly, we located the gateway to the main courtyard (atrium) of the church. While these were in a ruined state, we now know the general shape and plan of the gate structure. Secondly, we traced the route and direction of the main sewer channel-related two-story building, which had been uncovered in a previous season. This was supplemented by the particularly exciting discovery of a tributary branch joining in from a southerly direction which we hope confirms our suspicions that further buildings lie under the woodland to the south of the current excavation area. It could indicate that our site may be truly a large one, perhaps with other facilities such as a kitchen building or even a bathhouse separated from the main complex. Lastly, while excavating the main channel, it became clear that it was situated in a courtyard area just behind the long building. The nature of the sandy, largely empty soil here suggests that it was an area perhaps used for storage, outdoor tasks, loading/unloading of goods and materials etc. which would have been part of the busy daily activity of a monastery. This courtyard may have been covered or partially covered, or open to the elements, and much has yet to be explored regarding its form and use. Key finds this season include numerous bronze coins, and several examples of beautifully decorated clay lamps, one in particularly good condition which came from a floor level within the ground floor of the two-story building. Amongst the pottery finds, part of a beautiful redware plate with an incised deer at its center was a wonderful surprise and may be the finest example of decorated pottery from the site so far. We anticipate many more interesting discoveries in 2020!   

Read about the full project and 2020 projections here:



The Balkan Heritage Conservation Field School Projects of 2019:    


Workshops for Interventive & Preventive Conservation of Metal, Paper and Textiles   

Zakynthos, Greece   

For a third consecutive year, the Division Conservation of Antiquities & Works of Art of the Ionian University, at the island of Zakynthos accommodated the BH workshop for interventive and preventive conservation of paper, textile, and metal. The students conserved ethnographic and ecclesiastical textiles dated to the 19th century coming from the churches and monasteries of Zakynthos island, also books and archival material dated to the early 20th century. And finally, metal artifacts mainly folkloristic or ecclesiastical from 20th century belonging to private collectors. In their free time, they enjoyed the best beaches around and the world-famous Navagio shipwreck.   

Read about the full project and 2020 projections here:



Workshop for Conservation of Roman Mosaics      

Stobi, North Macedonia    

The Workshop on Conservation and Restoration of Roman and Late Roman Mosaics – R. of N. Macedonia 2019 took place at the archaeological site of Stobi. This educational initiative has been started as a collaboration project with National Institution Stobi (NI Stobi) in 2011. The practical conservation activities were focused on the in situ preserved mosaic floor in the House of Parthenius. The first conservation treatment of this mosaic was performed in the 1930s. The first task of the students was the preparation of detailed descriptive, technical and photo documentation of the mosaic’s condition. Preventive measures on the mosaic began with mechanical cleaning of the mosaic after which the most problematic and unstable parts of the tessellatum were faced with gauzes glued. Stabilizing the mosaic surface allowed the removal of the older repairs of strong grey cement, also the cleaning of the dirt and vegetation underneath. Conservation processes continued with the consolidation of the original mortars of the mosaic structure, followed by filling the lacunae and the edges with new mortar. When the mortars were dry and reached the optimal strength, all the gauzes from the tessellatum were detached with the use of pure acetone. These activities were done with an aim to reinforce the mosaic structure that allowed the continuation of cleaning of the mosaic surface where different types of dirt were deposited.    

Read about the full project and 2020 projections here:



Workshops for Conservation and Restoration of Ancient Pottery and Glass    

Stobi, North Macedonia & Sozopol, Bulgaria


The field school project consisted of two parts implemented in two neighboring European countries –Republic of North Macedonia and Bulgaria. At the site of Stobi – a Roman and Early Byzantine city, the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia Secunda the pottery there was provided by the National Institution Stobi and consisted of several fragmented Roman vessels discovered during excavations at the site. The second took place in Sozopol, ancient Apollonia Pontica, Bulgaria. The pottery for the workshop represented a collection of several fragmented and burnt vases from a ritual fireplace in the ancient Greek necropolis (6th – 4th century BCE) of Apollonia Pontica and was provided by the Archaeological Museum – Sozopol, Bulgaria.

The main goal of this program is to provide students with a comprehensive training and hands-on experience of pottery and glass conservation at two different sites, enabling students to evaluate and compare similarities and differences in conservation techniques, methods, material choice, etc. applied to artifacts from different archaeological contexts and environments. Students began their training with replicas of ancient vessels and then progressed to originals once they reached an acceptable level of skill, accuracy and precision.

During the workshop at Stobi in 2019, the students conserved 24 Roman & Late Roman 18 ceramic vessels, 6 terracotta figurines and six glass vessels. Except for having the opportunity to work on original artifacts, the participants were also able to visit local pottery craftsmen in Veles where they’ve created their own works. During the second part of the project 7 black glazed, one red-slip and one plain ancient Greek vessels from the collection of the Archaeological Museum in Sozopol were preserved. The restored vessels were exhibited as part of an archaeological exhibition “Preserving the Past, Looking to the Future”, presenting results of Balkan Heritage Field School Program in Bulgaria, first in the Museum of Archaeology in Sozopol and later in the Regional Museum of History – Sofia.   

Read about the full projects and 2020 projections here: and




''Fresco-Hunting'' Photo Research Expedition to Medieval Balkan Churches     

Sofia, Bulgaria    


Late medieval murals (17th century) appeared from behind the overgrown walls of the ruined church in Golemo Malovo. The church itself was dated to the 19th century, and this small find necessitates a change in its dating and understanding of its history. In a small, newly restored temple in Western Bulgaria, fragments of late medieval murals (16th-17th centuries) were discovered, which indicates that the new church was built on much older walls than previously thought - The peace and tranquility in the Shuma Monastery today hardly suggests much about its turbulent history during the Ottoman period and modern Bulgarian history, marked not only by social, ethnic and religious contradictions but also by moments of reconciliation and peaceful coexistence.   

Read about the full project and 2020 projections here:



In 2019 we celebrated our 12th field school season with over 230 students who took part in the BH field school program in archaeology and conservation! The Balkan Heritage Field School Season 2019 had over 150 participants, of which over 100 first time participants coming from Australia, Canada, China, Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Russia, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The BHF was pleased to see so many newcomers and is even happier with that Alumni keep coming back and continue to promote the field schools in their homelands!    


A special mention to the Alumni that came back as supervisors in 2019! 


Matthew Schueller


Matthew Schueller

Orlene Mcilfatrick


Orlene Mcilfatrick

Shane Currro


Shane Currro

Brent Whitford


Brent Whitford


The Exhibition   

"Preserving the Past, Looking to the Future" is the first exhibition initiative organized by the Balkan Heritage Foundation hosted in three partner museums in 2019. The exhibition displayed artifacts from Bulgaria conserved and/or discovered during the Balkan Heritage Field School projects. The displayed artifacts belong to the collections of the Sozopol Museum, the Regional History Museum of Pazardzhik, the Septemvri Museum “Prof. Mieczysław Domaradzki”, the Varna Regional Museum of History and the Blagoevgrad Regional Museum of History. They date back to Prehistory, Graeco-Roman, Late Antiquity, and the Middle Ages.         

The exhibition has been currently hosted by three museums: Archaeological Museum “Prof. Mieczysław Domaradzki”in Septemvri, Museum Center of Archaeological Museum of Sozopol and the Regional History Museum of Sofia.



Complementing the exhibition happening in the Regional History Museum of Sofia was the outstanding lecture “The Value and the Magic of Synergies” of our guest Mr. Evdokimos Fregoglo, the Program Manager of Diazoma, Greece. The venue, Triangle Tower of Serdica, courtesy of the museum, gathered many local heritage experts and presented them with the insight of healthy practices in cultural heritage preservation currently in operation in Greece.  





The Master Conservation Plan      

We are delighted to announce that in 2019 a grant of 100 000 dollars was awarded to the Balkan Heritage Foundation and our long term partner the National Institution Stobi by the J.M. Kaplan Fund!

The grant considers the creation of a master conservation plan for the archaeological resort of Stobi, the biggest and best-preserved Roman and Late Antique site in the Republic of N. Macedonia (since 2012included in the World Monuments Fund Watch List). The Plan will provide a general framework for long-term and short-term activities for preservation of the site, and a solid base for its sustainable development and maintenance for the coming decades. The Stobi core team of archaeologists and conservators and Balkan Heritage team members, together with external international and local experts in conservation, architecture and site management are actively included in the process of developing the final document. 



Alexandrovo tomb

Year 2019 also gave BHF the opportunity to join a project of the Bulgarian National Archaeological Institute with Museum under the guidance of Ass. Prof. Georgi Nehrizov, for an advanced photographic survey of the Thracian royal tomb at Alexandrovo. The monument is dated to the end of 4th century BC and is known for its unique mural paintings, for which it is considered as one of the most important discoveries of the Thracian heritage. It holds important historical, cultural and scientific information about the religion and lifeways of the ancient Thracians, as well as about their construction and painting techniques. The photographic survey was done by Dr. Antonino Cosentino, Director of Cultural Heritage Science Open Source (CHSOS). The survey and documentation was done using Technical Photography, Infrared Reflectography, Multispectral Imaging, Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) and Dstretch. Among the initial results of the survey was the discovery of some faded or completely disappeared colors and details of the drawings, revealing of the underdrawing lines, recording of some recent damages of the wall paintings. The project was funded by the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture and by the J.M. Kaplan Fund. 


Alexandrovska conservation plan


MA program for Balkan and Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology! ⁣⁣

In partnership with the Balkan Heritage Foundation, New Bulgarian University now offers an MA program in Balkan and Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology. The program is a new path for graduate students to explore the history and culture of the Balkans deeper and further, and includes the possibility of a continued PhD degree. Theoretical courses are taught online while practical courses (already included in tuition costs) are taught during the summer on location in the Balkans, combining the flexibility of an online degree with real world field experience.

A successful RTI dome campaign! ⁣⁣

In 2018, Dr. Jacqueline Christmas and Dr. Judith Bannerman (University of Exeter, UK) offered to develop an experimental project: to build and develop a portable RTI dome.

The fundraising campaign to build an RTI dome was initiated later that year with the goal to fundraise 4000 Euro. The campaign was generously supported by BHF alumni and currently the dome is being manufactured. This will dramatically improve the capture process, reducing the time from 15-20 minutes to 70 seconds for an artifact. And, in addition to providing quality training to BHFS participants, our organization will be able to offer this service to many museums around the Balkans. Capturing images of museum collections protects them against the illegal trafficking of antiquities.

The dome will be stored at the Regional History Museum of Sofia and will be accessible to all of the BHF partners!


Other events in 2019:   





The BHF is excited to introduce you to its newest addition to the Balkan Heritage Foundation Office in Sofia:    

Zlatka Stanilova taking the position of our Office Manager

2020 Anticipations:   


Publication material about the BHFS:         


  1. Archaeological Discoveries and Excavations in 2018 (an annual edition of the National Archaeological Institute with Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (in Bulgarian with English resumes)   
  2. Montenegro?   
  3. NM?      



We are proud that together we’re contributing to the preservation and protection of cultural heritage of the Balkans! See you in 2020!    

- Balkan Heritage Foundation Team