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, especially for those interested in prehistoric and Aegean archaeology. Individual program and task assignments are available to advanced students.
The excavation started: 2012; The field school started: 2016
fortified settlement in Bresto near Banya, southwestern Bulgaria.
Period(s) of occupation: End of Late Bronze Age (13th - 12th century BCE), Iron Age (1st mill BC).
Period in the project's focus: Transition from the Late Bronze to Early Iron Age (13th - 11th century BCE).
Project venue: The spa-resort village of Banya, Bulgaria. The village is located in the small valley dividing the Pirin Mountains (UNESCO World Heritage Site) from the Rila Mountains (the highest range in the Balkan Peninsula), not far from the ski resort of Bansko. The site is 3 km/1.5 mi away from the hotel, approx. 10 min drive. A daily BHF shuttle service is arranged for the participants to bring them to the site and back.
Major field school topics/activities: Archaeology of the Eastern Mediterranean during the Late Bronze and the Early Iron Ages; Excavations of the Late Bronze Age (13th - 11th cent. BCE) fortified site in Bresto; Applied theoretical classes on Artifact biographies and cultural encounters; Archaeological field techniques and methods for excavation and documentation; Recording of prehistoric (Bronze and Iron Age) artifacts; Processing of finds and samples; Excursions to significant heritage sites in Bulgaria and Greece.
Prof. Dr. Philipp
Stockhammer, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany, Institute
for Pre- and Protohistoric Archaeology and Archaeology of Roman Provinces (Germany); Asst. Prof. Bogdan Athanassov, New Bulgarian University, Sofia (Bulgaria);
Field school sessions available:
Application deadlines: Until the places are filled or latest 8 June, 2023
Minimum length of stay: Two weeks
Minimum age: 18 (16, if the participant is accompanied by an adult family member)
Number of field school places available: Maximum 10
Project language: English
Academic credits available: Students who study in Europe can receive up to 9 ECTS credits through the New Bulgarian University, Bulgaria. Students who study outside Europe can obtain 8 semester credit units (equivalent to 12 quarter units) through IFR's academic partner Connecticut College. See more details below!
Experience required: None.
Special requirements: Participation in the project is not recommended for individuals with solar allergies or other special illnesses that might be exacerbated during intensive outdoor activities. The temperature in the area often reaches 30°C (83°F). Participants should bring clothes and toiletries suitable for hot and sunny weather but should also prepare for chilly mornings and possible rainy days. Participants are also expected to prepare for the dig by reading 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.
A medical COVID-19 certificate
might be requested from each participant. The participants should have medical insurance including COVID-19 treatment and repatriation. The participants should inform the project staff about any health issues, allergies, and food preferences.
Participants are also expected to prepare for the dig by reading at minimum the recommended readings.
Participants will use the tools and equipment available at the site and are not expected to bring any additional equipment.
Please note that, before admission candidates are invited to meet one of the two project directors in an online meeting!
COVID-19 Safety measures: All participants should read our updated Terms & Conditions regarding BHF's COVID-19 Safety policy.
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Bresto: Digging in the Time of Troy - Archaeological Field School with the BHFS
The Bresto: Digging in the Time of Troy Field School Project is affiliated with the excavation project at Bresto in the mountains of southwestern Bulgaria. The latter explores a fortified settlement from the second half of the 2nd millennium BCE. It was founded in the 13th century BCE at the time of the zenith of Troy and both the Hittite Empire in Anatolia and the Aegean palatial civilizations. In the 12th century BCE after the collapse of these polities, new kinds of networks emerged in the Eastern Mediterranean. Former “fringe” areas became important hubs for the exchange of objects, ideas, and practices. Only 80 miles away from the Aegean Sea, the fortified site at Bresto presents many of the challenges for excavations, including complex stratigraphy. The settlement was protected by two large fortification walls. An international team of scholars from Bulgaria, Germany and the USA with a wide range of specialties is currently attempting to better understand the story behind Bresto and its place in the transition from the Bronze to the Iron Age. The excavations show that despite Bresto’s location in a marginal mountain valley, economic and social life flourished at the site during the 13th–11th century BCE, benefitting from Bresto’s position on an important route for communication and exchange between the Aegean and Central Europe. This idea was confirmed by the finding of an almost complete Mycenaean alabastron-vessel.
Archaeological context: The transition from Bronze to Iron Age in the Eastern Balkan Peninsula corresponds to the end of the Bronze Age in Anatolia, the Late Helladic IIIC period in the Aegean and the Greek mainland and the beginning of the Urnfield Period in Central Europe.
The excavation project at Bresto seeks to answer specific and general questions regarding Eastern Mediterranean and European Prehistory:
In 2023 the archaeologists and participants in the Bresto: Digging in the Time of Troy field school will seek answers to the questions listed above and take part in the further excavation of a large apsidal building and fortifications from the 13th–12th century BCE. There are two field school sessions (1 two-week session and 1 four-week session) available. Each of them covers the following three modules: 1) fieldwork including excavation of the fortified settlement, 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 total station, and taking photographs at the site; 2) lectures, workshops and field training in prehistoric, Aegean, theoretical and field archaeology, finds processing and documentation and 3) excursions to: Bansko Historical Downtown and Museum and to Razlog Museum of History and Ethnography as well as the optional tour of the ancient Philippi (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the Aegean coastal town of Kavala, Greece. Field school students are considered team members (colleagues) and advanced students who show a desire to learn and excel in the processing of excavated materials and the preparation of publications can become co-authors in excavation reports.
Session 1 is an excellent opportunity for beginners who will be introduced to the methodology and theoretical knowledge needed for engaging in an archaeological excavation of a prehistoric settlement, with an emphasis on the Eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age. Session 2 is ideal for participants who want to develop more fieldwork skills and furthermore are willing to attend the lecture series "Artifact Biographies and Cultural Encounters in the Past". The goal of this course is to move beyond the traditional approaches to archaeological artifacts dealing mainly with questions of function, dating and style. Embracing the metaphor of biography, the workshop emphasize the fact that objects are not static and passive, but constantly change in meaning and social significance.
A key to the understanding of these biographies is the social context of the artifacts. Our teaching starts with traditional approaches to the analysis of small finds, tools, pottery, weapons and architecture, but on the next level, the emphasis is laid on contextual interpretations. Special importance in this session is placed on sharp breaks of artifact biographies because they are often related to radical resetting of meanings. This can happen, for example, when objects become alienated from their culture of origin. That is why we finish the session with the topic of cultural encounters, which is fundamental for the interpretation of material remains from the past. Session 1 includes 9 working days, 1 day for orientation and introduction; 1 day for excursion; and 2 days off (with an optional excursion) plus arrival & departure days.
Session 2 includes 19 working days, 2 excursion days; 4 days off (two of them with an optional excursion), and 1 day for research and individual work plus arrival & departure day.
Students who are required to prepare field reports and presentations for their universities can receive additional instruction and assistance.
All participants will receive:
Session 1 provides a minimum of 90 hours and the four-week Session 2 provides a minimum of 180 hours of fieldwork, workshops/lab work, lectures/instructions and guided tours as follows:
Arrival date: 8 July, 2023
Arrive by noon at Sofia Airport, Bulgaria, conduct a COVID-19 PCR* test on arrival at the airport, and get self-quarantined for the period before the pick up, at the Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel** (these rules may be changed. The BHFS will provide ongoing updates on COVID-19 rules and restrictions in Bulgaria to all enrolled students).
*The reimbursement payment DOES NOT cover the shuttle cost (40 EUR), the first night accommodation, and PCR test costs!
**Please do not make any reservations before the confirmation of the field school and the latest updates about the COVID-19 situation, which will be sent to you via email one month before the beginning of the field school!
Morning: All students with negative PCR test results will be picked up from the hotel
-Arrival and check-in at the hotel
Afternoon: - Introduction, Orientation and Lectures
-Traditional Bulgarian welcome dinner
5.30 - 6.00 am - Breakfast
6.10 - 6.20 am - Drive to the site
6.30 am - 1.40 pm - Fieldwork, including a 30 min break, field instruction and training (at the site).*
1.40 - 2.00 pm - Drive to the hotel
2.00 - 4.30 pm - Lunch and lunch break
4.30 - 7.30 pm - Lectures, Workshops, Finds processing, Research
7.30 - 8.30 pm - Dinner
* In case of rain, the field school program provides substitute activities such as lectures and lab work.
See details about the optional tour to Greece
The BHFS team can assist with the organization of additional leisure activities for participants upon request.
15 July - Afternoon tour of Bansko (including the Historic Museum and Downtown Quarter). The excursion is covered by the reimbursement payment.
22 & 23 July - Tour of the ancient Philippi (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the Aegean coastal town of Kavala, Greece (optional). Students participating in the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans will be able to visit Greece for free. Participation in this excursion is open to all the students for an additional fee.
29 July - Tour of Museums of Bansko and Razlog; The excursion is covered by the reimbursement payment.
Departure. Check-out by 12.00 pm
A drop-off by taxi may be arranged to the airport in Sofia.
RECOMMENDED READINGS (ALL SESSIONS):
Andreou, St., M. Fotiadis, K. Kotsakis . Review of Aegean Prehistory V: The Neolithic and Bronze Age of Northern Greece. AJA 100, 3, 1996, 537-597.
Athanassov, B., I. Kulov, Ph. Stockhammer. Siedlungen der späten Bronze- und frühen Eisenzeit in Südwestbulgarien: Vorbericht zu den deutsch-bulgarischen Forschungen 2012 im Struma- und Mestatal.
Banning, E. B. Archaeological Survey. Kluwer Academic / Plenum Publishers, New York et. al. 2002.
Becks, R. Troia VII: the Transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age. In: B. Fischer, H. Genz, É. Jean, K. Köroğlu (eds.), Identifying Changes: The Transition from Bronze to Iron Ages in Anatolia and its Neighbouring Regions, 2002, 41-53.
Bintliff, J. Experiencing archaeological fieldwork. In: Bintliff, J. (ed.) A Companion to Archaeology. Blackwell Publishing 2006, 397-405.
Burke, H. and Cl. Smith. The Archaeologist's Field Handbook. Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest 2004.
Carver, M. Field archaeology. In: G. Barker (ed.) Companion Encyclopedia of Archaeology, Vol. 1, London et. al., 1999, 128-181.
Chapman, J., E. Magyari, B. Gaydarska Contrasting subsistence strategies in the Early Iron Age? - New results from the Alföld plain, Hungary, and the Thracian plain, Bulgaria. Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 28, 2, 2009, 155-187.
Dickinson, O. The Aegean from Bronze Age to Iron Age. Continuity and Change Between the Twelfth and the Eighth Centuries BC. Routledge, London et al. 2006.
Drewett, P. Field Archaeology. An Introduction. UCL Press, London 2001 (1999).
Gamble, C. Archaeology: The Basics. Rutledge, New York al. 2001
Grant J., S. Gorin and N. Fleming. The Archaeology Coursebook: an introduction to themes, sites, methods and skills. Routledge 2008.
Grębska-Kulova, M. and I. Kulov. Prehistorical Sites in the Middle Struma River Valley between the End of the VIIth mill. BC and the beginning of the Ist Mill. BC.- In: H. Todorova, M. Stefanovich. G. Ivanov (eds.). The Struma/Strymon River Valley in Prehistory. In the Steps of James Harvey Gaul, 2. Sofia,2007, 279-296.
Harris, E. C.Principles of Archaeological Stratigraphy. Academic Press, London 1979.
Roskams, St. Excavation. Cambridge Univ. Press. 2001
Stefanovich, M., H. A. Bankoff. Kamenska Cuka 1993 -1995. Preliminary report. In: Stefanovich, M. / H. Todorova / H. Hauptmann (eds.) In the Steps of J. H. Gaul, Vol. I, Sofia 1998, 255-338.
Stochkammer, Ph. The Change of Pottery's Social Meaning at the End of the Bronze Age: New Evidence from Tiryns. In: C. Bachhuber & R. G. Roberts (Eds.), Forces of Transformation: The End of the Bronze Age in the Mediterranean. Proceedings of an International Symposium Held at St. John’s College, Oxford, 25.–26. March 2006. Themes from the Ancient Near East BANEA Publication Series Vol. 1. Oxbow Books, Oxford 2009, 164–169.
Walker, W. H. Stratigraphy and practical reason. American Anthropologist 104, 1, 2002, 159-177.
RECOMMENDED READINGS (SESSION 1):
Appadurai, A. The Social life of things. Commodities in cultural perspective. In: Appadurai, A. (ed.), The Social life of things. Commodities in cultural perspective, Cambridge University Press, 1986, 3-63.
Berggren, A. The relevance of stratigraphy. Archaeological Dialogues 16, 1, 2009, 22-25.
Cobb, H. / O. J. T. Harris / C. Jones / Ph. Richardson (eds.) Reconsidering Archaeological Fieldwork. Exploring On-Site Relationships Between Theory and Practice. Springer. New York et al. 2012
Bradley, R. The Excavation Report as a Literary Genre: Traditional Practice in Britain. World Archaeology 38, 4, 2006, 664-671.
Gosden, Chr. and Y. Marshall. The cultural biography of objects. World Archaeology, 31, 2, 1999, 169-178.
Hodder, I. Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships Between Humans and Things. Wiley-Blackwell 2012.
Kopytoff, I. The cultural biography of things. Commoditization as process. In: Appadurai, A. (ed.) 1986, The Social Life of Things, Cambridge 1986, 61-94.
Lucas, G. Critical Approaches to Fieldwork. Contemporary and Historical Archaeology Practice. Routledge. London and New York 2001.
Lyman, L. R. and M. J. O' Brien. Measuring Time with Artifacts. A History of Methods in American Archaeology. University of Nebraska Press 2006.
Maca, A. L. Remembering the basics. Social and stratigraphic debates and biases. Archaeological Dialogues 16, 1, 2009, 31-38.
McAnany, P. and I. Hodder. Thinking about stratigraphic sequence in social terms. Archaeological Dialogues 16, 1, 2009, 1-22.
McAnany, P. and I. Hodder. Thinking about archaeological excavation in reflexive terms. Archaeological Dialogues 16, 1, 2009, 41-49.
Paice, P. Extensions to the Harris Matrix System to Illustrate Stratigraphic Discussion of an Archaeological Site. Journal of Field Archaeology 18, 1991, 17-28.
Schiffer, M. B. Formation Process of the Archaeological Record. Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press 1987.
Skibo, J. M. and M. B. Schiffer. People and Thinks. A Behavioural Approach to Material Culture. Springer, New York 2008.
Yarrow, Th. Artefactual Persons: The Relational Capacities of Persons and Things in the Practice of Excavation. Norwegian Archaeological Review 36, 1, 2003, 65-73.
Project Venue: The spa resort village of Banya, Blagoevgrad District, Bulgaria. The village is located in the small valley dividing the Pirin Mountains (UNESCO World Heritage Site) from the Rila Mountains (the highest range in the Balkan Peninsula), not far from the famous ski resort of Bansko. The site is 3 km/ 1.5 mi away from the hotel, a drive of approximately 5-7 min. A daily BHF shuttle service is arranged for the participants to bring them to the site and back. The site has no running water or electricity but the team organizes drop-offs to the hotel WC upon request.
The nearest airports: Sofia (Bulgaria, 150 km/ 93 mi) and Thessaloniki (Greece, 216 km/ 134 mi)
How to get there? If participants arrive at the Sofia airport, a shuttle or taxi transfer to the field school venue in Banya may be arranged by request
(please, specify this in your application form!). Individual or group transfer taxi prices may vary, depending on the number of passengers (approx. 80 - 90 EUR). The shuttle cost is 40 EUR per ride. Participants who arrange their travel individually will be expected to arrive either straight at the project venue Hotel Pri Spaska in Banya by 7:30 pm or at the bus stop in Bansko by 6:30 pm on the arrival day. From there they will be given a free ride to Banya. Earlier pick-ups from Bansko can be arranged via e-mail, phone call or SMS (contact info will be provided to all registered students). Direct bus lines connect Bansko and the Bulgarian capital Sofia
(150 km away) daily almost every hour from 7.00 am until approx. 4.00 pm (price approx. 12-15 EUR). 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. 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, tap hot water comes from a geothermal spring) at Hotel Pri Spaska. There are cheap laundry services available in the village and free Wi-Fi in the hotel and the lab. Participants are not expected to bring any additional equipment, bed linens, or towels. Staying an extra day at the hotel costs 25 EUR. A limited number of single rooms are available upon request not later than 15 May, 2023 for an additional fee of 100 EUR per week.
Meals: Three meals of fresh Bulgarian food per day are covered by the reimbursement payment. They usually take place in the Hotel Pri Spaska restaurant. Requests for vegetarian food are accepted. Brown-bag lunches during the excursions and days off. Vegan, kosher and gluten-free restrictions 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!
Free time: Guided visits to the traditional town of Bansko, and the History Museum of Razlog. Possible leisure activities during the siesta and days off in and around Banya are: swimming/sunbathing around the local swimming pools, spa, mountain hiking and climbing, horseback riding, soccer, tennis, badminton, traveling by the narrow gauge train to Velingrad (popular and larger spa and wellness town) or going shopping and sightseeing in the neighboring town of Bansko.
Extra trips and excursions: The BHFS participants can take advantage of their stay in the Balkans and take part in the optional excursion to the ancient Philippi and the Aegean coastal town of Kavala, Greece). Students participating in the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans will be able to visit Greece for free. Participation in the excursion is open to the rest of the students for an additional fee.
Insurance: The reimbursement payment does not cover insurance. It is mandatory to arrange your own health insurance before your trip to Bulgaria. The insurance must cover as a minimum the following risks: medical treatment in case of an accident or disease, specifically covering COVID-19 as well as costs related to evacuation and repatriation.
Weather: South-European (Transitional Mediterranean to Continental) climate with hot summers and temperatures reaching 30-40° C (86-104° F) dominates in the lower areas of the region. However, the area of Banya has a milder climate (20-30° C, 68-86° F) due to the higher elevation and the vicinity of mountains. Rainy and chilly days in the summer are not unheard of.
What to bring?
Excavation & documentation tools and materials, as well as working gloves are available at the site!
All field schools are conducted as non-profit projects by the Balkan Heritage Foundation, Bulgaria. Their costs, including students' costs related to participation in the field school are covered by the reimbursement payments made by field school students.
BHFS project reimbursement payment covers: Educational and fieldwork activities, full-board accommodation (hotel + 3 meals per day), tools, materials, project handbook or readings, issue of Certificate of Attendance, administrative costs, travel related to the fieldwork and the excursions included in the field school program plus relevant entrance fees.
BHFS project reimbursement payment does not include: travel costs to and from the project venue or related to activities not included in the field school program; medical products and services and any expenses related to medical quarantine (food delivery, accommodation, etc.).
The costs in USD are approximate. Please check current exchange rates!
Early Bird Cost - until January 31, 2023:
Early Bird Cost for two-week project session is 1649 EUR/ approx. 1649 USD
Early Bird Cost for four-week project session is 2899 EUR/ approx. 2899 USD
Regular Cost - after January 31, 2023:
The Regular Cost for two-week project session is 1799 EUR/ approx. 1799 USD
The Regular Cost for four-week project session is 3099 EUR/ approx. 3099 USD
Reimbursement Transfer Options:
For further information contact Admissions Office at: [email protected]!
* 5% DISCOUNT OFF the regular cost available for:
* 10% DISCOUNT OFF the regular cost available for:
* 12% DISCOUNT OFF the regular cost available for:
* 15% DISCOUNT OFF the regular cost is available for:
NOTE, 5% OF EVERY COST FOR THIS PROJECT DIRECTLY SUPPORTS THE BALKAN HERITAGE PROTECTION FUND'S ACTIVITIES!
ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) credit units are available for students attending European universities or a field school session shorter than 3 weeks. They shall enroll directly through the Balkan Heritage Field School. New Bulgarian University grants 6 ECTS credits to students for attending any of two-week session (1) and 9 ECTS credits for attending the four-week session (2). Transcripts of Records (ToR) are available upon request for an additional tuition fee. For details: Regulations for Obtaining Transcripts of Records.
US credit units are available to all students attending a 3-week or longer field school session. They shall apply to the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans and enroll through the Institute for Field Research (IFR), USA. They will be awarded 8 semester credit units (equivalent to 12 quarter units) through our academic partner Connecticut College and will receive a letter grade. The tuition fee is included in the IFR admission fee.
Participants in the field school who do not need academic credit units are not expected to pay for them.