Project type: field school & archaeological excavations. The course is a balanced combination of lectures in the field of Classical Archaeology, with a focus on Thrace and fieldwork on the site of the Greek emporion Pistiros.
The course is designed primarily for students in Classical Archaeology, Anthropology, History, Art History, and other related scientific fields but the variety of activities and the team's professionalism and flexibility make this project suitable for both beginners and advanced in Classical Archaeology.
The field school started: 2013
Site: Emporion Pistiros, between the small towns of Septemvri and Vetren, Southern Bulgaria.
Project venue: Villa Velis is a tourist complex including a SPA hotel and a winery. It is located in the southern part of the village of Karabunar, 8 km from the motorway exit "Trakia" on the road to Velingrad. During the project work days all participants will be provided with transportation from the hotel to the site (that is located 14 km away) and back.
Period(s) of occupation: Late Classical, Hellenistic (5th - 3rd century BCE)
Major field school topics/activities: Archaeological field techniques and methods for excavation and documentation; Ancient Greek and Thracian archaeology in the light of their trade and religious interaction at the site; RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging) documentation of Late Classical and Hellenistic finds, excursions to significant heritage sites in Thrace, Bulgaria.
BHF partners in this project: Septemvri Archaeological Museum "Prof. Mieczyslaw Domaradzki", Pistiros Excavation Team from the National Archaeological Institute with Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History, "Pistiros" Association and New Bulgarian University (Bulgaria).
Dig director: Asst. Prof. Alexey Gotsev (PhD in Archaeology), National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
Field school coordinator: Dr Angela Pencheva, Balkan Heritage Program Manager; PhD in Classical Archaeology.
Visiting professors: Assoc. Prof. Tzvete Lazova (New Bulgarian University); Ass. Prof. Maya Vassileva (New Bulgarian University); Dr Lidia Domaradzka Epigraphist at Sofia University Gavrail Lazov, Archaeologist and Museologist; Valentina Taneva, Archaeologist and Numismatist at National Historical Museum, Pazardjik; Maya Nikolova, Pottery Conservator at the Archaeological Museum "Prof. M. Domaradski", Septemvri, Bulgaria;
Field school sessions available:
Application deadlines: until the places are filled or 20 June 2022
Minimum length of stay for participants: two weeks
Minimum age: 18 (16, if the participant is accompanied by an adult family member)
Number of field school places available: Maximum 18
Project language: English
Academic credits available: Up to 9 ECTS credits are available through New Bulgarian University, Bulgaria.
Experience required: No previous experience is required.
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 (77 - 100° F) or higher. All participants should bring clothes and toiletries suitable for hot and sunny weather but should also prepare for possible rainy, windy and chilly days. Participants are also 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.
A medical COVID-19 vaccination certificate will 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.
COVID-19 Safety measures: All participants should read our updated Terms & Conditions regarding BHF's COVID-19 Safety policy.
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The ruins of an Ancient Greek trade center (emporion) in the heart of Thrace – on the left bank of Maritsa River (ancient Hebros), between the towns of Vetren and Septemvri, were discovered by Prof. M. Domaradzki in 1988. He started regular excavations and in 1990, his team found a stone inscription (known as "Vetren inscription") that helped the scholars identify the site as the Ancient Greek emporion named Pistiros. Merchants from Greek coastal cities of Maroneia, Thassos and Apollonia lived and traded there with their Thracian neighbors under the supreme protection of the Thracian Odrysian kings (the biggest and mightiest Thracian Kingdom at that time). Up to the moment Pistiros is the only certainly identified emporion in the heart of Thrace. That is why excavation of the site are significant source of information for the political, economical and cultural history of the Odrysian kingdom and Thrace in this period.
The emporion was also a major metallurgical center and a key harbor for export of metals and metal products from Thrace to Greece in the Classical and Early Hellenistic periods (from the middle of the 5th to the beginning of the 3rd century BCE). The trade contacts of the emporion are evident through finds of numerous imports such as Attic red-figured and black-slip pottery, amphorae (mainly Thassian) and coins (e.g. several hoards of copper, silver and gold coins found during the excavations - they represent the coinage of different Odrysian kings (e.g. Amatokos I, Bergaios, Kotys I, Amatokos II, Teres II, Kersebleptes, Teres II), Greek cities (Thassos, Maroneia, Parion, Thracian Chersonese, Enos, Apollonia, Messabria etc.) and Macedonian rulers (Philip II, Alexander the Great, Kassandros, Demetrios Poliokretes, Lysimachos etc.).
Most of the ancient authors and the majority of the modern scholars consider the cult of Dionysos rooted in Thrace. Apparently, it played a very important role in the emporion's religious life. For instance the Vetren inscription informs about the oath taken in the name of Dionysos by the Odrysian king: Kotys I (383-359 BCE) and his successor from the citizens of Pistiros - this is how they guaranteed the integrity of their lives, properties and activities in their town under the sovereignty of the Thracian kings.
Pistiros history in brief:
So far, archaeologists have uncovered the eastern fortification wall of the emporion (having one gate, a tower, and a bastion - all built of stone blocks analogically to the Thassian fortification system), streets paved by stone plates, solid stone foundations of two buildings as well as an efficient drainage system. Buildings of different types are indicating at least two different chronological horizons of the site's existence. The investigation of their characteristic features and shapes, as well as the emporion's planning are among the major research questions concerning Pistiros, together with the following others:
In the years since 1988, the Pistiros Excavation Team - lead by representatives of National Archaeological Institute with Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) was joined by the following institutions:
The Balkan Heritage Field School at the site of Pistiros started in 2013. To date, the students have worked in the southeastern sector which is an area next to the fortification wall where two chronologically different building horizons were identified.
In the earlier one, the area was covered with simple half dug in houses, presumably dated in the very first period of the site's existence - the end of the 5th BCE.
The architectural remains from the second horizon belong to buildings made of wooden beams, wattle and daub, and existed in the period between the second half of 4th and beginning of 3rd BCE. Characteristic for this time period are clay escharae (fireplaces) of rectangular or oval shape. A huge amount of local and imported Greek vessels, cult figurines, Greek and Thracian coins, weapon etc. were among the artifacts discovered in the last five years.
The participants in 2022 in Ancient Greeks in the Land of Dionysos - Excavation of Emporion Pistiros will be included in the further excavation of the same sector.
The project sessions available in 2022 include the following three modules:
The participants who join the four-week project session will be able to further develop their skills and competences regarding the field work and findings processing, gained during the first two-week session and to attend a number of extra lectures, workshops and an excursion to some of the most remarkable Thracian royal tombs in the Rose Valley in and around Kazanlak, Bulgaria. They will also attend the Workshops on Advanced Digital Imaging for Archaeological Recording alongside the excavation (it is optional and covered by the reimbursement payment). Students will continue excavating in the morning session but will have the option of additional training in Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) of epigraphic monuments and small objects found in Pistiros, in the afternoon.
Students who must prepare field reports and presentations for their universities can receive additional instruction and assistance.
All participants will receive:
Instructors, Trainers and Area Supervisors:
Angela Pencheva (
PhD in Classical Archaeology); Adjunct Professor, CPCE, New Bulgarian University, Bulgaria;
Two-week field school sessions provide a minimum of 85 hours of fieldwork and training, workshops, lectures and guided tours as follows:
The four-week session provides a minimum of 170 hours of fieldwork and training, workshops, lectures and guided tours incorporating all two-week session's activities plus the following:
Lectures & Workshops on:
Students who must prepare field reports and presentations for their universities can receive additional instruction and assistance.
Arrive by noon at Sofia Airport in Sofia, 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 covers the shuttle cost BUT DOES NOT cover 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!
9.30 am - All students with negative PCR test results will be picked up from the hotel by a shuttle to Villa Velis, Karabunar, Pazardzhik district, Bulgaria
Afternoon: Presentation of the Balkan Heritage Field School and collaborative universities & institutions, the project and the participants. Ice-breakers.
Site seeing of Pistiros and the Septemvri Archaeological Museum "M. Domaradzki".
8.00 pm - 9.30 pm - Traditional Bulgarian Welcome Dinner.
6.30 am - 7.00 am - Breakfast
7.10 am - 7.25 am - Travel to the site
7.30 am - 10.30 am - Fieldwork*
10.30 am - 11.00 am - Break
11.00 am - 1.00 pm - Fieldwork*
1.00 pm - 5.00 pm - Lunch and siesta break
5.00 pm - 6.30 pm - Lectures/Workshops/Finds processing **
7.30 pm - 9.00 pm - Dinner
*In rare cases of rain, the field school program provides substitute activities including finds processing workshops and film projections at Villa Velis.
**Lectures and workshops in the area of Classical and Field Archaeology, focused on Ancient Greek and Thracian culture in Pistiros and advanced digital imaging and surveying for archaeological and architectural recording.
The following excursions are included in the field school program and covered by the reimbursement payment:
31 July (Sunday): Visit to the ancient town of Plovdiv – European capital of Culture 2019
6 August (Saturday): 1-day excursion to the Thracian royal tombs in the Rose Valley in and around Kazanlak (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
14 August (Sunday): 1-day excursion to Northwestern Thrace (Bulgaria): Koprivshtitsa (a historical town and architectural reservation keeping the traditional look of Bulgarian towns in the 18th and 19th century); Panagyurishte (including the History Museum with the famous golden treasure of Panagyurishte).
Participants who attend the four-week project sessions will join all the tours.
Departure day. Check-out by 12.30 pm.
Transfers to the airports in Sofia and Plovdiv can be arranged for an additional fee upon request.
Villa Velis provides a SPA center with sauna, steam bath and swimming pool for free to all field school participants as well as ATVs and bikes for 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 etc.
Archibald, Z. H. – The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace: Orpheus Unmasked (Oxford, 1998)
Bouzek, J., M. Domaradzki, Z. Archibald (eds.) - Pistiros I. Excavations and Studies (Prague, 1996).
Bouzek, J., L. Domaradzka, Z. Archibald (eds.) - Pistiros II. Excavations and Studies (Prague, 2002).
Bouzek, J., L. Domaradzka, Z. Archibald (eds.) - Pistiros III. Excavations and Studies (Prague, 2007).
Bouzek, J., L. Domaradzka, Z. Archibald (eds.) - Pistiros IV. Excavations and Studies (Prague, 2010).
Bouzek, J., L. Domaradzka, A. Gotzev, Z. Archibald (eds.) - Pistiros V. Excavations and Studies (Prague, 2014).
Bouzek, J., Militky J. (eds.) - Pistiros VI. Pistiros Hoard (Prague, 2016)
Bouzek. J. - The outline of the chronology of Pistiros. – Studia Hercynia XVII/1, Pistiros V supplementum, Pragae, 2013, 5-7.
Bouzek, J., Domaradzka, L. (eds.). The Culture of Thracians and their Neighbours. Proceedings of the International Symposium in Memory of Prof. Mieczysław Domaradzki, with a Round Table 'Archaeological map of Bulgaria’. BAR International Series 1350. Oxford, 2005.
Bouzek, J., Domaradzki, M.†, Domaradzka, L., Taneva, V. Fortification and Urban Planning of Emporion Pistiros (Adžijska Vodenica). – Archeologia (Warszawa) LII 2001, Warszawa 2002, 7 – 18.
Bouzek, J., Domaradzka, L., Gotzev, A., Ivanova E., Katincharova, D., Kolarova, V., Lazov, G., Taneva, V., Youroukova, Y. Pistiros and the Celts. (In:) Proceedings of the 3rd International Congress on Black Sea Antiquities. Eirene 42, Prague 2006, 124 – 129.
Bouzek, J., Domaradzka, L. The Emporion Pistiros near Vetren between greater Powers, 450 – 278 B.C. (In:) Thrace in the Graeco-Roman World, Athens 2008, 86 – 94.
Bouzek, J., Domaradzka, L. Pistiros and the North Aegean Greek Cities. Ancient Macedonia. Proceedings of the 7th International Symposion on Ancient Macedonia. Thessaloniki 2007, 2009, 745 – 758.
Bouzek, J., Domaradzka, L. Pistiros. Facts and Opinions. Eirene XLV/2009, Prague 2009, 147 – 154.
Bouzek, J., Domaradzka, L. Pistiros and Inland Emporia in the Balkans: Greeks, Thracians, and their Neighbours. – Eirene XLVI/2010/I – II, Prague 2010, 157 – 160.
Bouzek, J., Domaradzka, L. Greeks in Inner Thrace. Eirene XLVII/2011/I – II, Prague 2012, 45 – 60.
Grant J., S. Gorin and N. Fleming.The Archaeology Coursebook: an introduction to themes, sites, methods and skills. Routledge. 2008.
Taneva, V. The Potter’s Kiln Found at Pistiros. Eirene XLVII/2011/I – II, Prague 2012, 25 – 28.
Valeva, J., Nankov, E., Graninger D. (ed.) A Companion to Ancient Thrace, Wiley Blackwell, 2015.
Project venue: Villa Velis 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 distance from the villa to the site is approx. 15 km/9,5 mi, approx. 15/20 min drive. 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) and Plovdiv (Bulgaria, 50 km/ 34 mi). If participants arrive at one of these airports, a transfer to Villa Velis in Karabunar may be arranged by request. 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 individually arrange their travel will be expected to arrive at Villa Velis on the arrival day by 7.00 pm. It may be reached by bus from 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*: Villa Velis, Karabunar, Bulgaria - in comfortable rooms with two to three beds (bathrooms with shower and WC), equipped with a/c and TV in a local newly built hotel. The hotel has a small swimming pool and SPA, free of charge for the participants in the field school. There are cheap laundry services and free Wi-Fi is provided. Extra night - 30 EUR (per night per person), Single room - 300 EUR (for two-week period).
*Subject to change. May be substituted with similar level accommodation.
Meals: Three meals (fresh, organic Bulgarian homemade food) per day are covered by the reimbursement payment and usually take place in the hotel’s restaurant. Requests for vegetarian food are accepted. Brown-bag lunches during the excursions and days off.
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: Possible leisure activities during the siesta and days off in and around Karabunar are: swimming / sunbathing at the hotel 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 and larger spa and wellness town) or shopping and sightseeing in the neighboring cities of Pazardzhik and Plovdiv.
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. All EU citizens can use Bulgarian medical services, 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, 86-104° F). Rainy and chilly days in this season are rare but not excluded.
What to bring?
NB! Excavation & documentation tools and materials including 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 March 31, 2022:
Early Bird Cost for two-week project session is 1549 EUR/ approx. 1774 USD
Early Bird Cost for four-week project session is 2899 EUR/ approx. 3311 USD
Regular Cost - after March 31, 2022:
The Regular Cost for two-week project session is 1699 EUR/ approx. 1943 USD
The Regular Cost for four-week project session is 3099 EUR/ approx. 3544 USD
Reimbursement Transfer Options:
For further information contact Admissions Office at: [email protected]!
New Bulgarian University grants 6 ECTS credits to students for attending two-week sessions and 9 ECTS credits for attending the four-week session. Transcripts of Records (ToR) are available upon request for an additional tuition fee. For details: Regulations for obtaining Transcripts of Records. .