Apollonia Pontica Archaeology Field School

Period: Archaic Greek, Hellenistic and Early Byzantine
Code: AP.EXC 20
Session 1: 20 June - 4 July
Session 2: 4 - 18 July
Session 3: 20 June - 18 July
Academic credits available: up to 9
Admission fee starting from: tba

The Project and the Course

General Information

Project type: Field school and archaeological excavation. The variety of activities and the team's professionalism and flexibility make this project suitable for both beginners and advanced in either Field or Classical Archaeology. Courses on bioarchaeology - human and animal osteology. Individual program and task assignments are available to advanced students.   

The field school started date: 2011

Site: Apollonia Pontica - sector of the the ancient city's sacred precinct (temenos) located on St. Kirik Island, Sozopol, Bulgarian Black Sea coast.   

Project venue: Sozopol, Bulgaria

Period(s) of occupation: Archaic and Classical Greek, Hellenistic and Early Byzantine (7th - 3rd century BCE and 5th - 7th century CE)

The project partners: Balkan Heritage Foundation (BHF), Bulgaria, Apollonia Pontica Excavation Team, Archaeological Museum of Sozopol, New Bulgarian University (Bulgaria).

Dig director: Krastina Panayotova, PhD in Archaeology, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Classical Archaeology, National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

Deputy dig director and chief instructor: Teodora Bogdanova, Ph.D. in Archaeology, Curator at Museum of Archaeology - Sozopol; Adjunct Professor, CPCE, New Bulgarian University, Bulgaria

Field school coordinator: Nayden Prahov, PhD in Archaeology, Program Director of the Balkan Heritage Foundation and Assistant Professor at the National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

Two-week session 1: 20 June - 4 July, 2020

Two-week session 2: 4 July - 18 July, 2020

Four-week session: 20 June - 18 July, 2020   

Admission fee covers: Bed & breakfast, excursions, educational activities

Major field school topics/activities: Ancient Greek colonization, culture and religion; Archaeological field techniques and methods; find’s and samples processing; documentation of archaeological pottery; excursions to significant heritage sites along the western Black Sea Coast. For participants in the four-week session: bioarchaeology - courses on human and animal osteology

Application DeadlinesUntil the places are filled, or 10 May 2020

Minimum length of stay: 1 session (two weeks)

Minimum age: 18

Number of field school places available: Maximum 25

Project language: English

Academic credits available: Students can receive up to 9 ECTS credits through New Bulgarian University, Bulgaria. 

Experience required: No

Special requirements: The project is not recommended for individuals with solar allergies or other special illnesses that might be exacerbated during the intensive outdoor activities. The average summer temperatures in the area are 25-35° C (77- 95° F) or higher.

If you are interested in an even more comprehensive experience with classical antiquity, check our BYZANTINE COLD CASE FILE: EXCAVATIONS OF AN EARLY CHRISTIAN МONASTERY NEAR VARNA ON THE BLACK SEA from 20 July to 17 August or, join the WORKSHOP FOR CONSERVATION, RESTORATION AND DOCUMENTATION OF ANCIENT GREEK POTTERY in Sozopol from 20 June to 4 July. 


The Site and the Excavation Project


Ancient Apollonia Pontica (present-day Sozopol, Bulgaria) is one of the oldest towns on the western Black Sea Coast. The city, founded by Miletian colonists around 610 BCE, was named Apollonia Pontica in honor of the patron deity of Miletus - Apollo. The Ancient authors identify the philosopher named Anaximander as the founder of the city. It became an autonomous and strong democratic polis, as well as an important trade center between Ancient Greece and Thrace. Thanks to its strong navy and naturally protected harbors, Apollonia kept control of the major merchant road along the western Black Sea Coast, called Via Pontica, for several centuries. The city preserved its independence during the campaigns of Phillip II of Macedon (342-339 BCE) and Alexander the Great (335 BCE) but in 72 BCE it was conquered, pillaged and burned by the Roman legions of Marcus Lucullus. The city succeeded in restoring its former glory and was known in the Roman world as Apollonia Magna (Great Apollonia). Following the Christian mainstream tradition, its name was changed to Sozopol, town of salvation, in the 4th century CE. Despite the damage, it survived the period of the Great Migration of People (4th - 7th century CE) and entered the Middle Ages as a focal point of long-lasting Byzantine-Bulgarian conflicts.

Despite being one of the largest and richest Ancient Greek colonies in the Black Sea region, Apollonia Pontica was famous in Antiquity because of the colossal statue of Apollo made by the notorious Greek sculptor Calamis. According to Pliny the Elder (Pliny 34.29) and Strabo (Strabo, 7.319), the 13-meter high bronze sculpture cost 500 talents. It was raised in the 5th century BCE in front of the temple dedicated to Apollo Iatros (the Healer) - patron deity of Apollonia Pontica. In 72 BCE the Romans under Marcus Lucullus, sacked the city and the colossal sculpture was taken to Rome as a trophy. It was exhibited for several centuries on the Capitoline Hill. During the Early Christian period it was lost - probably destroyed as many other pagan artifacts were.

Epigraphic sources mention that the temple of Apollo was situated on an island, identified by most of the scholars with St. Kirik Island - the closest one to the ancient city. However, until recently there was no archaeological evidence suggesting where the temple was situated. During the Balkan Heritage Field School excavations in 2013, a fragment of East Greek pottery with inscription - dedicated to Apollo was found, which is important evidence about the location of the temple. In 2014 the artifact was exhibited in the Louvre along with other precious artifacts representing the Bulgarian archaeological heritage.

The tiny island of St. Kirik is connected to the Old Town Quarter of Sozopol by a short and narrow breakwater (built in 1927). Its name originates from the medieval monastery dedicated to St. Cyricus and his mother St. Julitta that once existed there. The first archaeological survey on the island was conducted in 1904 by the French consul and scholar L. Degrand. The results from the excavations were never published and many artifacts from Archaic and Classical Greek period found there were transported to France and exhibited in the Louvre. For approximately 100 years following that, the territory of St. Kirik Island was used as a military zone by the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence. In 2005 the island was demilitarized and in 2009 the Apollonia Pontica Excavation Team lead by Dr. Krastina Panayotova restarted the excavations. The archaeologists and the Balkan Heritage students have discovered there:

  • The earliest Greek settlement that existed here prior to the temenos (7th-6th century BCE);
  • A Late Archaic temple complex: a temple and an altar (late 6th - early 5th century BCE) - presumably belonging to the famous temple of Apollo;
  • An oval altar and a temple from the Hellenistic period (4th century BCE);
  • An Ancient Greek tholos;
  • Several Ancient Greek bothroi (pit altars);
  • An Ancient Greek Copper Foundry;
  • Early Byzantine basilica and necropolis (5th - 7th century BC).

The great discovery convinced the Bulgarian Government to declare the island a cultural heritage site and designate some of the abandoned military buildings to be turned into a Museum of the Maritime Contacts and Civilizations.


The Field School

This field school provides a unique glimpse into the early stages of the Greek Colonization of the western Black Sea Coast and the development of a small Greek settlement to one of the richest and strongest Greek colonies in the Black Sea region, as well as an amazing opportunity to:

  • dig at an Ancient Greek site on the Black Sea Coast;
  • practice all basic excavation techniques in the field plus finds and samples processing;   
  • attend courses on human and animal osteology (for participants in two sessions);
  • visit significant archaeological and historic sites in Bulgaria as Nessebar, ancient Mesambria (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Sozopol, ancient Apollonia Pontica, etc.

The Field School Season envisions excavations at the top of the island, in the area of the Archaic and Classical Greek and Hellenistic temples, Ancient Greek copper foundry and the Early Christian basilica and necropolis, where the excavations have been taking place since 2012. The discoveries from the last seasons were quite exciting and included:

  • Two ritual pits (bothroi) from the Archaic period containing: elaborated aribaloi (small pottery containers for perfumes and makeup) shaped as: a bullhead, a ram, warrior heads, goddess Artemis; several alabastroi (pottery and alabaster containers for perfumes), bronze phialae, an iron sword, numerous pottery vessels,animal bones, etc;    
  • Architectural structures from the Archaic Period;   
  • A Hellenistic ritual fireplace with remains of a clay wreath;
  • Several Early Christian (5th century CE) graves;   
  • A massive Roman period pit filled with animal bones and pottery;
  • Numerous finds, including: several lamps from Archaic and Roman period, numerous pottery shards from Archaic, Hellenistic, Roman and Late Roman period, fragments of marble decorative elements from Archaic and Hellenistic public buildings, coins, bone objects, etc.

Three field school sessions are available: two two-week sessions and one four-week session. Each includes fieldwork, lectures and instructions on Classical and Field Archaeology, workshops for findings processing and documentation, excursions to significant archaeological and historical sites. The participants who join the four-week session will be able to further develop their field archaeology skills and competences and to attend more lectures, workshops and excursions.   

Students who must prepare field reports and presentations for their universities can receive additional instruction and assistance.


All participants will receive:

  • Project handbook (in PDF, sent by e-mail)
  • Balkan Heritage Field School Certificate specifying the topics and the hours of the field school activities (fieldwork, lectures, workshops, educational trips, etc.).         

The Program

Two-week field school sessions provide a minimum of 75 hours of fieldwork and training, workshops, lectures and guided tours as follows:

        Field Work

  • Practicing basic excavation techniques;
  • Use of tools and working techniques;
  • Creating field documentation - field journal, context sheets and labels, ground plans and cross-sections, photographs, etc;
  • Identifying and sorting archaeological finds


  • Processing of archaeological finds; Cleaning of pottery.   


  • History of Apollonia Pontica in Antiquity (7th century BCE - 6th century CE);
  • Technology, Typology and Chronology of Ancient Greek and Hellenistic pottery with examples from Apollonia Pontica;
  • The Island Saints Cyricus and Julitta during the Archaic Period;
  • Ancient Greek Cemeteries and Funeral Rites with Examples from the western Black Sea Coast;   
  • From Apollonia to Sozopolis: Late Antiquity in the Balkans;
  • History and Archaeology of Sozopol;
  • History and Archaeology of Nessebar;
  • Stratigraphy and Chronology;
  • Dating Artifacts and Materials;
  • Three Dimensional Positioning of Finds, Features and Structures;
  • Excavations Preparation. Preliminary Indoor Research;
  • Excavation Completion. Post Excavation Work and Analyses. Excavation and Reconnaissance Survey Report;
  • Basic Field Methods and Practices for Excavation and Documentation;   
  • Introduction to the Field Journal, Contextual Sheets, Log Book and Other Forms;   

Guided Tours

The four-week session provides a minimum of 150 hours of fieldwork and training, workshops, lectures and guided tours incorporating those from two-week session plus the following:

  • Additional and more comprehensive field work training and practices;   

  • Courses on animal and human osteology;   
  • Processing of archaeological finds - photographing, description, sorting, classification, recognition, etc.   
  • Guided tour to the natural megalithic and archaeological site of Beglik Tash.        
  • Expect to perform all types of fieldwork at the site, from digging, sifting and brushing to mapping and sampling as well as finds processing as finds cleaning and sorting, pottery drawing, photographing, etc.

  • Lectures and workshops will take place at the site or hotels.

The Agenda


First day
  • Two-week session 1/ Four-week session: 20 June, 2020
  • Two-week session 2: 4 July, 2020

Recommended arrival and check-in by 7.30 pm

8.00 - 9.30 pm - Traditional Bulgarian welcome dinner.

Meeting time/point on arrival date: 7:45 pm - Dom Mladenovi guesthouse garden

Transfers from Burgas, Varna, Sofia and Plovdiv airports, train or bus stations can be arranged upon request  for an additional fee.

Second day

Morning: Presentation of the Balkan Heritage Field School and collaborative universities & institutions, the project and the participants. Ice-breakers.

Afternoon: Town sightseeing and orientation walk.

Work days

6.30 - 7.10 am - Breakfast   

7.10 - 7.30 am - Walk to the excavation site;   

7.30 am - 1.00/1:30 pm - Fieldwork, including 30 min break*   

1.30 - 5.00/5.30 pm - Lunch and siesta break

5.00 - 6.30/7.30 pm - Lectures/Specialized courses/Workshops /Lab work

* in cases of rain, the project envisions finds processing workshops, lectures and film projections   


The following excursions are included in the field school program and covered by the admission fee:

27 June 2020 - Old town of Nessebar (UNESCO World Heritage Site).

11 July 2020 -Beglik Tash - natural megalithic and archaeological site (for participants in the four-week session).

Apollonia Pontica Excavation Project alumni will be able to attend any tour.


28 June 2020

4 July 2020

12 July 2020

BHFS team can organize/assist with organization of various leisure activities for participants during their free time such as visiting beaches and sites, boating, sailing, fishing, diving, attending cultural events, etc.

Last day

Departure. Check-out by 11.30 am.

Departure date:

Two-week session 1: 4 July 2020    

Two-week session 2 & Four-week session: 18 July 2020

Transfers to Burgas, Varna, Sofia and Plovdiv airports, train or bus stations can be arranged upon request for an additional fee.

Reading Background   


Bordman, J. Early Greek Vase Painting, 11th – 6th centuries BC. AHandbook. ThamesandHudson, 1998, p. 177 – 257.

Collet, L. An Introduction to Drawing Archaeological Pottery. Rotherham, Yorkshire, 2008, p. 5-31.

Cook, R, P. Dupont. East Greek Pottery. London, New York, 1998. p. 1-10; 26 – 70; 77 – 94; 129 – 131; 192 – 206.

Damyanov, M. Two Decades of Archaeological Research in Apollonia Pontica (Sozopol, Bulgaria) - Presentation at Archaeological Institute of America – 112th Annual Meeting – Philadelphia, January 5-8, 2012

Grammenos, D., Petropoulos, E. (ed). Ancient Greek Colonies in the Black sea. - Publication of the Archaeological Institute of North Greece, vol.1. Thessaloniki, 2003, p. 95 – 155

Panayotova K., Damyanov M., Stoyanova D., Bogdanova T., Apollonia Pontica: The Archaic Temenos and Settlement on the Island of St. Kirik. In: Proceedings of the XVIII International Congress of Classical Archaeology, Merida, Spain, 2015, p. 47-50

Panayotova, K. The Necropolis of Apollonia Pontica in Kalfata / Bugjaka: In.- Docter, R., Panayotova, K,. de Boer, J., Donnellan, L., van der Put, W., Bechtold, B. Apollonia Pontica, 2007, Gent, 2008, p. 5-28

Tsetskhladze, G. Greek Penetration of the Black Sea. – The Archaeology of Greek Colonisation: Essays dedicated to Sir John Boardman, ed. Tsetskhladze, G., de Angelis, F., Oxford, 1994, p. 111 – 135

Travel, Accommodation & Practicalities   



Project venue: the picturesque, small Black Sea coastal town of Sozopol, Bulgaria is a popular summer destination for tourists.  

The nearest air terminals: Burgas airport (45 km/28 mi), Varna airport (160 km/100 mi). If participants arrive at one of these airports, a transfer to Sozopol may be arranged by request. Transfers prices are:

Burgas Airport - Sozopol - 31 EUR (60 BGN); Burgas downtown - Sozopol - 26 EUR (50 BGN); Varna - Sozopol - 102 EUR (200 BGN); Sofia - Sozopol - 225 EUR (440 BGN).    

Transfers can be shared by several participants.

How to get there? Bus lines connect Sozopol with Burgas, Sofia (the Bulgarian capital) and Plovdiv.

All participants will receive a travel info-sheet in advance with basic travel instructions and information how to get to the hotel. 

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 & Meals

Accommodation*: Accommodation is at VMK Military Club or nearby guest houses which have comfortable rooms with two to three beds, equipped with a/c, refrigerators, TV. The hotel is located close to the town beaches, the Old Town Quarter, the Archaeological Museum and within a 15 min walk of the archaeological site. Wifi is available in the lobby area of the hotel. Staying an extra day costs 25 EUR. Single rooms are available upon request for an additional fee of 120 EUR per week.

Alternative more luxurious accommodation (single, double or triple rooms) is available for an additional fee of 120 to 180 EUR per week upon request at  Villa Kera. Places are limited.

For those who prefer higher class accommodation, BHFS would recommend participants make reservations with the following hotels in Sozopol: Hotel Casa del Mare and Hotel Fiesta. All participants who organize and pay extra for their own accommodation will receive a discount of 75 EUR (per week) off the admission fee.   

Participants must pay on their own for extra days and for single room accommodation!  

Meals: Daily breakfast and the official welcome and the farewell dinners are covered by the admission fee. Students are responsible for their own lunch and dinners.

Sozopol offers variety of restaurants that can meet everyone’s preferences and dietary requirements – from fast food options to cozy gourmet restaurants. The average meal price (soup/salad, main dish and dessert) can cost between 6 to 12 USD. The project team will recommend restaurants for different preferences (cuisine, cost, dietary needs) and will arrange discounts for the students.     

*Subject to change. May be substituted with similar level accommodation.       

Free Time & Trips


Free time:  During the summer, Sozopol offers many opportunities for sports and entertainment. Possible leisure activities during the siesta and days off in and around Sozopol are: swimming, sunbathing, beach sports including surfing, visiting local beaches and tourist (natural and heritage) sites, scuba diving, fishing, sailing & boating, attending cultural events, seeing movies in an outdoor cinema or just shopping. 


Technicalities & Practicalities

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, as long as they can provide evidence of their home-country health insurance with a card/certificate, etc.

Weather: A southern European (subtropical) climate dominates in the region, making summers hot (30-40° C/ 86-104° F) but breezy. Rainy and chilly days in this season are rare but not excluded.

What to bring?

  • Working shoes (preferably closed shoes like sneakers or running shoes) as well as comfortable shoes for walking and hiking!    
  • Clothing suitable for outdoor activities (consider weather conditions from hot and sunny to rainy and chilly). Light clothes (with long sleeves and legs for protection from the sun) and  raincoats for probable rainy and windy days are recommended.   
  • Wide brim hat   
  • Small backpack (for your water bottle, snacks, camera, etc.)
  • Medication - only prescription medicines you may need. It is not necessary to bring non-prescription medicine from your country since you can buy all basic non-prescription drugs in Bulgaria.   
  • A converter to EU type electricity wall-plug if needed.
  • A good attitude for work, fun, study and discoveries 


    Excavation & documentation tools and materials, as well as working gloves are available at the site!

The Admission Fee   


In order to participate in this educational project the BHFS expects all participants to reimburse their related costs, i.e. B&B accommodation (hotel + breakfast per day), tools, materials, excursions/sightseeing tours/entrance fees and other administrative costs. All participants are invited to support the project realization through donations. Information about all related costs will be published as soon as the WHO organization announces the end of the Covid 19 global pandemic.

Admission Fee Transfer Options:

- Bank transfer
- Online transfers via the Balkan Heritage virtual POS Terminal VISA, MASTERCARD & MAESTRO cards are accepted.   
TransferWise money transfer

For further information contact Admissions Office at [email protected]

Academic Credits   


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.




Apollonia Pontica Archaeology Field School

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