Archaeology and Bioarchaeology of Apollonia Pontica

Period: Classical and Hellenistic
Code: AP 24
Session: 1 - 29 June, 2024
Academic credits available: up to 12
Cost starting from: 3399 EUR/approx. 3399 USD

The Project and the Course

General Information

Project type: This field school consists of two parts. The first part offers an intensive course in bioarchaeology focused on human osteology. The second part features archaeological excavation at a Classical and Late Hellenistic site. The variety of activities and the team's professionalism and flexibility make this project suitable for beginners and advanced students in both Anthropology and Classical Archaeology. Individual program and task assignments are available to advanced students.   

Field school start date: 2011 - 2019 on St. Kirik island; 2023 start of field school at Messarite

Site: Messarite - located 2 km southwest of Apollonia Pontica (today's Sozopol on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast) - is part of the ancient city's broader area where the remains of an ancient road, foundations of buildings and burial structures are located. 

Period(s) of occupation: Classical Greek, Hellenistic (5th - 3rd century BCE)

Project venue: Hotel Polina Beach is located in the new part of Sozopol, a 15-minute walk from the town center and the larger beach "Harmanite". It offers rooms with sea views, a restaurant and a pool. It is also a 15-minute walk from the venue to the excavation site. The first part of the field school will be conducted at the "Archaeological Reserve with Museum - Deutum" in Debelt (approx. 20 km from Burgas) where the facilities provide suitable conditions for lab work.

The project partners: Balkan Heritage Foundation (BHF), Bulgaria, Apollonia Pontica Excavation Team from National Archaeological Institute with Museum, Archaeological Museum of Sozopol, University of Idaho (US), New Bulgarian University

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

Deputy dig director and chief instructor: Teodora Bogdanova, Ph.D. in Archaeology; Adjunct Professor, CPCE, New Bulgarian University, Bulgaria

Field school coordinators: Angela Pencheva, PhD in Archaeology, Program Director of the Balkan Heritage Foundation, Lyuba Manoilova, PhD candidate in Anthropology at the Institute of Experimental Morphology, Pathology and Anthropology with Museum Bulgarian Academy of Sciences; project coordinator at the Balkan Heritage Foundation

Four-week session: 01 - 29 June, 2024

Major field school topics/activities: Ancient Greek colonization, culture and religion; Archaeological field techniques and methods; finds and sample processing; training in human osteology (osteobiographies, identifying pathological conditions and signs of trauma), trips to significant heritage sites along the western Black Sea Coast.

Application DeadlinesUntil the places are filled, or 10 April, 2024

Minimum length of stay: 1 session (four weeks)

Minimum age: 18

Number of field school places available: Maximum 15

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 intensive outdoor activities. The average summer temperatures in the area are 25-35° C (77- 95° F) or higher. 


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, meaning "town of salvation", in the 4 th century CE. Despite the invasions, it survived the period of the Great Migration (4th - 7th century CE) and entered the Middle Ages as a focal point of long-lasting Byzantine-Bulgarian conflicts.

The site “Messarite” is located southwest of Sozopol, approx. 2 km from the center of the Old Town. During archaeological field surveys in this area were registered 29 sites - remains of buildings, fortification walls for artificial terraces of the land and three tombs. The site is divided into three sectors on the western slope on the eastern side of a small valley where the small chapel “St. Marina” is located. Dr. Panayotova’s team excavated the remains of six buildings dated between the second half of the 5th century BCE and the beginning of the 3rd century BCE. Parts of an ancient road oriented north-south were also discovered. It is 6,50 m wide and so far over 40 m of its length were uncovered. On both sides, there are remains of buildings.

Towards the end of the 4th century BCE, the buildings in all three sectors were abandoned and destroyed. Shortly after graves with both inhumations and cremations started appearing in the abandoned ruins. In one area there are even family plots enclosed with stone walls (periboloi). Until now a total of 42 graves have been excavated all dated in the first half of the 3rd century BCE. The burial structures vary from pits, pithoi, ceramic and limestone sarcophagi, to tile-lined and cist graves while the cremations are in locally made urns. The funeral gifts are typical for the period - incense vessels (lekithoi and unguentaria), funeral wreaths, strigili, mirrors, scissors, coins and jewelry. In front of the family plots were discovered traces of funerary rites including 10 ritual firepits.

These are the first excavations of the broader territory of an ancient Greek colony in present-day Bulgaria. The results from the excavations along with the traces of mining and metallurgy in the adjacent area shed light on the economic development of Apollonia Pontica in the Classical and Hellenistic periods.


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 into 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 an intensive course in human osteology
  • visit significant archaeological and historic sites in Bulgaria such as Nessebar, ancient Mesambria (UNESCO World Heritage Site), ancient Deultum near Burgas and Sozopol, ancient Apollonia Pontica, etc.

The Field School Season in 2024 envisions excavations at Messarite in a new sector opened next to the previously conserved area, as well as osteological lab work at the “Archaeological base with a museum in Deultum”.

The field school offers one four-week session consisting of two parts. The first two weeks offer an intensive practice-based course in bioarchaeology using skeletal material from the necropoli of Apollonia Pontica. The second two weeks include fieldwork, lectures and instructions in Classical field archaeology, workshops for finds processing and documentation, as well as study visits to significant archaeological and historical sites.


Students who need to prepare field reports and presentations for their universities will 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.).   
  • T-shirt.



The Team

  •  Krastina Panayotova (PhD in Archaeology), Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Classical Archaeology at NAIM-BAS  
  • Teodora Bogdanova (PhD in Classical Archaeology), Department of Classical Archaeology at NAIM-BAS  
  • Angela Pencheva (PhD in Classical Archaeology); BHF Program Director
  • Katharine Kolpan (PhD in Anthropology), Assistant Professor at University of Idaho (USA)
  • Lyuba Manoilova (Phd Student in Anthropology), BHF office and project coordinator

The Program

The four-week field school session provides a minimum of 150 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; pottery washing; 
  • Skeletal identification methods, handling and laying out of skeletal remains;  
  • Courses in human osteology;  
  • Processing of archaeological finds - photographing, description, sorting, classification, recognition, etc.



  • 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;
  • Ancient Greek Cemeteries and Funeral Rites with Examples from the Western Black Sea Coast;
  • 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, Context Sheets, Log Book and Other Forms;

Guided Tours


  • Expect to perform all types of fieldwork at the site, from digging, sifting and brushing to mapping and sampling as well as finds processing, which includes activities such as cleaning, sorting, pottery drawing, photographing, etc.

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

The Agenda


First day

Arrival date: 1 June, 2024

Arrival in Sofia by 12.30 and transfer to Debelt Archaeological Base by 5.30 pm

7.30 - 9.30 pm - Traditional Bulgarian welcome dinner.

A Group transfer will be arranged from Sofia airport for an additional fee (will be announced up to three weeks before arrival)

Second day

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

Afternoon: Sightseeing tour of the Archaeological Reserve with Museum Deultum (Debelt)


Workdays in Debelt archaological base

7.00 - 8.00 am - Breakfast   

8.00 - 11.00 am - Lectures

11.00 am - 1.00 pm - Lunch break  

1.00 - 5.30 pm - Lab work with skeletal material from Apollonia Pontica

5.30 - 7.30 pm - Free time

7:30 Dinner

June 15

Transfer to Sozopol

Arrival and check-in at Hotel Polina Beach by 12.30

7.30 - 9.30 pm - Traditional Bulgarian welcome dinner.

Work days on site

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:

- Archaeological Reserve with Museum Deultum - Debelt

- Regional History Museum Varna and Roman thermae 

- Visit to Museum Center in Sozopol and a sightseeing tour of the Old Town

Old town of Nessebar (UNESCO World Heritage Site).


09 June 2024

16 June 2024

23 June 2024

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 date: 29 June, 2024

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. A Handbook. Thames and Hudson, 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

White, T. D., & Folkens. The Human Bone Manual. London Elsevier. P. A. (2005)

Travel, Accommodation & Practicalities   



Project venue: the first 2 weeks will be at the Archaeological Reserve with Museum - Deultum in Debelt, near Burgas. The second two weeks will be in the picturesque, small Black Sea coastal town of Sozopol, Bulgaria which 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 Debelt may be arranged by request. Transfers can be shared by several participants.

How to get there? A Group transfer will be arranged from Sofia airport for an additional fee (will be announced up to three weeks before arrival). For any late arrivals - bus lines connect Sozopol with Burgas and Sofia (the Bulgarian capital).

All participants will receive a travel info sheet in advance with basic travel instructions and information on 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.   

Bulgaria joined Europe's vast Schengen area of free movement, opening up travel by air and sea without border.


Accommodation & Meals

Accommodation: Accommodation for the first two weeks of the project is at the "Archaeological Reserve with Museum - Deultum" in Debelt. Participants will be accommodated in air-conditioned rooms with two to three beds at the newly built archaeological base next to the ancient ruins of Deultum. There are no single rooms available at this venue.

For the second two weeks, the students will be transferred to Hotel Polina Beach which offers comfortable rooms with two to three beds,  air conditioning, a minibar, TV and Wi-Fi. The hotel is located in the new part of Sozopol, a 15 min walk to the Old Town Quarter, the Archaeological Museum and another 15 min walk to the archaeological site. Staying an extra day costs 50 EUR. A limited number of single rooms is available upon request for an additional cost of 350 EUR.

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

Meals: Daily breakfast and lunch (lunch pack for the field trips), as well as the official welcome and farewell dinners, are covered by the reimbursement payment. Students are responsible for their own dinners in Sozopol (dinners during their stay in Deultum are covered in the reimbursement payment).

Sozopol offers a 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 10 to 20 USD. The project team will recommend restaurants for different preferences (cuisine, cost, dietary needs).    



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 reimbursement payment 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 possible 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 Cost  


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,  accommodation (hotel + breakfast), 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 the current exchange rates!


Early Bird Cost - until January 31, 2024:   


Early Bird Cost for a four-week project session is 3399 EUR/ approx. 3399 USD   


Regular Cost - after January 31, 2024:   


The Regular cost for a four-week project session is 3599 EUR/ approx. 3599 USD


All students registered for BHFS season 2020 should contact BHFS Admissions office at b[email protected] for further information about the conditions of their participation in season 2024.

  Reimbursement Transfer Options:

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

For further information contact Admissions Office at [email protected].

Discounts off the regular cost:

* 5% DISCOUNT OFF the regular cost available for:

  1. Participation in more than one BHFS project in 2024 (discount applies to the second, third, etc. project).
  2. Membership in the Archaeological Institute of America.

* 10% DISCOUNT OFF the regular cost available for:

  1. Participation in any BHFS project/s in the past.

* 12% DISCOUNT OFF the regular cost available for:

  1. Group Participation (three or more people who participate together in one BHFS project in 2024). The discount is valid for each participant.

* 15% DISCOUNT OFF the regular cost is available for:

  1. Group Participation (three or more people, who participate in more than one BHFS project in 2024 (the discount is valid for each participant).
  2. BHFS alumni, who participate in more than one BHFS project in 2024. (discount applies to the second, third, etc. project).
  3. BHFS alumni who attended a full project in the past and return to the same project.


For more information about scholarships, low-cost flights, hotels, etc. please feel free to contact us or look at our recommended links.

Academic Credits   


New Bulgarian University grants 12 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.




Archaeology and Bioarchaeology of Apollonia Pontica

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