Project type: Field school & archaeological excavation. Suitable for both beginner and advanced students as well as those interested in archaeology and history of the eastern Mediterranean and Europe during the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods.
The excavation started: 1939; The field school started: 2013
Site: Prehistoric tell next to the village of Yunatsite, Southern Bulgaria.
Periods in the project's focus: Final Neolithic / Chalcolithic, Early Bronze Age, Iron Age, Antiquity and Middle Ages.
Project venue: the district town of Pazardzhik, Bulgaria.
Major field school topics/activities: Archaeology of Neolithic and Chalcolithic Europe; Excavations of the Final Neolithic/ Chalcolithic (4900 – 4100 BCE) strata of Tell Yunatsite; Prehistoric warfare and ceramics; Archaeological field techniques and methods for excavation and documentation, processing of finds and samples; Excursions to significant heritage sites in Bulgaria.
BHF partners in this project:
Dig director: Associate Prof. Kamen Boyadzhiev (PhD in Archaeology), National Archaeological Institute with Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
Field school sessions available:
Minimum length of stay: Two weeks
Application deadline: Until the places are filled or 9 June 2023
Minimum age: 18 (16, if the participant is accompanied by an adult family member)
Number of field school places available: Maximum 12
Project language: English
Academic credits available: Up to 9 ECTS credits are available through the New Bulgarian University, Bulgaria.
Experience required: No previous experience is required for applicants for Session 1 and/or 3. However, applicants for Session 2 are expected to have at least two weeks of archaeological field experience prior to their participation in this session.
COVID-19 Safety measures: All participants should read our updated Terms & Conditions regarding BHF's COVID-19 Safety policy.
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During the 7th and 6th millennia BCE, the Balkan Peninsula was a gateway through which farming, animal husbandry and Neolithization spread from Anatolia and the Near East to Europe. This new population gradually settled down and got familiar with the surrounding region, suitable agricultural areas, raw sources and so on. In the 6th millennium BCE their economy, social organization, trade and cultural contacts evolved, to reach their peak in the 5th millennium BCE. In the beginning of the 5th millennium the earliest metallurgy in European and global prehistory (the processing of copper and soon after, gold) appeared in the Balkans. Thus, this period is known as Copper age, Chalcolithic, Eneolithic or Final Neolithic.
The continuative inhabitance of the same suitable places during these millennia led to the formation of a settlement phenomenon, characteristic of the Near Eastern and Balkan prehistory – the multilayered tell-sites.
Tell Yunatsite is located near the modern village of Yunatsite in Southern Bulgaria. It is among the biggest tells in Europe with a diameter of approximately 110 m/360 ft and height of 12 m/39 ft above the modern surface. Tell Yunatsite was first excavated in 1939 by the Bulgarian archaeologist Vasil Mikov. In 1976, regular excavations were restarted and have continued on an annual basis. Subsequently, research at Tell Yunatsite has grown into an important research program under the National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. At times, Greek and Soviet archaeologists have joined the research at the site and today this is an international research effort directed by Bulgarian scholars. The field school will be held for seventh year and is a joint cooperation between Balkan Heritage Foundation (BHF), the Regional Museum of History in Pazardzhik, the Tell Yunatsite Excavation Team from the National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and the Institute for Field Research.
To date, approximately one third of the tell has been excavated. This work yielded rich collections of archaeological materials, and the sterile soil has not yet been reached. There is a medieval cemetery at the top of the tell, followed by a Roman period level, two Iron Age levels, another dated to the Early Bronze Age, and finally a Chalcolithic/Final Neolithic level. It is unknown if the cultural history of the tell begins in the Chalcolithic/Final Neolithic period or whether older Neolithic occupation layers exist.
The archaeological field school takes place at the Tell Yunatsite lowest excavated layer, which corresponds to the time of Europe’s first prehistoric civilization in the 5th millennium BCE. The intense study of these very first complex societies in Europe began 40 years ago with the excavation of the Varna Copper Age necropolis. That excavation was the first to demonstrate the rise of social complexity in the region. It is during this time that metal processing became widespread and it is the earliest dates for such transformative technological innovation. Data suggest that it is the world’s earliest mass production of both copper and gold (the world’s oldest gold treasure was found in the Varna Copper age necropolis), the first urban settlements in Europe, distinct social and political stratification, and pictograms and characters interpreted by some scholars as the world's oldest script (as on the Gradeshnitsa tablet, for instance). The area of this civilization stretches from Anatolia across the Balkans to the Carpathian basin and the steppes of Eastern Europe. It collapsed around the end of the 5th millennium BCE under the pressure of drastic social and demographic changes, which were presumably caused mainly by climate change but were exacerbated by foreign invasions.
Recent excavations at Tell Yunatsite indicate that the Chalcolithic/Final Neolithic period settlement covered an area far larger than the tell itself and consisted of uptown (acropolis?) and a downtown district. The uptown section was surrounded by a five meter wide clay wall and a broad and deep ditch. Buildings in this part were placed closed to each other, creating an almost unbroken urban fabric. The Chalcolithic/Final Neolithic settlement experienced a violent event at ca. 4,200-4,100 BCE. Evidence suggests deliberate destruction by outsiders. Many skeletons of children, elderly men, and women were found scattered on floors, suggesting a massive massacre. Those who survived returned and resettled at the Tell, but soon even they left. At that point, Tell Yunatsite and the area around it were abandoned for more than 1,000 years. During this time, a sterile layer accumulated over the last Chalcolithic/Final Neolithic layer.
Excavations in the last years shed new light on the stratigraphy and development of the Chalcolithic/Final Neolithic, and brought new interesting discoveries. Among them are a golden bead and a golden amulet, which are among the earliest golden artifacts in the world.
The aim of the project is to provide participants with a theoretical background on the development of Neolithic cultures in Southeastern Europe with a focus on Final Neolithic/Chalcolithic, Europe’s first civilization, and with practical experience in excavating a complex prehistoric tell-site.
This field school provides a unique glimpse into the rise and fall of arguably the earliest European civilization. In 2023, field school students will take part in further excavation of the burned Final Neolithic/Chalcolithic layer buildings. Faculty and students will work together and explore why and how did one of the earliest proto urban centers in Europe emerge in the beginning of the 5th millennium BCE, and what are the reasons that caused its collapse 800 years later.
There are three field school sessions (two consecutive two-week sessions and one four-week session) available. Each of them covers the following three modules:
Session 1 is an excellent opportunity for beginners. Session 2 is ideal for participants with some (at least two weeks) field experience to develop more skills and competences regarding the field work as well as finds and samples processing; and to attend workshops on 3D intra-site modelling and documentation/GIS spatial analysis in archaeology. Each two-week session includes 10 working days, 1 day for orientation and introduction; 1 day for the excursion; and 1 day-off plus arrival & departure days. Session 3 is a well designed combination of Session 1 and Session 2 with 20 working days, 2 excursion days; 4 days-off (one of them with an optional excursion) 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:
The two-week Sessions 1 and 2 provide a minimum of 90 hours and the four-week Session 3 provides a minimum of 180 hours of fieldwork, workshops/lab work, lectures/instructions and guided tours as follows:
SESSIONS 1, 2 and 3:
SESSIONS 1 and 3:
SESSION 2 and 3:
Arrival dates for Sessions 1 and 3: 22 July, 2023; for Session 2: 5 August, 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!
10.30 am - All students with negative PCR test results will be picked up from the hotel
11.45 am - Arrival and check-in at Hotel Primavera, in Pazardzhik district, Bulgaria
12.30 pm - Lunch
2.00 - 7.30 pm - Introduction, Orientation and Lectures
8.00 pm - 9.30 pm - Traditional Bulgarian welcome dinner
6.15 - 6.30 am - Travel to the site
6.30 am - 8.30 am - Fieldwork*
8.30 - 9.00 am - Breakfast at the site
9.00 - 11.00 am - Fieldwork*
11.00 - 11.15 am - Break
11.15 am - 1.00 pm - Fieldwork*
1.00 - 1.30 pm - Lunch
1.30 - 1.45 pm - Travel to the hotel
1.45 - 4.45 pm - Siesta break
4.45 - 5.00 pm - Travel to the site
5.00 - 8.00 pm - Lectures/Workshops/Finds processing at the site
8.00 - 8.45 pm - Dinner at the site
8.45 - 9.00 pm - Travel to the hotel
* In case of rain, the field school program provides substitute activities including finds processing workshops and film projections at the hotel.
30 July, 6 and 13 August (only for participants in the four-week Session 3), 2023
Dates TBA - Tour of the Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History, Bulgaria. The tour is covered by the reimbursement payment.
29 July, 2023: Plovdiv (the ancient city of Philippopolis) – European capital of Culture 2019. Guided tour of the Archaeological Museum, Roman monuments, and the Old Town Quarter. The excursion is covered by the reimbursement payment.
12 August, 2023: Stara Zagora (the ancient city of Augusta Traiana). Guided tour of the Regional Museum of History, Roman monuments, and the Museum of Europe's best-preserved Neolithic (5600 BCE) dwellings. The excursion is covered by the reimbursement payment.
Participants who attend the Session 3 will be able to attend all the tours!
Departure. Check-out by 12.00 pm
Transfers to the airports in Sofia and Plovdiv may be arranged for an additional fee upon request.
Anthony D. (ed.). The Lost World of Old Europe. The Danube Valley, 5000 - 3500 BC. New York University and Princeton University Press, 2010.
Aslanis, I. Settlement Patterns in the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age: the Case of the Prehistoric Settlement of Yunatsite, Bulgaria. – In: Neolithic and Copper Age between the Carpathians and the Aegean Sea. S. Hansen, P. Raczky, A. Anders, A. Reingruber (eds.). DAI, 2015, 395-402 (Archäologie in Eurasien, 31).
Balabina, V., T. Mishina. Considering the Destruction of the Latest Eneolithic Village at Tell Yunatsite – In: Boyadzhiev, Y., S. Terzijska-Ignatova (eds.) - The Golden Fifth Millennium. Thrace and Its Neighbour Areas in the Chalcolithic, Sofia 2011, 39-47.
Boyadziev, Y. Chronology of Prehistoric Cultures in Bulgaria. – In: Bailey D. and I. Panayotov (eds.). Prehistoric Bulgaria. Monographs in World Archaeology № 22, Madison, Wisconsin 1995, 149-191.
Boyadziev Y. Chalcolithic Stone Architecture from Bulgaria - Archaeologia Bulgarica VIII, Sofia 2004, 1-12.
Boyadzhiev, Y. Tell Yunatsite: Development and Absolute Chronology of the Settlements from the Beginning of the Chalcolithic to the Early Bronze Age. – In: Neolithic and Copper Age between the Carpathians and the Aegean Sea. S. Hansen, P. Raczky, A. Anders, A. Reingruber (eds.). DAI, 2015, 381-394 (Archäologie in Eurasien, 31).
Merpert N. J. The Problem of Transition from the North Balkan Aeneolithic to the Early Bronze Age in the Upper Thracian Valley – In: Europa Indo-Europea, Roma 1994, 41-50.
Todorova N., Mazanova V. Late Chalcolithic Ceramic Style at Yunatsite Tell (Approach to the Systematization of the Ceramics from the Newly Excavated Levels) – In: Nikolova L. (ed.) - Technology, Style and Society. BAR International Series 854, Oxford 2000, 331-361.
Zäuner, S. The Dark Side of the Chalcolithic. Evidence for Warfare at Tell Yunatsite? An Anthropological Approach – Boyadzhiev, Y., S. Terzijska-Ignatova (eds.) - The Golden Fifth Millennium. Thrace and Its Neighbor Areas in the Chalcolithic, Sofia 2011, 49-56.
Boyadzhiev K. Development and Distribution of Close Combat Weapons in Bulgarian Chalcolithic - Studia Praehistorica 14, Sofia 2011, 265 – 281.
Boyadzhiev Y. Ethnocultural Interrelationships in the Lower Danube Area during the Second Half of the Sixth and the First Half of the Fifth Millennium BC (According to Evidence from Cemeteries) - Studia Praehistorica 14, Sofia 2011, 205 – 223.
Boyadzhiev Y., Boyadzhiev K., Brandtstätter L., Krauß R. Chronological modelling of the Chalcolithic settlement layers at Tell Yunatsite, Southern Bulgaria. – Documenta Praehistorica, XLVIII, 2021, 2 – 25, DOI> 10.4312\dp.48.5
Grant J., Sam Gorin and Neil Fleming. The Archaeology Coursebook: an Introduction to Themes, Sites, Methods and Skills. Routledge, 2008.
McIntosh, J. Handbook to Life in Prehistoric Europe. New York, 2006.
Merpert N. J. Bulgaro-Russian Archeological Investigations in the Balkans. Ancient Civilisations from Scythia to Siberia – In: International Journal of Comparative Studies in History and Archeology, Vol. 2, N 3, Leiden 1995, 364-383.
Todorova N. The Ornamentation of Late Chalcolithic Pottery from Yunatsite Tell, Pazardzhik District - – In: Nikolova L. (ed.) Early Symbolic Systems for Communication in Southeast Europe.BAR International Series 1139, Oxford 2003, 291-311.
Project venue: Hotel Primavera in the district town of Pazardzhik (45000 inhabitants). The town is located in Thrace, Southern Bulgaria, 100 km/ 62 mi away from the Bulgarian capital Sofia. The distance from the town to the site is approx. 10 km/5.5 mi, approx. 15-20 min drive. A daily BHFS shuttle/car service is arranged for the participants to bring them to the site and back to the hotel.
The recommended air terminal: Sofia (Bulgaria, 100 km/ 62 mi away)
How to get there: All participants will be transported by bus/shuttle from Sofia to the project hotel in Pazardzhik for an additional fee of 40 EUR.
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, TV, a/c and free Wi-Fi) at the Hotel Primavera. The hotel is located in the central pedestrian and shopping area of Pazardzhik, very close to everything that the town can offer to tourists (shops, pharmacies, banks, markets, taverns, restaurants, bars, hospitals, cafes, post offices, tourist attractions, parks etc.). Participants are not expected to bring any additional equipment, bed linens or towels. Single rooms are available upon request for the supplement of 150 EUR per week. Staying an extra day at the hotel costs 40 EUR (per night per person).
*Subject to change. May be substituted with similar level accommodation.
Meals: Three meals (organic Bulgarian homemade food) per day are covered by the reimbursement payment. During the workdays, all meals usually take place at the site. The meals during the weekends (except the brown-bag lunches during the excursions) take place at the hotel’s restaurant. This field school can accommodate vegetarians, vegans, and individuals with lactose intolerance. Kosher and gluten-free diets 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: Possible leisure activities during the siesta and days off in and around Pazardzhik are: swimming in the public swimming pools, hiking in the Rhodopi Mountains, wine-tasting, visiting local tourist sites, traveling by the narrow gauge train to Velingrad (popular spa and wellness town) or shopping and sightseeing in the neighboring city of 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.
Vaccination: Vaccination against COVID-19 (according to the policy of the country) is mandatory.
Weather: South-European (Transitional Mediterranean to Continental) climate with hot summers (30-40° C, 86-104° F) dominates in the region. Rainy and chillier days in this season 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 sessions (1 and 2) and 9 ECTS credits for attending the four-week session (3). 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.