Project type: Conservation workshop & field school. The variety of activities and team flexibility make this project suitable for both beginners and advanced (either volunteers or students) who would like to gain theoretical and practical experience in conservation of floor mosaics.
The course is designed primarily for students in Archaeological Conservation, Archaeology, Anthropology, History, Art History, and other related scientific fields.
Field school project started: 2012
Artifacts & monuments in the project's focus: Floor mosaics of the
ancient city of Stobi, Republic of North Macedonia.
Periods in the project's focus: Roman, Late Roman/Early Byzantine (2nd century BCE - 6th century CE).
Archaeological site of Stobi, Republic of North Macedonia. The Hellenistic, Roman and Late Roman city was a significant urban center in Antiquity and capital of the Roman province Macedonia Secunda in the Late Antiquity.
In 2012 Stobi was included in the World Monuments Fund Watch List among the monuments with universal significance - Read more here!
Major workshop activities:
The workshop will enable participants to gain comprehensive knowledge and hands-on experience in conservation of Roman and Late Roman mosaic conservation and documentation. Participants will be introduced to the history and technology of the art of this kind.
The workshops will be based on authentic mosaic fragments found in the ancient city of Stobi.
BHF partners in this project:
Field School coordinators:
Dr Angela Pencheva (Balkan Heritage Foundation & Field School Program Director) and Tome Filov (NI Stobi)
Tome Filov and Dr Mishko Tutkovski (NI Stobi), with the special participation of Dr Alessandro Lugari, conservator at the Roman Forum; lecturer at Sapienza University of Rome;
Field school session available:
Application Deadlines: until the places are filled or 3 May, 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 12
Experience required: No previous experience is required.
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Why Stobi? The first historic records to mention Stobi are by the Roman historian Titus Livy (ca. 197 BCE). According to Livy, Stobi became an important center for salt trading after the Roman conquests of Macedonia and the establishment of Pax Romana. In 69 CE, Emperor Vespasian granted Stobi the rank of municipium and the right to mint its own coins. Stobi was not only an important salt trading center but also strategically located at the crossroads of the ancient roads that ran along the two rivers Axios and Erigon. The first road connected the North and the South of the Balkans as it does today, while the second to the southwest connected Stobi with Via Egnatia near Heraclea Lyncestis and to the northeast it continued to Serdica.
This commercial and strategic position brought Stobi long-term prosperity, especially in the period between the 1 st and 3rd centuries CE. Several monumental buildings in the city are dated to this period: the Theatre, the first City Wall, Porta Heraclea, Public Building with Arches (most likely the Stobi library), Casa Romana, the Synagogue, as well as the water supply system. In 267 CE the city suffered Goths and Herules raids. At the end of the 3rd century Stobi was devastated by an earthquake, later rebuilt, but following a different urban plan. Most of the ruins visible today belong to buildings dated to this period.
In the 4 th century CE, Stobi became an important Christian center and the seat of powerful bishops. In the 5th- 6th centuries, Stobi was the capital city of the Roman province Macedonia Secunda, but suffered from the raids of Huns, Ostrogoths, Avars and Slavs. The constant threat of barbarian raids, as well as certain climatic changes lead to the gradual abandonment of the city in the second half of the 6th century CE. Some records mention a small Slav community that settled and lived there in later centuries. The last historical reference regarding Stobi describes the victory of the Byzantine troops over Stobi’s local militia during the 11th century CE.
1560 square meters of the excavated territory of the ancient city of Stobi are covered either entirely or partly in preserved mosaics, dated mostly between the 2nd and 6th century CE. Most of them were discovered in the public or residential Roman and Late Roman buildings at the site: the Episcopal Basilica, the Extramural Basilica, the Theodosian Palace, the Synagogue II, the "Casino", the House of Peristeria and the House of Polycharmos. Variations of geometric, floral and animal motifs are represented in the most popular ancient mosaic techniques: opus tesselatum, opus sectile as well as opus barbaricum and opus vermiculatum.
The first preventive conservation of a part of the mosaics in Stobi started in the 1930s and continued sporadically in the following decades. Today, many of the mosaics require urgent conservation and preservation due to damage caused by the weather and lack of proper and consistent maintenance over the past decades. In 2009, NI Stobi started a long-term program for complete conservation and exhibition of the mosaics at Stobi.
A project for conservation of the baptisterium of the Episcopal Basilica funded by The U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Heritage Preservation was successfully finalized in 2018.
The Episcopal Basilica of Stobi has several construction phases dated between the 4th and the late 6th century CE. The two major construction phases of the Episcopal Basilica are clearly visible in the plan, architecture, wall paintings and the mosaic floor decoration of the edifice. During the first phase, the floor of the nave was covered by a colorful mosaic in opus tessalatum with dominant geometric and floral motifs and two central frames containing the initials of Jesus Christ (in Greek) and a medallion with a Christological message to all believers who visit the church. Later, around 360 - 370 CE, the first ecclesiastic edifice was reconstructed and extended to the east by bishop Eusthatius, who is mentioned as the commissioner of the reconstruction in the mosaic in front of the new altar. On the mosaic his name was written over a splendid kantharos symbolizing the Source of Life. In the second half of the 5th century CE on top of the Old Basilica was built a new three - aisled basilica commissioned by Bishop Philip. The floors in the nave, the south aisle and the narthex as well as many of the walls were adorned with mosaics. The magnificent one that covered the floor of the baptistery (the end of the 5th - beginning of the 6th century CE) illustrates the 41st Psalm of David with two alternated presentations of peacocks and deer around a kantharos
WORKSHOP OUTCOMES 2012-2017
Thanks to the hardworking conservation team of NI Stobi and all project participants as well as Balkan Heritage funding in 2012 and 2013, two of the floor mosaics from the Theodosian Palace of Stobi were successfully conserved and restored. In 2014 and 2015, the students participated in the conservation and restoration project of the mosaics from the narthex of the Episcopal Basilica which is considered to be the oldest and most important Early Christian monument in the Republic of North Macedonia. The participants that took part in both of these projects were involved in all stages of the conservation - restoration processes, including preparation of detailed technical and photo documentation, condition assessment, detachment of the mosaics from their original position, removal of the degraded mortar from the back side of the tessellatum, consolidation of the back side of the tessellatum, placement of the mosaic sections on new aerolam supports, mechanical and chemical cleaning of the front side of the mosaic sections, grouting, consolidation of the surface and preparation of the final report with presentation of the workshop. Following the restoration of the mosaics from the narthex of the Episcopal Basilica (100 m 2) and the two mosaics from the Theodosian Palace (40 m 2 ), they were successfully re-laid in their original position in the buildings and thus presented to the public. The workshops in 2016 and 2017 were focused on in situ conservation of mosaics from the atrium and triclinium of the Episcopal residence (so called "Casino"). Mosaics from this palace had severe damage due to the lack of maintenance in the past decades. Various problems such as detached layers of the mosaics, vegetation growth under the tessellatum, cracks, lacunae, missing or detached tesserae, degraded mortar, degradation of the previous interventions etc. were detected on these mosaics. During the courses in 2016 and 2017, precise technical and photo documentation was created for the first time, followed by conservation activities that included detailed mechanical and chemical cleaning of the mosaic surface and bedding layers, edge repairs, filling of the lacunae, injecting with liquid mortar, re-setting of tesserae, grouting, consolidation of mosaic structure and consolidation of tesserae. Protective measures that were undertaken on these mosaics (30 m 2) strengthened their durability and improved their visual appearance.
CURRENT CONSERVATION PROJECT 2018-2022
In 2018-2019 the conservation activities during the workshop were focused on the mosaic floor in Room 1 of the House of Parthenius. The first conservation treatment of this mosaic was performed in the 1930’s and until 2018, the mosaic was covered with sand, and never properly documented. The condition of this mosaic was extremely bad: layer detachments, degraded nucleus, bulges, depressions, cracks, lacunae, missing and detached tesserae all over the surface, dirt layer deposits, incrustations, different problems caused by vegetation and insects, deteriorated infill's of lacunae and edge repairs etc., thus giving the opportunity to the participants to see and solve almost every kind of problem that can occur during mosaic in situ conservation. Participants took part in mechanical cleaning of the mosaic surface, removing the old and deteriorated cement repairs, stabilizing and consolidating the mosaic structure, injecting of liquid mortar, replacing destroyed nucleus, filling the lacunae, edge repairs, and resetting tesserae. All the processes were followed up with new technical and photo documentation using the advanced technique of photogrammetry.
After two seasons of in situ conservation of this mosaic, together with the participants, we have stabilized almost the entire surface of the mosaic with all the above-mentioned techniques. It is necessary to continue the good practices until this project is completed and the mosaic is on display to the public. Consequently, this mosaic will be again in the focus of the workshop in 2023.
In additional to all the mosaics that have been documented, conserved, restored and displayed in the Archaeological site of Stobi, the most important outcome of this project is the students who have participated in the workshops and gained experience and both theoretical and practical knowledge in valuation and preservation of cultural heritage.
In 2023, the field school project will again be hosted by the National Institution Stobi, R. of North Macedonia at the Roman city of Stobi (today an archaeological park). It provides an unique opportunity for students and volunteers to gain comprehensive knowledge and hands-on experience in conservation of authentic Roman and Late Roman Mosaic floors from the ancient city of Stobi.
During the workshop participants will be guided through the consequent stages of study, conservation and documentation as well as the history and technology of Roman and Late Roman mosaics.
The project includes three modules: practical work in documentation and conservation of mosaics; lectures on their history and conservation as well as excursions to the town of Bitola, the archaeological site of Heraclea Lyncestis, Ohrid and Ohrid Lake (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the ancient Macedonian capitals in Pella and Vergina (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Greece. Refer to the Course Program and Agenda.
By the end of the workshop the participants will:
All participants will receive:
New Bulgarian University grants 9 academic credits to students for participation in the project. Transcripts are available upon request for an additional tuition fee. Contact Admissions Office for details.
Field School Instructors:
The two-week workshop session on mosaic conservation will provide a minimum of 80 astronomical hours of practical work, workshops/lab work, lectures/instructions and guided tours as follows:
Workshops and practical work
The three-week field school session on mosaic conservation will provide a minimum of 120 astronomical hours of fieldwork, workshops/lab work, lectures/instructions and guided tours.The three-week session's educational activities incorporate all two-week session's ones plus the following:
Arrival date: 3 June, 2023
Arrival and check-in by 7.30 pm.
8.00 pm - Traditional Macedonian Welcome Dinner.
If you arrive at Thessaloniki Airport in Greece, arrange in advance a pickup with BHF logistic coordinator to the town of Kavadarci in North Macedonia.
Transfers from one of the nearest airports: Skopje (R. of North Macedonia) and Thessaloniki (Greece) can be arranged for an additional fee upon request.
Morning: Presentation of the Balkan Heritage Field School, NI Stobi and collaborating universities & institutions, the project and the participants. Ice-breakers and orientation. Sightseeing of the archaeological site of Stobi.
8.00 pm - 9.30 pm - Dinner.
7.50 - 8.30 am - Breakfast
8.30 am - 1.00 pm - Workshops/Lectures with 30-min break*
1.00 - 4.00 pm - Lunch and siesta break
4.00 - 7.30 pm - Workshops/Lectures
8.00 - 9.00 pm - Dinner
Workshops and lectures cover different aspects of ancient mosaic conservation, restoration and documentation methods and practices.
During the evenings, the project team can organize or assist participants in organizing leisure activities such as films, sports and visits to the neighboring towns/villages.
Saturday (10 June): Guided visit of the Old Town Quarter of Bitola and the archaeological site of Heraclea Lyncestis
Sunday (11 June): Guided visit of Ohrid and the Ohrid Lake(UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Sunday (18 June): Optional excursion to Pella and Vergina, Greece*
*Not covered by the reimbursement payment! Excursion fee of 199 EUR.
17 June (Saturday)
For the participants in the three week session.
Departure after breakfast.
Two week session: 17 June, 2023
Three week session: 23 June, 2023
Transfers to either Skopje (R. of North Macedonia) or Thessaloniki (Greece) airports are available for an additional fee upon request
Andreae B., Antike Bildmosaiken, Mainz, 2003
Bruneau Ph., La mosaïque antique. Lectures en Sorbonne, Paris, 1987
Donderer M., Die Mosaizisten der Antike und ihre wirtschaftliche und soziale Stellung, Erlangen-Nürnberg, 1989
Downing C. J., Wall Paintings from the Baptistery at
Dunbabin K.M.D. , Mosaics of the Greek and Roman World, Cambridge 1999
Early Christian Wall Paintings from the Episcopal Basilica in Stobi:
Fischer P., Mosaic: History and Technique, New York & Toronto, 1971
Ling R.J., Ancient Mosaics, London, 1998
L’Orange H.P., Nordhagen P., Mosaics from Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages, London, 1966
Wiseman R., Mano-Zissi Dj., Stobi: A City of Ancient Macedonia. In: Journal of Field Archaeology, 3, 1976, p. 269-302
The nearest airports: Skopje, R. of North Macedonia (80 km) and Thessaloniki, Greece (160 km). If participants arrive at these airports, a transfer to Stobi may be arranged by request. Individual or group transfers' price may vary depending on both distance and number of passengers from 80 to 200 EUR.
How to get there? Stobi is located in the center of the Republic of North Macedonia. It can be easily accessed by: 1. travelling by bus or car on the highway E-75 (from Athens, Greece to Belgrade, Serbia and Central Europe across R. of North Macedonia) - the highway exit STOBI is just in front of the site's entrance; 2. catching a bus/train from Skopje (North Macedonia), Thessaloniki (Greece) - the stop is at Gradsko (5 km. away from Stobi), from there participants/visitors can get a taxi to Stobi or request a free pick-up available from 9.00 am to 7.00 pm on the arrival day (please ask for details); 3. from neighboring towns of Negotino (13 km) and Kavadartsi (20 km) participants can get a bus to Gradsko or a taxi directly to Stobi.
Accommodation: In recently renovated air-conditioned cabins at the archaeological site next to the ancient ruins of Stobi, in rooms with two to three beds. Each cabin has 4 bedrooms + living room, 2 bathrooms with showers and WC. Washing machine and Wi-Fi are available for free. There are outdoor and indoor dining and social spaces.
Meals: Three meals per day are covered by the reimbursement payment. They usually take place (except the lunch packages during the excursions) at the site's dining room or outdoors next to it. Requests for vegetarian food are accepted. Specialized diets (vegan, kosher, gluten-free etc.) are difficult to maintain in this location.
Participants must pay on their own for extra meals, beverages, services and products!
Free time: Films, sport games and visits to the neighboring towns/villages are options for the free time in the evenings.
Insurance: The reimbursement payment does not cover health insurance. It is necessary to arrange your own insurance before your trip to Republic of North Macedonia. There are hospitals, clinics and pharmacies in all the larger towns. Foreign tourists must pay for health services, but might receive a refund if their home country has signed the Health Insurance Convention with R. of N. Macedonia (you should check this information with your Ministry of Health). 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: Moderate continental climate dominates in Stobi. Summers there are usually hot (up to 40-45 C; 100–110 F). Rainy and chilly days in this season are rare but not excluded.
What to bring?
NB! Conservation & Documentation tools and materials 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 1, 2023:
Early Bird Cost for two-week project session is 1849 EUR/ approx. 1849 USD
Early Bird Cost for three-week project session is 2299 EUR/ approx. 2299 USD
Regular Cost - after March 1, 2023:
The Regular Cost for two-week project session is 1999 EUR / approx. 1999 USD
The Regular Cost for three-week project session is 2549 EUR/ approx. 2549 USD
All students registered for BHFS season 2020 shall contact BHFS Admissions office at b[email protected] for further information about the conditions of their participation in season 2023.
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]!
* 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!
For more information about scholarships, low-cost flights, hotels, etc. please feel free to contact us or look at our recommended links.
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 three-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.