Project type: Field school & archaeological excavation. The variety of activities and the team's professionalism and flexibility make this project suitable for both beginners and advanced in field Roman Archaeology.
Тhe field school started: 2010
Site and venue: Archaeological site of Stobi is near the village of Gradsko, Republic of North Macedonia. Since 2012, Stobi is included in the World Monuments Fund Watch list among the sites with universal significance - read more here!
Period in the project's focus: Roman, Late Roman (2nd century - 6th century CE)
Major field school topics/activities: archaeological field techniques and methods for excavation and documentation in regard to specifics of excavation of Roman and Late Roman urban site; course on photogrammetry and 3D archaeological recording and modelling in collaboration with Queen's University, Canada; finds processing; as well as excursions to significant heritage sites in Republic of North Macedonia and Greece.
BHF Partners in this project: National Institution Stobi, Republic of North Macedonia, Department of Geography and Planning of Queens University, Canada and New Bulgarian University, Bulgaria.
Dig directors: Dr Silvana Blazevska (archaeologist at National Institution Stobi) and Goce Pavlovski (archaeologist at National Institution Stobi)
Field school coordinators: Angela Pencheva (Balkan Heritage Foundation & Field School Program Director, PhD in Classical Archaeology); Goce Pavlovski (archaeologist, NI Stobi, MA in Archaeology);
Visiting professor: George A. Bevan (PhD), Associate Professor, Department of Geography & Planning, Queen's University, Canada.
Field school sessions available:
Application deadlines: Until the places are filled, or 15 May 2020
Minimum length of stay for volunteers: Four weeks
Minimum age: 18 (16, if the participant is accompanied by an adult family member)
Number of field school places available: Maximum 20
Project language: English
Academic credits available: 9 ECTS credits are available 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. All participants should bring clothes and toiletries suitable for hot and sunny weather. Bear in mind that chillier days are very rare but not uncommon.
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.
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The ancient city of Stobi was the largest city in the northern part of the Roman province Macedonia, later capital of the province Macedonia Secunda and important urban, administrative, trade and religious center during the Roman and Late Roman periods. Located at an exceptionally significant position, at the intersection of the two main roads, north-south road (Thessalonica-Stobi-Signidunum) and the diagonal road (Heraclea-Stobi-Serdica), the town possessed all preconditions for greater rise and development.
First historical records for Stobi are found in Roman historian Titus Livus, who recorded the Paionian urbs vetus Stobi as а place close to the battleground where Macedonian King Philip V defeated the Dardanians in 197 BCE.The same author reveals that in the period after 168 BCE, when the Romans conquered the Macedonian kingdom, Stobi entered the fourth meris, and became a trade center from where salt was distributed to the north, to Dardania. When the Roman province of Macedonia was established in 147 BCE, Stobi was the largest city in the northern part.
Roman period: The salt trade and strategic position allowed for Stobi's continual rise in the following centuries of Roman rule. Pliny recorded Stobi as oppidumcivium Romanorum, a status gained during the time of Augustus meaning that there must be a community (conventus) of Roman citizens who possessed ius Italicum, besides the local population and other foreigners. The citizens who enjoyed Roman civil rights belong to the tribes Aemilia and Tromentina.
Stobi became municipium, a status which appeared on the first coins minted in Stobi by Vespasian in 72/73 CE, and on few inscriptions dated in the period between 1st and 3rd century CE. The imperial mint at Stobi, with interruptions, lasted until the time of Caracalla (198-217 CE). The town suffered in the second half of the 3rd century, due to the intrusion of the Goths and Herules in 267/69 CE, and later, around the year of 300 CE, by an earthquake. These events, along with the general crisis in the Roman Empire caused decline of the prosperity of Stobi.
Few public buildings from this period are partially uncovered at the site: the Theatre, the House of Polycharmos with the northern part adapted to a Synagogue, the Temple of the Egyptian deities Isis and Serapis, the Building with Arches (the Library), and partially uncovered urban villa named Casa Romana, located close to Erigon River. Their grandiose architectural solutions, manner of building, used materials along with the magnificent marble, stucco, painted and sculptural decoration points to a city where benefactors were some of the emperors and local prominent families.
Late Roman period: The large reconstruction of the city occurred during the 4th and especially in the 5th century. Since Constantine issued the Milan Edict in 313 CE which equated the Christianity with the other religions, many cities throughout the Empire became bishop’s seats, including Stobi. Budios was the first recorded bishop in Stobi, who participated at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in 325 CE. Besides Budios, six other bishops from Stobi are recorded in the sources or inscriptions.
In 388 CE, Emperor Theodosus visited Stobi from where he issued two edicts. When new provincial division was established in 386 CE, Stobi probably became the capital of the newly formed province of Macedonia Salutaris, and slightly later, when the province was reorganized and renamed as Macedonia Secunda, ancient sources mentioned eight cities within the province and Stobi was mentioned as first. In 447 CE Stobi and seventy cities or towns on the Balkans suffered in the raids of the Huns, while Theodoric and the Ostrogoths plundered Stobi on their way to Dyrrachium in 479 CE.
Most of the excavated buildings and fortifications at Stobi belong to the Late Antiquity, and were erected between 4th and 6th century. A new inner fortification wall was built on the eastern side in the early 5th century, thus shortening the city’s territory. Some of the existing houses were renovated and more large residences were built with many rooms organized around the central inner courtyard with fountains and pools, lavishly decorated with mosaics and rich architectural marbles: the House of Parthenius, the Theodosian Palace, the House of Peristeria, the so called Casino, as well as two public baths and the city fountain. The buildings were divided by streets, some of them paved and colonnaded.
Christianity largely shaped the urban layout of the city. The Early Episcopal basilica was built in the late 4th century, renovated by bishop Eusthatios in the early 5th century. In the late 5th century a new, larger Episcopal basilica was built on artificial terrace, 4.5 meters above the Early church. Three more basilicas are known from the second half of the 5th century within the city walls (North basilica, Civil basilica, Central (Synagogue) basilica and three outside the fortification: the Cemetery basilica, Basilica Extra Muros and Basilica in the village of Palikura, 2km southeast of Stobi.
The earthquake in the early 6th century caused damages to the buildings. Major repairs and rebuilding is recorded on the public and residential buildings as well as on the fortification. The incursions of the Slavs and Avars and other tribes from the north during the second half of the 6th century devastated the cities throughout the Balkans. Besides the earthquakes and barbaric incursions, the bubonic plaque during Justinian reign which caused depopulation as well as climate changes were reasons for decline in the second half of the 6th century and abandonment of the city in the first decades of the 7th century. The city was probably stroke by another earthquake shortly before or after it was abandoned.
Medieval period: The last historical records mentioning Stobi refers to the victory of the Byzantine emperor Basil II over the military garrison stationed in Stobi in the year of 1014. During the Medieval period (11th-14th centuries) a small settlement existed, judging by the remains discovered in the southeast part of the city, around the Temple of Isis and in the corridors of the abandoned Theatre, while the small cemetery was found above the remains of the Civil and Central basilica. In the following centuries Stobi vanished into oblivion until it was discovered in the second half of the 19th century.
Periods of excavations:
For more than a century the ancient city of Stobi has been attracting scientists from all over the world to reveal its secrets.
The first reported excavations were begun during the World War I by German officers and the archaeologist Hald and later on Krischen;
1923 to 1940 - Excavations, directed by Balduin Saria and R. Eger, Kj. Truhelka, V. Petkovic, J. Petrovic, Dj. Mano-Zissi - the Belgrade National Museum;
1955 to 1969 - Excavations carried out by the Archaeological Museum of Skopje and the Agency for Protection of Monuments of Culture, Macedonia;
1970 to 1980 - Excavations, directed by Dj. Mano-Zissi and J. Wiseman - the Museum of Veles, Macedonia, University of Austin, Texas, and later Boston University - both from USA.
1992 to 1995 - rescue excavations by the Agency for Protection of Monuments of Culture, Macedonia;
The National Institution Stobi (NI Stobi) was founded in December 2008 as an independent governmental institution under the Ministry of Culture. The large-scale excavations conducted by S. Blazhevska (NI Stobi) began in 2009. Until 2019 numerous archaeological and conservation projects were successfully finalized (for more information, see: www.stobi.mk).
In 2010, the field school project concentrated on the Western Necropolis (in use from the 1st century BCE to the 5th century CE) and the temple of Isis dated to the 2nd and the 3rd century CE. The excavations between 2011 and 2013 took place in the Northern Residential Area of Stobi, inhabited mainly in the Late Antiquity.
The participants in the field school projects (2014-2019) excavated an area next to one of the most representative, residential buildings in Stobi – the Theodosian Palace – located at the center of the city, bordered by two main streets: Via Principalis Inferior and Via Principalis Superior. The building, which is richly decorated with mosaics, was given its name by early scholars under the assumption that the Emperor Theodosius I was accommodated there during his visit to Stobi in 388 CE.
The excavations in the last five years brought to light a late antique building situated between the Theodosian Palace and an adjacent building, called “the Jail” due to the discovery of shackled skeletons in the 1920s. In 2020, the work will continue in the same area in an effort to investigate the chronological and architectural relation between the three buildings.
The field school includes the following three modules:
Students who need to prepare field reports and presentations for their universities can receive additional instruction and assistance.
All participants will receive:
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Instructors, Trainers and Area Supervisors:
The four-week field school session provides a minimum of 180 hours of fieldwork, workshops/lab work, lectures/instructions and guided tours.
Guided tours (covered by the participation fee):
For students with archaeological experience who would like to concentrate mainly on 3D documentation of active excavations using photogrammetry, surveying, RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging), and CAD (Computer Aided Design), please contact Balkan Heritage or George Bevan ([email protected]) directly.
Arrival date: 27 June 2020;
Arrival in Stobi by 7.00 pm. Registration and check-in. Traditional welcome dinner.
Participants, who travel by bus or by train can be picked up from Gradsko bus station or Stobi railway station.
Transfers from one of the nearest airports: Skopje (R. of North Macedonia) and Thessaloniki (Greece) may be arranged for an additional fee upon request.
Presentation of the Balkan Heritage Field School, National Institution Stobi and the other collaborating universities & institutions, the project and the participants. Ice-breakers and orientation.
Sightseeing of the archaeological site of Stobi.
6.00 am - 6.40 am - Breakfast
6.40 am - 1.00 pm - Fieldwork with 30-min break*.
1.00 pm - 5.00 pm - Lunch and siesta break.
5.00 pm - 5.45 pm - Lectures/ Workshops
6.00 pm - 7.30/8.00 pm - Finds processing. Workshops.
8.00 pm - 9.00 pm - Dinner.
* In rare cases of rain, the field school program provides substitute activities including finds processing workshops and film projections.
** Lectures and workshops in the area of Roman and Field Archaeology.
The BHFS team may organize/assist organization of various leisure activities for participants during their free time such as hiking, wine-tasting, movies etc.
5 July (Sunday): Visit to Ohrid and Ohrid lake (UNESCO World Heritage Site).
18 July (Saturday): guided visit to Skopje, the capital of Republic of North Macedonia.
Optional excursion to Pella and Vergina, Greece on 12 July 2020, not included in the field school fee! Excursion fee of 40-60 EUR applies (depending on number of participants).
12, 18 July
Departure dates: 25 July 2020
Departure after breakfast.
Transfers to the airports in Skopje (R. of North Macedonia) and Thessaloniki (Greece) may be arranged for an additional fee upon request.
Anderson-Stojanovic, V.R. Stobi, The Hellenistic and Roman Pottery, Princeton University Press, 1992.
Balkan Heritage Foundation, National Institution Stobi, 2016 - Workshop for Conservation of Roman and Late Roman Pottery from Stobi (2010 - 2014)
Boardman, J., et al. (ed.) The Oxford History of the Classical World. Oxford & New York, 1986.
Brown, P. The World of Late Antiquity AD 150-750 (Library of World Civilization). Norton & Company, 1989.
Errington, R. M. A History of the Hellenistic World: 323-30 BC. Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.
Errington, R. M. A History of Macedonia. Barnes Noble, 1994.
Grant J., Gorin S. and Fleming N.. The Archaeology Course Book: an introduction to themes, sites, methods and skills. Routledge, 2008.
Renfrew, C. and Paul B.. Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice. New York, 2006.
Wiseman, J.R. and Mano-Zissi D. Stobi: A City of Ancient Macedonia, Journal of Field Archaeology, 3(3): 269-302, 1976.
The nearest airports: Skopje, R. of North Macedonia (80 km/49 mi) and Thessaloniki, Greece (160 km/100 mi.) Transfers to Stobi from these airports may be arranged by request. Individual or group transfer prices may vary, depending on the number of passengers, from 30 to 110 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 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 (R. of North Macedonia) or 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 arrival day (please ask for details); 3. from neighboring towns of Negotino (13 km) and Kavadartsi (20 km) participants can take a bus to Gradsko or a taxi directly to Stobi.
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 Republic of North Macedonia 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: Participants will be accommodated in the recently renovated air-conditioned cabins at the archaeological base next to the ancient ruins of Stobi, in rooms with two to three beds. Every cabin has 4 bedrooms and living room, 2 bathrooms with showers and WC. A washing machine and Wi-Fi are available for free at the site.
Meals: Three meals (fresh, homemade food) per day are covered by the admission fee. They usually take place (except for the lunch packages during the excursions) at the base's premises. Requests for vegetarian food are accepted.
Participants must pay on their own for extra meals, beverages, services and products. There is no option for single room accommodation at Stobi.
Free time: Films, sports games and visits to the neighboring towns/villages are the options for free time in the evenings.
Extra trips and excursions:
Please follow the links above for excursion details.
Insurance: The admission fee does not cover insurance. It is mandatory to arrange your own health insurance before your trip to R. of North Macedonia. There are hospitals, clinics and pharmacies in all the larger towns. Foreigners must pay for health services but might receive a refund if their home country has signed the Health Insurance Convention with R. of North Macedonia (you should check this information with your Ministry of Health).
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?
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:
For further information contact Admissions Office at [email protected]
New Bulgarian University grants 9 ECTS credits for attending the field school. Transcripts of Records (ToR) are available upon request for an additional tuition fee . For details: Regulations for obtaining Transcripts of Records.
Queen's University students: 6.0 credits is available through Queen's University at the Undergraduate level (CLST 412 and 413) and at the Graduate level (CLAS 810). Please contact George Bevan ([email protected]) for details.