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 those advanced in either Field or Classical Archaeology. Individual program and task assignments are available to advanced students.
NB! The project is especially appropriate for who would like to gather intense experience with practical archaeological work: mainly technical documentation (drawing & photography), filling of context sheets and inventory cards, pottery reading and statistics, as well as completion of official field reports!
The field school started: 2016
Site: Mansio Lissae – Roman Road Station, situated between the small towns of Septemvri and Vetren, southern Bulgaria.
Project venue: "Villa Terres" is a newly built tourist complex including a spa hotel and a winery. It is located in the southern part of the village of Karabunar, 8 km (5 mi) from the motorway exit "Trakia" on the road to Velingrad. During the project work days all participants will be taken from the hotel to the site (which is located 8 km away) and back.
Period(s) of occupation: Roman, Late Roman, Medieval
Major field school topics/activities: Archaeological field techniques and methods for excavation and documentation; Roman and Late Roman fortification and architecture; documentation and conservation of Roman and Late Roman finds (mainly pottery), excursions to significant heritage sites in Thrace, Bulgaria.
BHF partners in this project: Archaeological Museum "Prof. Mieczyslaw Domaradzki", Septemvri, New Bulgarian University (Bulgaria)
Dig director & field school coordinators: Alexander Manev (PhD Candidate in Archaeology, Department of Classical Archaeology, National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences); Angela Pencheva (PhD in Classical Archaeology, Humboldt University, Berlin; Balkan Heritage Foundation & Field School Program Coordinator)
Three-week session 2: 29 April - 20 May, 2017 CLOSED!
Application deadlines: until the places are filled or 1st of April for Spring season and 1st of August for the Fall Season, 2017
Minimum length of stay for participants: two weeks
Minimum age: 18 (16, if the participant is accompanied by an adult family member)
Number of field school places available: Maximum 18
Project language: English
Experience required: None
Special requirements: Participation in 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 September temperatures in the area are 25-30⁰ C (77-86° F) or higher. All participants should bring clothes and toiletries suitable for hot and sunny weather but should also prepare for possible rainy, windy and chilly days. All participants are also expected to prepare for the dig by reading (at least) the BHFS handbook chapter about archaeological excavation techniques and methods (reading materials will be sent by e-mail to all registered students 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.
Via Diagonalis (Via Militaris) became the most important road through the Balkan Peninsula in Roman times when it connected the city of Singidunum (today’s Belgrade, Serbia) on the Danube River with Byzantium (Istanbul) – the city which would later become the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. The road is ca. 1000 km (600 miles) long and passes through large important Roman cities like Naissus, Serdica, Philippopolis and Hadrianopolis. It is the fundamental connection between the western part of the Empire and the East. It was also the official route for armies moving throughout the provinces.
Mansio Lissae, later renamed Bona Mansio (Lat. Good Station) is one of the few archaeologically identified Roman road stations on the route of Via Diagonalis. The initial name of the site derives from the nearby Thracian settlement of Lissa. Mansio Lissae was a fortified structure, one of many, intended to safeguard the main road. It is situated in the Thracian Valley, between the Roman cities of Serdica (modern Sofia) and Philippopolis (modern Plovdiv). The station is in the form of an irregular tetragon, surrounded by thick walls with corner towers. The ruins of the fortification are still visible high above ground. During the Ottoman period it was reused and renamed “Assar”- which in Turkish means “Fortress”.
The very first investigations of the site were limited sounding trenches dug in 2002 within a Bulgarian-French archaeological campaign which sought to research the ancient legacy of the region. The trenches have revealed a thick cultural layer of over 3 meters in depth. The ruins of fortification walls as high as 4 meters were also unearthed. The archaeologists discovered Roman pottery and coins from the 2nd and 3rd CE. Nevertheless, the chronology and characteristics of the structure still remain unclear.
Although no modern construction threatens the Roman cultural legacy, the site is considered endangered. Since Roman archaeological valuables attract the interest of many people, during the last decades the site has turned into a training range for treasure hunters. The hazard of further destruction, as well as scientific interest in the site, have set this project into motion. With the first archaeological campaign in 2016, BHF aimed also to draw the attention of the local community and the interest of the surrounding municipalities to put this endangered site on their priority list for protection of cultural heritage. Currently BHF is still the only sponsor of the excavations and the entire income from the field school participation fees for the 2017 season will be spent on financing the archaeological campaign!
The practical goal of the Balkan Heritage Field School excavations in 2017 is to continue uncovering the fortification wall and to create a long-term strategy for the preservation of the architectural elements of the settlement. The scientific aspect of the project aims to gather information about the character and the chronological development of the site and thus to contribute to the study of the Roman road system in Thrace. In accordance to these objectives the starting campaign of the project is set with the following tasks:
The project sessions available in 2017 include the following three modules:
The excavation project in 2017 is going to last four weeks: from 26 August until 23 September. Field school sessions with flexible duration are available in this time period: two two-week sessions, a three week session and a four week session. Participants who join the three- and four-week project session will be able to develop further their skills and competences regarding the field work and finds processing, gained during the first two-week session and to attend a number of extra lectures, workshops and two excursions to the major Roman city of Diocletianopolis and a military outpost on Via Diagonalis (Please refer to the Course Program and Agenda below!).
All participants will receive:
Instructors, Trainers and Area Supervisors:
Two-week field school sessions provide a minimum of 85 hours of fieldwork and training, workshops, lectures and guided tours as follows:
NB! Please note that agenda for the second two-week session (9 -23 of September) is going to be the same as the agenda for the second two weeks of the four-week session!
The three-week session provides a minimum of 120 hours of fieldwork and training, workshops, lectures and guided tours incorporating all those of the two-week session in addition to the following:
Guided tours to:
The four-week session provides a minimum of 180 hours of fieldwork and training, workshops, lectures and guided tours incorporating all those of the three week session in addition to the following:
Guided tours to:
Arrival and check-in at Villa Terres, Karabunar, Pazardzhik district, Bulgaria by 7.00 pm
8.00 pm - 9.30 pm - Traditional Bulgarian welcome dinner.
A pick-up may be arranged either from the Sofia or Plovdiv airports upon request.
Meeting time/point on arrival date: 8.00 pm, Villa Terres, Karabunar
Morning: Presentation of the Balkan Heritage Field School and collaborative universities & institutions, the project and the participants. Ice-breaking.
Afternoon: Introductory lectures. Visit to Septemvri Archaeological Museum and the ancient sites of Bona Manio and Pistiros.
6.30 am - 7.00 am - Breakfast
7.10 am - 7.25 am - Travel to the site
7.30 am - 10.00 am - Fieldwork*
10.00 am - 10.15 am - Break
10.15 am - 1.30 pm - Fieldwork*
1.30 pm - 4.30 pm - Lunch and Siesta break
4.30 pm - 6.30 pm - Lectures/Workshops/Finds' processing **
8.00 pm - 9.00 pm - Dinner
*In rare cases of rain, the project provides substitute activities including finds processing workshops and film projections at villa Terres.
**Lectures and workshops in the area of Classical and Field Archaeology, focused on Roman and Late Antique culture in Thrace.
The following excursions are included in the field school program and covered by the admission fee:
6 May/2 September (Saturday): Visit to the Roman fortress “Trajan’s Gate” on Province Thrace’s border.
7 May/3 September (Sunday): One-day excursion to the ancient town of Plovdiv – European capital of Culture 2019
14 May/10 September (Sunday): One-day to the town of Hisarya (the Roman city and spa complex of Diocletianopolis)
16 September (Saturday): Visit to the Roman fortress of Peshtera
17 September (Sunday): One-day excursion to the city of Stara Zagora (Roman city of Augusta Trajana).
Participants who attend the three-week session will join all the tours.
Three-week session 2: 20 May, 2017
Departure day. Check-out by 12.30 am.
A drop-off may be arranged to the airports in Sofia and Plovdiv upon request.
Villa Terres provides SPA center with sauna, steam bath and swimming pool for free to all field school participants as well as ATVs and bikes to hire. The BHFS team can assist with the organization of additional leisure activities for participants upon request such as hiking, wine-tasting outside the Villa, movies etc.
Lander J. Roman Stone Fortifications. Variation and Change from the First Century AD to the Fourth, BAR International Series 206, 1984
Johnson S. Late Roman Fortifications, London, 1983
Hayes J.W. Late Roman Pottery, London, 1972
Hayes J.W. Handbook of Mediterranean Roman Pottery,
Pena J.T. Roman Pottery in the Archaeological Record, Cambridge, 2007
Valeva, J., Nankov, E., Graninger D. (ed.) A Companion to Ancient Thrace, Wiley Blackwell, 2015
Van Tilburg C. Traffic and Congestion in the Roman Empire, Routledge, 2007
Roman Imperial Coinage vol. 1-10
Project venue: "Villa Terres" is located in the village of Karabunar, 84 km/52 mi away from the Bulgarian capital Sofia and just 8 km/5 mi away from the "Trakia" motorway exit to Velingrad. The distance from the villa to the site is app. 15 km/9.5 mi, and it takes app. 15/20 min to drive. A daily BHFS shuttle service is arranged for the participants to bring them to the site and back. The site has running water, electricity and a squat toilet.
The nearest air terminals are: Sofia (Bulgaria, 84 km/52 mi away) and Plovdiv (Bulgaria, 50 km/ 34 mi away) - don't forget to check the low-cost flight options!If participants arrive at one of these airports, a transfer to Villa Terres in Karabunar may be arranged by request (please, specify this in your application form!). Individual or group transfer prices may vary, depending on the number of passengers, from 25 to 100 EUR. Ask for details!
How to get there: Participants who individually arrange their travel will be expected to arrive at Villa Terres on the arrival day by 7.30 pm. It may be reached by bus from Septemvri (15 - 20 min) and Sofia (app. 1 ½ hrs). A detailed travel-info sheet will be provided to enrolled students.
Visa requirements: Citizens of the EU, EEA, USA, Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand do not need a visa to visit Bulgaria or any of Bulgaria’s neighboring countries for up to 90 days, with the exception of 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: Villa Terres Hotel, Karabunar, Bulgaria - in comfortable rooms with two to three beds (bathrooms with shower and WC), equipped with air-conditioning and TV in a local newly built hotel. The hotel has a small swimming pool and spa, free of charge for the participants in the field school. There are cheap laundry services and free Wi-Fi provided. Extra night - 30 EUR (per night per person), Single room - 200 EUR (for two-week period).
Meals: Three meals (fresh, organic Bulgarian homemade food) per day are covered by the admission fee. They usually take place (except the lunch packages during the excursions) in the hotel’s restaurant. Requests for vegetarian food are accepted. Brown-bag lunches are provided during the excursions and days off.
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: One-day guided visit to Plovdiv - the ancient Roman city of Philippopolis (the Archaeological Museum, the Roman Theatre, Stadium, Odeon, Villa Urbana etc.) and half a day excursion to Hisarya – the Roman city of Diocletianopolis, a visit to the ancient emporion of Pistiros and the archaeological museum of Septemvri will be organized for all field school participants. Participants in the four project week will visit the city of Stara Zagora, the ancient Augusta Traiana (the Regional History Museum, the Neolithic Dwellings Museum, the Museum of Religions and the Roman Forum Complex) and the Roman fortress “Trajan’s Gate.” The above mentioned trips are covered by the admission fee. Possible leisure activities during the siesta and days off in and around Karabunar are: swimming in/sunbathing around the hotel pool, hiking in the Rhodope Mountains, wine-tasting at one of many local wineries, visiting local tourist sites, traveling by the narrow gauge train to Velingrad (popular and larger spa and wellness town) or shopping and sightseeing in the neighboring cities of Pazardzhik and Plovdiv.
Insurance: The admission fee does not cover insurance. It is mandatory to arrange your own health 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: South-European climate dominates in the field school area, making summers hot (30-40° C, 86-104° F). Rainy and chilly days in this season are rare but not excluded.
What to bring?
Excavation & documentation tools and materials, as well as working gloves are available at the site!
The BHF Admission fee includes: Educational and fieldwork activities, full-board accommodation (hotel + 3 meals per day), tools, materials, project handbook and issue of Certificate of Attendance, administrative costs and excursions included in the field school program plus relevant entrance fees.
The fees in USD are approximate.Please check current exchange rates!
The admission fee for two week project session is 855 EUR / approx. 819 USD,
SAVE 94 EUR /approx. 105 USD
The admission fee for three week project session is 1286 EUR /approx. 1440 USD,
SAVE 143 EUR/ approx. 160 USD
The admission fee for four week project session is 1619 EUR /approx. 1814 USD,
SAVE 180 EUR/approx. 201 USD
The admission fee for two week project session is 949 EUR / approx.1063 USD
The admission fee for three week project session is 1429 EUR /approx. 1600 USD
The admission fee for four week project session is 1799 EUR /approx. 2015 USD
Admission Fee Transfer Options:
- Bank transfer
- Online transfers via the Balkan Heritage virtual POS Terminal VISA, MASTERCARD & MAESTRO cards are accepted.
For further information contact Admissions Office at [email protected]!
New Bulgarian University grants 6 ECTS credits to students for attending the two-week field school sessions, 9 credits to those attending the three-week session and 12 for the four-week session. Transcripts of Records (ToR) are available upon request for an additional tuition fee starting from 282 EUR for six ECTS credits. For details please read carefully the Regulations for obtaining Transcripts of Records.