Bulgaria

Byzantine Cold Case File: Excavations of an Early Christian Мonastery near Varna on the Black Sea

Period: Early Byzantine
Code: VAR.EXC 17
Session 1: 24 July - 7 August, 2017
Session 2: 7 - 21 August, 2017
Session 3: 24 July - 21 August, 2017
Academic credits available: up to 12
Admission fee starting from: 1275 EUR (approx. 1424 USD)

The Project and the Course


General Information

Project type: Archaeological field school and excavations. The variety of activities and the team's professionalism and flexibility make this project suitable for both beginners and advanced in either Field or Classical Archaeology. Individual program and task assignments are available to advanced students.

About the project: This field school provides a glimpse into the Early Byzantine history and culture. It enables students to learn more about the Early Christian art, architecture, theology, cults, monastic art and everyday life through excavating an Early Christian monastery and attending various lectures, workshops and excursions.

Major field school topics/activities:

Early Byzantine and Early Christian culture, Art and History;

Archaeological field techniques and methods for excavation and documentation;

Find’s and samples processing;

Excursions to sites along the Western Black Sea Coast.

Field school founded: 2009   

Site: Early Christian monastery complex on Djanavara hill near Varna, Bulgarian Black Sea Coast.

Project venue: Varna, Bulgaria, Black Sea Coast

Period(s) of occupation: Early Byzantine (5th - 6th century CE)

BHF partners in this project: Varna Regional Museum of History; New Bulgarian University; Municipality of Strumyani (Bulgaria) and Institute for Field Research (IFR), USA

Directors: Vassil Tenekedjiev, PhD in Archaeology and prof. Alexander Minchev, Varna Regional Museum of History, Department of Archaeology

Project coordinator: Alexander Manev, PhD Candidate, Department of Classical Archaeology, National Institute of Archaeology with Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

Field shool dates:

  • Field School Two-week Session 1: 24 July - 7 August, 2017
  • Field School Two-week Session 2: 7 - 21 August, 2017
  • Field School Four-week Session: 24 July- 21 August, 2017


Application Deadlines: Until the places are filled or latest 1 May, 2017

Minimum length of stay for volunteers: Two weeks

Minimum age: 18

Number of field school places available: Maximum 25

Project language: English

Academic credits available: Students who study in Europe can receive up to 12 ECTS credits through New Bulgarian University, Bulgaria. Students who study outside Europe can obtain 8 semester credit units (equivalent to 12 quarter units) through IFR’s academic partner: University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA-Extension). See more details below!

Experience required: No

Requirements:

  • The admission fee 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, just like Bulgarian citizens, as long as they can provide evidence of their home-country health insurance with a card, certificate, etc.
  • Participants should bring clothes and cosmetics suitable for warm and sunny weather, but should also prepare for rainy, windy and chilly days.
  • Participants are also expected to prepare for the field school by reading the BHFS handbook that will be sent by e-mail before the beginning of the project.

Special considerations: The project is not recommended for individuals with special illnesses that might be exacerbated during the intensive outdoor activities. Note: Citizens of the EU, EEA, USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand do not need an entry visa for Bulgaria and Serbia. Citizens of countries not mentioned above should check in advance whether they will need entry visas for one or both countries. The cost of any visas is not included in the price of the field school!

If you are interested in an even more comprehensive experience with classical antiquity, check our BLACK SEA PACK combining this field school with Apollonia Pontica Excavation Project on the Southern Bulgarian Black Sea Coast.


Varna and the Site

Varna is the biggest Bulgarian city on the Black Sea coast and is an important trade, cultural and tourist center today with millenary history and numerous archaeological monuments. Near the city are the spectacular Mesolithic site at the desert-like area Pobiti Kamani and the Varna Copper Age necropolis (second half of the 5th millennium BCE) that once belonged to the Europe’s first civilization - 3000 gold items found there weigh more than 6 kg and bring an evidence of the world’s oldest goldsmith industry. The town itself was founded in the early 6th c. BCE during the Great Greek colonization by settlers from Milletos in Asia Minor. During the Antiquity the city is known as Odessos - a name of Protothracian origin, related to the water resources. Its prosperity was based on its good harbour and the intensive maritime trade with the Mediterranean world. The Early Byzantine period (4th-6th c. CE) is one of the most remarkable in the history of Odessos. After the the Late Roman administrative reforms, Odessos benefitted from its geographical proximity to the the new capital Constantinople (Istanbul) and the new center of the province Moesia Secunda - Marcianopolis (Devnya) and grew into an important administrative and religious center. It became an episcopal see. Therefore, it is not surprising that only within the ancient city limits a cathedral and six churches dated to the Early Byzantine period have been discovered. At least ten more and two monasteries existed in the vicinity of Odessos.

The monastery on Djanavara hill was one of the biggest and the most impressive Early Christian complexes not only in Varna region but in the Northeastern Balkans. It was situated seven kilometers from the ancient city and not far from the renowned Via Pontica - a road along the Western Black Sea Coast between the Danube Delta and Constantinople. The remains of the monastery were discovered in the beginning of the 20th century by one of the founders of the Bulgarian Archaeology and Varna Archaeological Museum, Hermengild Skorpil. He excavated the monastery church which had an unusual ground plan with parallels outside the Balkans, in Asia Minor and the Near East. The church monumental architecture, the colorful mosaics and the beautiful marble decorations were impressive but the most breathtaking find was hidden under the altar. In the underground crypt Skorpil discovered relics (bones) of a saint put in an elaborated golden reliquary decorated with semi precious stones. The reliquary was placed in a small silver sarcophagus-shaped box, placed in another one made of fine white marble.

Skorpil didn’t excavate more than the church and the courtyard with colonnades in front of it. Unfortunately he couldn’t publish his manuscript with excavation results which was lost after his death. The research was interrupted for almost 100 years. The cold case file was reopen and was renewed at the end of the 20th c. by prof. Alexander Minchev and his team from the Varna Archaeological Museum. In the course of twenty years they managed to recover most of the lost information about the church and proved the hypothesis of the discoverer of the site: the Christian temple was part of a large monastery, which developed gradually around it. So far archaeologists have determined four periods of building and reconstructions between the middle 5th and the early 7th c. CE. The thrill and the satisfaction of its excavations and discovery remain for the participants in the forthcoming excavations. Among the current research topics and questions are: what is the monastery architecture and planning like (archaeologists expect to find its library / scriptorium, the abbot house, the monks’ dormitories, the kitchen, the monastery enclosure, the gate/s, the outbuildings, the water supply system, etc); where is the monastery necropolis; why is the monastery church architecture so unusual and whose holy relics were placed under the altar (at the moment samples from the relics are in an Oxford lab for DNA analysis). Answers to all these questions can help researchers to revеаl what was the origin and the history of this significant Early Byzantine monastery and to which Early Christian community it belonged.


The Field School

The Balkan Heritage Field School became part of the excavations of the monastery on Djanavara hill in 2009. For three years the students, while studying and practicing, contributed to the main goal of the research: recovering the lost information from the excavations in early 20th century. This was succesfully achieved and now a book about the church is on its way.

After a five year break, in 2017 the Balkan Heritage Field School will reopen the project at the monastery on Djanavara Hill. The field school provides a unique glimpse into the Early Byzantine history and culture along with the amazing opportunity: to dig at a significant Early Byzantine monastery on the Black Sea Coast; to learn more about the Early Christian art, architecture, theology, cults, monastic art and everyday life; to visit the following archaeological and historic sites in Bulgaria: the Early Byzantine and Medieval fortress at Kaliakra cape, the Early Byzantine fortress and the archaeological reserve Yailata, the Early Byzantine fortress with episcopal basilica and a winery on St. Atanas cape, the archaeological sites and the museums of history in the town of Devnya (Late Roman city of Marcianopolis) and Balchik (ancient Dionysopolis), the Late Antiquity and Medieval site Madara (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the first capital of Bulgaria - Pliska as well as several archaeological sites in Varna and Varna Archaeological Museum.

The field school season 2017 envisions excavations at several places around the representative monastery colonnaded atrium (the central court) where during the previous excavations have been found remains of several buildings with at least four periods of reconstructions, what makes the site a good field for studying, practicing and gaining valuable hands on experience.

Two two-week sessions and one four-week session are available. Each includes fieldwork, lectures, workshops for finds' processing and documentation, excursions to significant archaeological and historical sites. The participants who join the four-week session will be able to develop further their field archaeology skills and competences and to attend more lectures, workshops and excursions (refer to the Course Program and the Agenda below!).

Students who are required to prepare field reports and presentations for their universities can receive additional instructions and assistance.

All participants will receive:

  • Project handbook (in PDF version, send by e-mail)
  • Balkan Heritage Field School Certificate specifying the fieldwork hours, educational modules and sites visited.

The Program

The two-week field school session provides a minimum of 75 hours of fieldwork and training, workshops, lectures and guided tours as follows:

Field work

  • Practicing basic excavation techniques;
  • Creating of field documentation - field journal, context sheets and labels, ground plans and cross-sections, photographs, etc;
  • Identifying and sorting of archaeological finds;
Workshops
  • Archaeological documentation of pottery (drawing, graphic reconstruction, photographing, description, etc.).
  • Cleaning and sorting of archaeological finds;
  • Recognizing Late Antiquity pottery and lamps;
  • Recognizing building techniques and materials from Late Antiquity.

 Lectures

  • Introduction to the Early Byzantine History with Focus on Eastern Balkans;
  • Introduction to the Early Christian Architecture with Focus on Eastern Roman Empire;
  • Early Christian Church: Rite and Architecture;
  • History and Archaeology of North-West Black Sea Coast in Antiquity and in Early Byzantine Time (with focus on the ancient city of Odessos (Varna), Dionysopolis (Balchik), the fortresses Kaliakra and Yailata).
  • 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, Contextual Sheets, Log Book and other Forms;

Guided tours:

  • Visiting the Archaeological Museum - Varna and the historical neighborhood of the city;
  • Visiting the archaeological sites of Balchik (ancient Dionysopolis);
  • Visiting the Early Byzantine and Mediaeval fortress of Kaliakra cape;
  • Visiting the Early Byzantine fortress and the archaeological reserve Yailata.

The four-week session provides a minimum of 150 hours of fieldwork and training, workshops, lectures and guided tours incorporating all two-week session's ones plus the following:

  • Additional and more comprehensive field work training and practices;
  • Workshop on Early Byzantine numismatics;
  • Workshop on Early Christian mosaic art;
  • Lecture: Every Day Life in the Early Christian Monastery (According to Historical and Archaeological Evidence);
  • Guided tours with lectures to: Devnya (ancient Marcianopolis), Late Antiquity and Medieval site Madara (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the first Medieval capital of Bulgaria (Pliska), the Early Byzantine fortress with episcopal basilica and a winery on St. Atanas cape.

   

  • Lectures and workshops will take place at at the Archaeological Museum - Varna.
  • Field instructions and training will take place at the site.

The Agenda

 

First day

Arrival dates:

  • Two-week Session 1/ Four week session: 24 July, 2017
  • Two-week Session 2: 7 August, 2017

Arrival and check-in by 7.00 pm

8.00 - 9.30 pm - Traditional Bulgarian welcome dinner.

Meeting time/point on arrival date: 7:45- Hotel Orbita lobby

A pick-up may be arranged from Varna, Burgas, Sofia and Plovdiv airports, train or bus stations upon request.

Second day

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

Afternoon: Town sightseeing and orientation walk.

Work days

6.30 - 7.10 am - Breakfast

7.10 - 7.30 am - Transfer 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 / 5.30 - 7.00 / 7:30 pm - Lectures / workshops / lab work / sightseeing
7.30 - 8.30 pm - Dinner

* in cases of rain, the project envisions finds' processing workshops, lectures and film projections

Excursions schedule

The following study trips are included in the field school program and covered by the admission fee:

For particiapants in the two-week sessions:

  •  Varna historical neighborhood sightseeing tour  
  •  Varna Museum of Archaeology
  •  Trip to Balchik (ancient Dionysopolis), the fortresses Kaliakra and Yailata, all on the Northern Black Sea Coast(first session)
  •  Trip to Devnya (ancient Marcianopolis), Madara (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the first Bulgarian Medieval capital Pliska (second session)

    For participants in the four-week session: Excursions included in two-week session +

  • Trip to the Early Byzantine fortress with episcopal basilica and a winery on St. Atanas cape
  • Trip to Devnya (ancient Marcianopolis), Madara (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the first Bulgarian Medieval capital Pliska
Days-off

In the middle of each two-week session a one day off is envisaged. BHFS team could organize/assist with organization of various leisure activities for participants during their free time such as excursions, visiting natural and historical sites and beaches, boating, sailing, fishing, diving, attending cultural events, etc.

Last day

Departure dates:

  • Two-week Session 1: 7 August, 2017
  • Two-week Session 2, Four week session: 21 August 2017

Departure day. Check-out by 11.30 am.

A drop-off may be arranged upon request.


Reading Background   

 

Brown, P. The world of Late Antiquity. New York, 1971

Cormack, R. Byzantine Art (Oxford History of Art). Oxford University Press, 2000

Dalton, O. M. Byzantine Art and Archaeology. London, 1911

Dalton, O. M. Early Christian Art. London, 1925

Grant J., S. Gorin and N. Fleming. The Archaeology Coursebook: an introduction to themes, sites, methods and skills. Routledge. 2008

Jones, A. H. M. The Later Roman Empire, 284-602: A Social, Economic, and Administrative Survey. Volume 1 and 2. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986

Krautheimer, R., Ć., Slobodan. Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture. The Yale University Press Pelican History of Art, 1993

Lowden, J. Early Christian and Byzantine Art. Phaidon Inc Ltd, 1997

Maas, M., eds. The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian. Cambridge University Press, New York 2005. (Chapter 10)

Mango, C. History of World Architecture: Byzantine Architecture. Rizzoli International Publishing, New York, 1978.

Ovcharov, D., N. Ovcharov. Early Byzantine Architecture and Art in Bulgaria. In: Athena Review, Volume 3, no.1, 2001, 47-52.

Painter, K. Gold and Silver in the Late Roman World. British Museum Publications, London 1977

Renfrew, C. and P. Bahn. Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice. Thames & Hudson; Fifth Edition, 2008

Velkov, V. Cities in Thrace and Dacia in Late Antiquity (Studies and Materials). Amsterdam 1977.

Travel & Accommodation & Practicalities


Travel

The nearest air terminals: Varna airport (8 km), Burgas airport (110 km). Don't forget to check the low cost flight options! If participants arrive at one of these airports, a transfer to Varna center may be arranged by request (Please, specify this in your application form!). Individual or group transfers' price may vary depending on both distance and number of passengers from 20 to 100 EUR. Ask for details!

Bus connections? Bus lines connect Varna with Burgas, Sofia (the Bulgarian capital) and Plovdiv.

A detailed travel-info sheet will be provided to the 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 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 & Meals

Accommodation: In a downtown hotel, in comfortable rooms with two to three beds (bathrooms with shower and WC, TV, air-conditioning and fridge). Cheap laundry service and free Wi-Fi are available at the hotel. Participants are not expected to bring any additional equipment, bedclothes or towels. Single rooms are available upon request for the supplement of 200 EUR per week. Staying an extra day at the hotel costs 50 EUR (per night per person). The distance from the hotel to the site is app. 8 km/4.5 mi, and it takes app. 15 min drive. Daily BHFS shuttle service is arranged for the participants to bring them to the site and back.

Meals: Three meals per day are covered by the admission fee. They usually take place (except the brown-bag lunches during the excursions) at a local restaurant. This field school can accommodate vegetarians and individuals with lactose intolerance. Vegans and people with kosher and gluten-free diets should arrange their food themselves. They will receive a discount of 75 EUR per weeks (for each) off the regular admission fee!

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 & Trips

Free time: Guided visits to Varna Archaeological Museum, to Balchik (ancient Dionysopolis), to the Early Byzantine fortresses at Kaliakra cape and in Yailata archaeological reserve, all on the North Bulgarian Black Sea Coast will be organized for all field school participants. Participants in the four-week session will visit also Devnia (the Roman city of Marcianopolis), Madara archaeological reserve (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and archaeological site of Pliska – the first capital of the medieval Bulgarian Empire as well as the Early Byzantine fortress with episcopal basilica and winery on St. Atanas cape. 

During the summer Varna offers a lot of opportunities for sports and entertainment. Possible leisure activities during the siesta and days off are: swimming, sunbathing, surfing, scuba diving, fishing, sailing, boating and even ice-skating. Participants can visit local beaches, the splendid Sea Garden for a walk and and numerous natural and heritage sites in Varna vicinity. The city offers cinemas and theaters, modern shopping areas, bars and restaurants, Aquarium, Dolphinarium, different museums and galleries, and open-air stages, where concerts for popular and classical music often take place.

  

Technicalities & Practicalities

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, just like Bulgarian citizens, as long as they can provide evidence of their home-country health insurance with a card/certificate, etc.

Weather: South-European (Transitional Mediterranean to Continental) climate with hot summers (30-40° C) dominates in the region. Rainy and chillier days in this season are not uncommon.

What to bring?

  • A pair of working shoes (sneakers, running shoes) and a pair of comfortable shoes for walking/hiking;
  • Clothing suitable for an outdoor working environment: sun-hat and light clothes with long sleeves and legs (protecting from the sun and insects), including a light raincoat (consider weather conditions - hot and sunny, but rain may fall as well);
  • 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.
  • Don’t forget to bring 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 Admission Fee   

 

The admission fee is valid only for students who enroll in this field school through the Balkan Heritage Field School (BHFS). Students wishing to benefit from the advantages of the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans shall enroll through the Institute for Field Research (IFR), USA and pay different admission fees corresponding to the IFR's terms and conditions.

BHFS 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 price in USD is approximate .Please check current exchange rates!

   

   

Super Early Bird Special - by December 20, 2016:

  

Super Early Bird Admission fee for two-week session is 1275 EUR* / app.1424 USDSAVE 224 EUR / 250 USD 

  

Super Early Bird Admission fee for four-week session is 2549 EUR*/ app. 2847 USD  - SAVE 299 EUR / 334 USD    

   

Early Bird Special - from December 21, 2016 until February 28, 2017:

  

Early Bird Admission fee for two-week session is 1349 EUR* / app.1507 USD - SAVE 150 EUR / 168 USD

  

Early Bird Admission fee for four-week session is 2699 EUR* / app. 3014 USD -  SAVE 149 EUR / 166 USD 

   

Regular admission fee - after February 28, 2017:

  

The regular admission fee for two-week session is 1499 EUR* (app.1674 USD)


The regular admission fee for four-week session is 2848 EUR* (app. 3181 USD). (Includes 5% discount for participation in 2 sessions). 

    

 

* All participants who are willing to organize either their food or accommodation or both separately, outside the project package, will receive a discount of 75 EUR per weeks (for each) and 150 EUR per week (for both) off the regular admission fee! For instance, if Your admission fee for two-week session is 1259 EUR (the Early bird) and you prefer to organize and pay extra for your food and accommodation outside the project package, your admission fee will be reduced to 959 EUR (app. 1009 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]!


Discounts off the regular admission fee:

* 5% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:

  1. Participation in more than 1 BHFS project or project session in 2017. (5% discount is valid for all projects/sessions to be attended).
  2. Membership in the Archaeological Institute of America.

* 10% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:

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

* 12% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:

  1. Group Participation (three or more people, who participate together in one BHFS project in 2017). The discount is valid for each participant.

* 15% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee is available in case of:

  1. Group Participation (three or more people, who participate together in more than one BHFS project in 2017). The discount is valid for each participant for all projects sessions to be attended.
  2. BHFS alumni, who participate in more than one BHFS project or project session in 2017. (15% discount is valid only for the second, third etc. project/session to be attended).
  3. BHFS alumni, who participated successfully in at least two sessions of this project in the past.

Note, 5% of every admission fee 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

Academic Credits   

 

CREDIT HOURS:

  • Students who study in Europe (EU, EEA, CH, Russian Federation and countries from the Western Balkans, Eastern Europe and Southern Caucasus): New Bulgarian University grants 6 ECTS credits to students for attending two and three-week sessions and 9 ECTS credits for attending 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.
  • Students who study outside Europe wishing to obtain academic credits for attending the four-week session of this field school project 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 University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA-Extension) and will receive a letter grade. The tuition fee is included in the IFR admission fee.

Map

 

Bulgaria

Byzantine Cold Case File: Excavations of an Early Christian Мonastery near Varna on the Black Sea


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