This project is included in the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans
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 Copper and Early Bronze Age. Individual program and task assignments are available to advanced students.
The excavation started: 1939; The field school started: 2013
Site: Prehistoric tell next to the village of Yunatsite, Southern Bulgaria.
Period(s) of occupation: Copper Age (or Chalcolithic, 4900-4100 BCE), Early Bronze Age (3100-2200 BCE), Iron Age (800-600 BCE), Antiquity (200s-500s CE) and Middle Ages (1200s-1500s CE).
Project venue: the district town of Pazardzhik, Bulgaria.
Major field school topics/activities: Archaeology of the Copper Age and Europe's first civilization; Warfare in Prehistory; Excavations of the Copper Age (4900 – 4100 BCE) building levels of Tell Yunatsite; Archaeological field techniques and methods for excavation and documentation (with regard to the specifics of the tell's excavation); 3D intra-site modelling and documentation and GIS spatial analysis in archaeology; Documentation of prehistoric (Copper and Bronze age) weapons, tools and shards; Processing of finds and samples; Excursions to significant heritage sites in Bulgaria.
BHF partners in this project: Tell Yunatsite Excavation Team from the National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences; Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History; New Bulgarian University, Sofia Photography School (Bulgaria) and Institute for Field Research (IFR), USA.
Dig co-director and field school coordinator: Asst. Prof. Kamen Boyadzhiev (PhD in Archaeology), Department of Prehistoric Archaeology, National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
Dig co-director: Ass. Prof. Yavor Boyadzhiev (PhD in Archaeology), National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
Application deadline: Until the places are filled or 1 June, 2017
Field school sessions available:
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 15
Project language: English
Academic credits available: Students who study in Europe can receive up to 9 ECTS credits through the New Bulgarian University, Bulgaria. Students who study outside Europe can obtain 12 semester credit units (equivalent to 18 quarter units) through IFR’s academic partner: The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Extension. See more details below!
Experience required: None 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.
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 summer temperatures in the area are 25-35° C. Participants should bring clothes and cosmetics suitable for hot and sunny weather but should also prepare for possible rainy, windy and chilly days. 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.
If you are interested in an even more wide-ranging experience with Old World Prehistory, please see also the PREHISTORIC PACK (combining 2 to 3 different Balkan Heritage Field School projects)!
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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. The tell was first excavated in 1939 by the Bulgarian archaeologist Vasil Mikov. Starting in 1976, regular excavations were carried out on an annual basis. Since then, 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 joined research at the site and today this is an international research effort directed by Bulgarian scholars. The field school will be held for fifth 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 Yunatsite has been excavated. This work has yielded rich collections of archaeological materials, and the sterile soil has not yet been reached. There is a medieval cemetery (1200s-1500s CE) century at the top of the tell, followed in depth by Roman and early Byzantine periods (200s-500s CE) level, two Iron Age levels (800-600 BCE), a thick layer dated to the Early Bronze Age (EBA) (3100-2200 BCE), a hiatus (4100-3100 BCE) and finally a thick Copper Age (Chalcolithic) layer. It is unknown if the cultural history of the tell begins in the Chalcolithic period or whether older human 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 fifth millennium BCE.
In the very beginning of the 5th millennium BCE the prehistoric population in the Central and Eastern Balkans turned known metal-processing technologies into an industry for the first time in human history (the world's most ancient copper mines and foundries are found in Bulgaria and Serbia). Archaeological evidence shows that in the fifth millennium BCE these prehistoric cultures enjoyed a constant increase in population and wealth, while simultaneously experiencing social stratification due to the intensive trading of metal products, salt, flint, Spondylus shells and other goods with the rest of prehistoric Europe and Asia. These Balkan Copper Age cultures had all characteristics of the first civilizations including: the very first urban settlements in Europe like Tell Yunatsite, Tell Durankulak and Tell Provadia in Bulgaria; a dense network of settlements; the production of "industrial" quantities of goods, esp. metal products and salt; developed trade; social and professional stratification; pictograms and characters interpreted by some scholars as the world's oldest script (the "Gradeshnitsa tablet", for instance, dates back to the fifth millennium BCE); as well as precious artifacts made of gold, clay, bone and stone (the world's oldest gold treasure found in the Varna Copper Age necropolis). This very first civilization in Europe was Pre-Indo-European and emerged in less than a millennium, spreading across large parts of the Balkans, northwest Anatolia and Eastern Europe. It collapsed around the end of the fifth millennium under the pressure of both drastic climatic changes and invasion of equestrian nomads (presumably early Indo-Europeans).
Along with the economic advance of the Copper Age societies, evidence of war and developed warfare are more frequent than before. New weapons and strong fortifications did not protect the inhabitants of the Copper Age Balkans - the end of their civilization at the end of the fifth millennium BCE is connected with dramatic, armed conflicts. This is clearly illustrated by the evidence of cruel massacres and devastation of the latest Copper Age building level at Tell Yunatsite.
The study of this first complex society in Europe was accelerated 40 years ago with the excavation of the Varna Copper Age necropolis. Nowadays scholars from all over the world are still discovering new facts and adding new data about the "lost" first civilization in Europe. Recent excavations at Tell Yunatsite indicate that the Chalcolithic period settlement covered an area far larger than the tell itself and consisted of uptown (acropolis?) and a downtown distinct. The uptown section was surrounded by a five meter wide clay wall and a broad and deep ditch. Buildings at this part were placed closed to each other, creating an almost unbroken urban fabric. The earliest artifacts date to 4900 cal. BCE and mark either the establishment or extension of the prehistoric settlement. Four remarkable discoveries highlight the excavation of the Copper Age uptown area in the recent years: 1. a wooden platform, probably the floor of a burnt edifice that collapsed vertically (along with numerous artifacts) onto the walls of a huge pit beneath (maybe tower or gate-tower); 2. a human skeleton with the earliest evidence of amputation in Southeastern Europe and 3. a perfectly-preserved unburnt wooden floor (on which the floor patterns are preserved) and 4. a small gold bead found by a field school student in 2016 - the tiny ornament is believed to be the oldest bit of processed gold ever discovered in Europe, and likely in the world. As noted above the Chalcolithic 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 layer.
Archaeological Context: The Copper Age (Chalcolithic) period in Tell Yunatsite corresponds chronologically (4900 - 4100 BCE) with other European and Near Eastern sites and cultures such as: Varna, Kodzhadermen-Gumelnita-Karanovo VI (Eastern Balkans), Vinca and Krivodol-Salcuta-Bubanj hum (Central and Northern Balkans), Dimini (Southern Balkans), Early Cucuteni-Trypillian culture (Eastern Europe), Ubaid period (Mesopotamia).
This field school provides a unique glimpse into the transition between the Copper and the Bronze Ages in European and Mediterranean prehistory and is an amazing opportunity for all participants to dig at a real tell like the ones in the Middle East from the comfort and safety of Europe; to study textbook-clear stratigraphy; as well as to learn more about Europe's first civilization in the Copper Age and warfare in Prehistory. Since 2013 the BHFS project has assisted archaeologists in the study of the Copper Age earliest building levels in the inner parts of the uptown area. In 2017, field school students will take part in further excavation of burned Copper Age buildings. Archaeologists and students will seek together the answers of the following questions: why and how did one of the earliest protourban centers in Europe emerge in the beginning of the fifth millennium BCE, and what are the reasons that caused its devastation 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: 1. fieldwork including excavation of the Chalcolithic layers and structures, which includes practicing basic excavation techniques as well as screening, sifting and flotation; the development of archaeological field documentation by maintaining a field journal on a daily basis, filling context sheets and labels, drawing an elevation plan/ a ground plan/ a cross-section, 3D positioning of finds, taking coordinates with a dumpy level, as well as taking photographs at the site; 2) lectures, workshops and field training in prehistoric (with emphasize on Copper Age and warfare), and field archaeology, finds processing and documentation and 3) excursions to: the Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History on 27 June/10 July, 2017; the ancient town of Plovdiv including the Archaeological Museum, Old Town Quarter and major Roman monuments on 1 July, 2017; and Stara Zagora including the Regional Museum of History, Roman monuments and the Museum of Europe's best-preserved Neolithic (5600 BCE) dwellings on 15 July, 2017 as well as the optional tour of Sofia, Bulgaria on 8 July, 2017.
The Session 1 is an excellent opportunity for beginners who will be introduced to the methodology and theoretical knowledge needed for engaging in an archaeological excavation of a prehistoric tell, with an emphasis on the archaeology of the Copper and Bronze Age in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Session 2 is ideal for participants with some (at least two weeks) field experience who will be able 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 as well as photographic documentation of prehistoric (Copper and Bronze Age) weapons. Each two-week session includes 10 working days, 1 day for orientation and introduction; 1 day for excursion; and 1 day-off plus arrival & departure day. The 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) and 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 and 3:
SESSION 2 and 3:
All field school participants could join the optional tour of Bulgarian capital Sofia (optional) on 8 July, 2017 for an additional fee of 30 EUR. Students participating in the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans will be able to visit the Bulgarian capital for free.
Arrival dates for Sessions 1 and 3 - 24 June, 2017; for Session 2 - 8 July, 2017
Arrival and check-in at Hotel Primavera 2, in Pazardzhik district, Bulgaria by 7.30 pm.
8.00 pm - 9.30 pm - Traditional Bulgarian welcome dinner.
A shuttle or taxi pick-up may be arranged from the Sofia airport upon request.
Meeting time/point on arrival date: 8.00 pm, Hotel Primavera 2 Reception.
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 - 8.15 pm- Travel to the hotel
8.15 - 9.15 pm - Dinner
* In case of rain, the field school program provides substitute activities including finds' processing workshops and film projections at the hotel.
2, 9 (only for participants in the four-week Session 3) and 16 July, 2017
27 June/ 9 July, 2017: Tour of the Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History, Bulgaria. The tour is covered by the admission fee.
1 July, 2017: 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 admission fee.
8 July, 2017: Sofia. Optional guided tour of Bulgarian capital including the National Archaeological Museum, the Cathedral, the 4th century rotunda of St. George, and the 6th century church of St. Sofia. Students participating in the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans can visit the Bulgarian capital Sofia for free. Participation to the excursion is open to the rest of the students for an additional fee of 30 EUR.
15 July, 2017: 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 admission fee.
Participants who attend the Session 3 will be able to attend all the tours!
Departure. Check-out by 12.00 pm
A drop-off by taxi may be arranged to the airports in Sofia and Plovdiv upon request.
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).
Aslanis I., Y. Boyadziev. Fleißdeponierung in der chalkolithischen Siedlung von Yunatsite – Іn: Prehistoric Thrace. Proceedings of the International Symposium in Stara Zagora, Sofia – Stara Zagora 2004, 370-378.
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.
Boyadzhiev K. Development and Distribution of Close Combat Weapons in Bulgarian Chalcolithic - Studia Preahistorica 14, Sofia 2011, 265 – 281.
Boyadzhiev Y., I. Aslanis, S. Terzijska-Ignatova, V. Mazanova. Yunatsite: Ein Bulgarisch–Griechisches Grabungsprojekt. Die Jahre 2002–2008 - In: Boyadzhiev, Y., S. Terzijska-Ignatova (eds.) -The Golden Fifth Millennium. Thrace and Its Neighbour Areas in the Chalcolithic, Sofia 2011, 21-37.
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 Preahistorica 14, Sofia 2011, 205 – 223.
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).
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.
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.
Tell Yunatsite. The Bronze Age, Vol. 2, Part 1 (Moscow, 2007). (In Russian; a summary in English is available after each chapter.)
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.
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.
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 Neighbour Areas in the Chalcolithic, Sofia 2011, 49-56.
Project venue: the district town of Pazardzhik (50 000 inhabitants) 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. The site has running water, electricity and a squat toilet.
The nearest air terminals: Sofia (Bulgaria, 100 km/ 62 mi away) and Plovdiv (Bulgaria, 50 km/ 34 mi away) - don't forget to check the low cost flight options!
to get there?: If participants arrive at the Sofia airport, a shuttle (only for Sessions 1 and 3) or taxi transfer to the field school venue in Pazardzhik may be arranged by request.
Please, specify this in your application form!. Individual or group transfer taxi prices may vary, depending on the number of passengers, from 25 to 75 EUR. The shuttle fee is 30 EUR per person. Participants who arrange their travel individually will be expected to arrive at Hotel Primavera 2 on the arrival day by 7.30 pm. Pazardzhik may be reached by train and bus from Plovdiv (30-50 min) and Sofia (approx. 1 ½ - 2 hrs). 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 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, air-conditioning and free Wi-Fi) of the very Downtown Hotel Primavera 2. 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.). There is cheap laundry service available at the archaeological site. Participants are not expected to bring any additional equipment, bedclothes or towels. Single rooms are available upon request for the supplement of 100 EUR per week. Staying an extra day at the hotel costs 20 EUR (per night per person).
Meals: Three meals (organic Bulgarian homemade food) per day are covered by the admission fee. During the workdays breakfasts and lunches usually take place at the site's premises. Dinners during the workdays and the rest of 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!
See all projects' accommodation options on our Information page!
Free time: Guided visits to Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History, the Plovdiv Archaeological Museum, Roman monuments and the Old Town Quarter of Plovdiv, the Stara Zagora Regional Museum of History, Roman monuments of Stara Zagora and the Museum of Europe' best-preserved Neolithic (5600 BCE) dwellings are . Possible leisure activities during the siesta and days off in and around Karabunar are: swimming in/sunbathing around the swimming pool, hiking in the Rhodopi Mountains, wine-tasting at one of many local wineries, visiting local tourist sites, traveling by the narrow gauge train to Velingrad (popular spa and wellness town) or shopping and sightseeing in the neighboring cities of Pazardzhik and Plovdiv.
Extra trips and excursions: The BHFS participants can take advantage of their stay in Bulgaria and take part in the optional excursion to the Bulgarian capital Sofia on 8 July, 2017 for an additional fee of 30 EUR. Students participating in the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans will be able to visit the Bulgarian capital for free.
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 unheard of.
What to bring?
Excavation & documentation tools and materials, as well as working gloves are available at the site!
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 fees in USD are approximate. Please check current exchange rates!
Super Early Bird Admission fee for any two-week session is 1147 EUR/ approx.1285 USD
Super Early Bird Admission fee for four-week session is 2293 EUR/ approx. 2568 USD
Early Bird Admission fee for two week project session is 1214 EUR/ approx. 1259 USD
Early Bird Admission fee for four week project session is 2428 EUR/ approx.2719 USD
The regular admission fee for two week project session is 1349 EUR / approx.1511 USD.
The regular admission fee for four week project session is 2563 EUR/ approx. 2870 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]!
* 5% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:
* 10% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:
* 12% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:
* 15% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee is available in case of:
NOTE, 5% OF EVERY ADMISSION FEE FOR THIS PROJECT DIRECTLY SUPPORTS THE BALKAN HERITAGE PROTECTION FUND'S ACTIVITIES!