FIELD SCHOOL & WEBSITE: Balkan Heritage Field School's Ancient Greeks in the Land of Dionysus
Project- Excavation of Emporion Pistiros, Thrace
LOCATION: Emporion Pistiros, between the small towns of Septemvri and Vetren, Southern Bulgaria
AFFILIATIONS: Balkan Heritage Foundation, National Archaeological Institute, Bulgarian Academy of
Sciences, Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History, Septemvri Archaeological Museum "Prof.
Mieczyslaw Domaradzki","Pistiros" Association, New Bulgarian University (Bulgaria), Queen's
University, Department of Classics, Canada
LENGTH & DATES: Session I: 26 July – 9 August 2015; Session II: 9-23 August 2015; Session III: 26 July
– 16 August 2015
HISTORY: The ruins of an ancient Greek trade center (emporion) in the heart of Thrace were discovered
by Prof. M. Domaradzki in 1988. He started regular excavations and in 1990 his team found a stone
inscription (known as "Vetren inscription") that helped the scholars to identify the site as the Ancient
Greek emporion named Pistiros. Merchants from Greek coastal cities of Maroneia, Thassos and
Apollonia lived and traded there with their Thracian neighbors under the supreme protection of the
Thracian Odryssean kings (the biggest and mightiest Thracian Kingdom at that time).
CURRENT PROJECT In 2015 the Ancient Greeks in the Land of Dionysus - Excavation of Emporion
Pistiros, Thrace Project envisions further excavation one of the following site's areas: (1) the South-
Eastern sector - an area next to the fortification wall with higher concentration of cult artifacts and
features, (2) the Central sector of the site, where remains of the earliest period of the emporion's
existence are expected to be found, (3) the Extramural sector (outside of the fortification wall), where
archaeologists aim to collect further data about the settlement structure and history.
STAFF: Angela Pencheva, Balkan Heritage Program Manager; PhD student in Classical Archaeology at
Humboldt University-Berlin, Germany.
COST: Starts at 1,147 Euros (approx. $1,279 USD)
DEADLINES: Applications are accepted until all places are filled, or, at the latest, July 1st, 2015
CREDITS: Up to 9 credits from New Bulgarian University
APPLICATION PROCESS: Submit application and, after acceptance, make a down payment
Tell us about your field school experience.
I worked on a project called Ancient Greeks in the Land of Dionysos - Excavation of Emporiom Pistiros, Thrace. It is a classical Hellenistic site dating between the 5th and 3rd c. B.C.E. It is located in southern Bulgaria just outside the town of Septemvri. It seems to be a location where Greek merchants traded with the Odryssian kingdom of Thrace. This site was an important metal extraction location on the banks of the Hebros River. In antiquity, the river was much larger and more navigable than it is today. There was a fortification wall around the city that measured about 300 by 400 meters square. The site itself was only discovered after an inscription was found in a farmer's field not far from the site, which was once a Roman road. The inscription discusses the founding of the city and the only documented mention of the Thracian royal court.
The site itself is extremely influential to Bulgarian history and more specifically to for Thracian history. As a beginning student in the field of archaeology, the site provided ample opportunities to learn and experience different methods in archaeology. We spent time excavating on the site between 7:30 and 1:00 each day and then had nightly lectures on a variety of different topics. On the day off each week we were taken on excursions throughout Bulgaria to visit museums and learn Bulgarian cultural history. During our time off we found exploring the town, hiking into the local woods, visiting the nearby Hot Springs, swimming in the river, playing games at the hotel pool, testing different local foods, and making friends with the many stray cats to be quite entertaining. I really enjoyed my experience because I learned so much about archaeology, made some great friends, and established a love for the country of Bulgaria.
What skills did you learn?
Through the Balkan Heritage Field School I learned a large array of different field techniques and research methods. The program was set up so that we spent Monday through Saturday working at the site. Each day began early in the morning with breakfast and transportation to the site. Then, before we started our daily excavation would be briefed about new field techniques that would be used throughout the day. The rest of the day was spent on the site excavating in small groups under the direction of one of the Balkan heritage staff members and the site director. During the daily excavations we learned about proper excavation methods, we learned how to draw vertical and horizontal unit drawings, analyze stratigraphic layers, and use tools to measure the exact location of our finds. Each day we kept complete journals. We received a break midway through the day and afterwards we would clean or sort artifacts. One day, we were also lucky enough to be shown the soil flotation process at the site. One afternoon we also learned how to survey a field near the excavation site and on another occasion we surveyed an area of the little village that we stayed in.
The daily field excavations provided all of the skills necessary to work on any field project. However, there were also other lecturers and excursions to further our knowledge. After we returned from the site and ate lunch there was a daily lecture, which ranged in discussion from the history of the site, to laboratory methods, and conservation and reconstruction workshops. The lectures brought in professors, museum curators, and professional archaeologists from important institutions in Bulgaria as well as from the international teams working at the site. On days where there is not a lecture we were usually taken to local museums or other sites said that we could learn about other finds in the area.
Finally, each Sunday was spent on an excursion to places such as Plovdiv or the Rose Valley. During each one of these excursions we were exposed to multiple museums and galleries. We were also taken to other archaeological sites and ancient Thracian tombs. The excursions allowed us to gain a greater understanding of the region as a whole, the archaeology throughout the region, and to gain a better understanding of Bulgarian culture. In the cities and towns where we would stop we were also able to explore and purchase souvenirs to take home.
How were accommodations?
When I attended the Emporia Pistiros field school in the summer of 2013 we stayed in a small village called the Vavara, which was located several kilometers from the actual site. We stayed at a local hotel that provided three authentic Bulgarian meals a day. There rooms accommodated 2 to 3 people. Overall they were spacious, clean, in each had its own bathroom. The hotel also had a pool where many students spent the afternoon relaxing after spending all day at the site excavating. The town was also small and friendly. Many afternoons we would walk through town looking at the gardens and buying chocolate in the local shops. The people in the town and in the hotel were extremely friendly and helpful. Transportation was provided to and from the site each day as well.
This year, the accommodations are at "Villa Terres", which is a newly built tourism complex, located in the southern part of the village Karabunar, 8 km from the motorway exit "Trakia" on the way to Velingrad. During the project workdays all participants will be given a lift from the hotel to the site (that is located 14 km away) and back. Based on the experience that I had I am sure that the accommodations will be excellent and well situated as they were in the past.
What are the pros and cons of this Field School? Would you recommend it?
Overall, this field school was excellent. The Balkan Heritage Foundation strives to make the best possible experience for students. They provide tons of opportunities to learn about archaeology field techniques and laboratory methods as well as immersing students into the Bulgarian culture.
The only complaints I have from this field school are in regards to the limited time available. I spent four weeks in Bulgaria working with this field school and that was only enough time to scratch the surface. I was lucky enough to get to work the entire time on a single unit because I learned about the process from the beginning but I would have liked to see where the project went. The skills and techniques that we learned had to be written down in detail because we were unable to practice or review them a lot. I believe this is a problem with most field schools. There is so much that they wanted teach us but limited time in which to perfect the technique. However, it established a firm base from which to continue working. I would have also liked to receive an update or site report from Emporia Pistiros because the site now holds great importance for me.
I would most definitely recommend this field school to anyone whether there are beginners or more advanced. It provides opportunities to learn hands-on enter perfect skills in the field. Although Bulgaria may not seem like a common destination for field schools it was the perfect location to learn a new set of skills among people who truly cared about the field. The Balkan Heritage Field School provided an environment that was both welcoming and friendly. The staff members are more than willing to help you with anything that you need and explain different parts of archaeology. They were extremely outgoing to ensure that you had a good experience and you learned as much as they could possibly provide in the limited time available. This field school provided a breakdown of all of the essential aspects of archaeology. As I have progressed into a graduate program I realize that this experience really prepared me for the field of archaeology. At the same time, is a wonderful environment for archaeology enthusiasts and not just students.
Anything else you think readers should know about this field school?
I would note that the earlier someone applies for the field schools there are more discounts on the price of tuition. There also discounts for things such as doing multiple sessions. As is, this field school is extremely affordable and well worth the cost. It caters for beginning students to advanced and archaeology hobbyists or enthusiasts.