SUPER EARLY BIRD SPECIAL available for this project by November 30, 2014 - see details below!

Project type: field school (excavations). The variety of activities and team flexibility make this project suitable for both Beginners and Advanced in Field Archaeology. 



Site: Prehistoric settlement near Ilindentsi, Southwestern Bulgaria.
Period(s) of occupation: Early and Middle Balkan Neolithic (6000 - 5400 BC)

Project Venue: a guest-house in the village of Ilindentsi (district of Blagoevgrad), located (3 km away from the municipal transport hub Strumyani having a train and bus stop ) in the foothills of the majestic Pirin Mountains (UNESCO World Heritage Site) in Southwestern Bulgaria. The site is within 10 min walking distance.

The nearest air terminals: Sofia (Bulgaria, 150 km) and Thessaloniki (Greece, 170 km) - don't forget checking the low cost  flight options! If participants arrive at the Sofia airport, a transfer to the field school venue in Ilindentsi may be arranged by request (Please, specify this in your application form!). Individual or group transfers' price may vary depending on number of passengers from 30 to 100 EUR.

How to get there?  Participants who arrange individually their travel will be expected to arrive on the arrival day in Strumyani by 6.30 pm. From there (meeting point is the bus stop in Strumyani) they will be given a free lift to Ilindentsi. Direct bus lines and trains connect the village of Strumyani with the towns of Sandanski (bus and train station, 16 km away from Ilindentsi) and the Bulgarian capital Sofia (150 km away from Ilindentsi). Strumyani may be reached also from Thessaloniki (Greece) by either train (stop in Sandanski) or by bus (stop in Strumyani only upon request). 



Sessions' dates:
Field school session 1: 13 - 27 June, 2015
Field school session 2: 28 June - 12 July, 2015

Application Deadlines: until the places are filled, or latest 10 May, 2015  
Minimum length of stay: 1 session (two 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

Experience required: No

Special requirements: The project is 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 25-38 C or higher. All participants should bring clothes and cosmetics suitable for hot and sunny weather. All participants are expected to get prepared for the dig by reading (at least) the BHFS handbook chapter about archaeological excavation techniques and methods (the BHFS e-handbook 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.

THE SITE: In the seventh millenium BC the Balkan Peninsula was a gate through which farming, animal husbandry and generally Neolithisation spread to Europe from Anatolia and the Near East. Central parts of the Balkans were among the most important migration routes during that period. Six Early Neolithic settlements are mapped there, in the Middle Struma River Valley, on the natural road that connects the Eastern Mediterranean with the Central Europe. One of them is the prehistoric site near Ilindentsi. It is located on a high terrace at 250-253 m above sea-level in the Struma River Valley and at the foot of the Pirin Mountains - the third-highest range on the Balkans. The site (with vertical and horizontal stratigraphy) covers a territory of almost three hectares, where the prehistoric cultural layer surprisingly lies immediately under the topsoil humus (10 to 20 cm). During the previous seasons (2004-2009, 2011-2014) archaeologists unearthed there remains of various Early and Middle Neolithic settlement structures and features. Among them are several dwellings: one of them with stone foundations, another one with elaborate floor construction and under-floor drainage systems and a third one completely burnt with well preserved in situ "kitchen-space" including an oven, grain-store, quern-stone and what is more two Neolithic grave-pits: of a baby and a piglet and numerous waste pits. The geomagnetic map of the site created in 2010 shows some anomalies (so called Southern and Northern) that are found very intriguing by the the archaeologists. Excavations in 2011-2014 revealed the reasons for these anomaliesa Neolithic ditch and a palisade in the North and a Neolithic well structure in the South. The culture layer (app. 0,70-1.00 m thick throughout the excavated surface) was so far rich with artifacts such as white- and red on red painted pottery, anthropomorphic figurines, stone and bone tools and esp. jewels (rings, necklace beads, bracelets) all of which are dated to the first half of 6th millenium BC (archeomagnetic studies of fired plaster fragments found in one of the dwellings allow us to date its existence as between 5957 - 5689 BC). In the same burnt house's context were found numerous microlite bores and small beads (some of which were disposed as waste) - an evidence for a small Neolithic workshop producing adornments most probably not only for domestic needs.

Although the possibility for acculturation of indigenious population can not be completely disregarded at this stage, scholars assume that the Neolithic settlement near Ilindentsi was established by groups of people, coming from the earliest and the largest Early Neolithic settlement in the Valley, found near the village of Kovachevo. Thank to the results of a 20-year long Bulgarian-French Excavation Project in Kovachevo there is abundant evidence showing that the first inhabitants of that settlement were people of Anatolian origin. These migration patterns that traced the routes of European Neolithisation had various and complex reasons: increased population, limited environmental resources, climate change etc.

The excavation project at Ilindentsi aims to seek more detailed answers of either general questions regarding Balkan and European Prehistory:

  • who were the first European farmers?
  • what made them migrate to Europe?
  • did they find indigenous populations in the Balkans?
  • how did their societies function and develop?
  • how did their everyday life look like?
  • did they keep connections with their Anatolian homeland?

or more site-related problems such as:

  • how long did people inhabit the Neolithic settlement and are there any interruptions in the settlement history? Were they basically farmers or did they have any other "specialization"?
  • what are the borders of the settlement in the course of time and reasons for horizontal stragraphy?
  • why does the Southern geomagnetic anomaly exsist on the site map?
  • was the ditch and the fence surrounding the entire settlement or one of its parts? Were they to protect humans and domesticated animals from wild animals or other humans? 

THE FIELD SCHOOL: In 2015 the BIRTH OF EUROPE Field School Project (2011-2017) envisions further excavation of the Neolithic dwellings and their surroundings. Two field school sessions are available and each includes the following three modules: fieldwork including excavation of the Neolithic structures, 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 total station, and taking photographs at the site; lectures, workshops and field trainings in Prehistoric and Field Archaeology as well as Finds' processing and Documentation and excursions to various cultural and archaeological sites in the region: the medieval town of Melnik and Rozhen Monastery, if participants attend the first field school session; or the Blagoevgrad Regional Museum of History and Rila Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site), if participants attend the second field school session.  (refer to the Course Program and Agenda!).
The participants who join the two project sessions (1&2) 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 (with an emphasis on Neolithic Ceramic Studies) and all the excursions to: the medieval town of Melnik, Rozhen Monastery, the Blagoevgrad Regional Museum of History, Rila Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site) as well as the  town of Sandanski - a popular SPA resort, keeping archaeological remains from the Late Antiquity.

Optional tour of Istanbul (Turkey) is available for all students before the field school (6-10 June, 2015).

Optional tour of Kavala, Phillippi and the Aegean coast (Greece) is available for all students in the period between both sessions (27-28 June, 2015).

All participants will receive:

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

CREDIT HOURS: New Bulgarian University grants 6 credits to students for participation in one project session and 9 credits for participation in two sessions. Transcripts of Records (ToR) are available upon request for an additional tuition fee. For details please read the BHFS Regulations for obtaining ToR!
Archaeological context: The Neolithic settlement in Ilindentsi, Bulgaria corresponds chronologically (6000 - 5400 BC) to other Balkan, Anatolian and Near Eastern sites and cultures such as: Karanovo I (Eastern Balkans), Achilleon (Southern Balkans), Hacilar VI-I, Catalhoyuk - Western Tell (Anatolia).
Collaborative Universities & Institutions: The Balkan Heritage Foundation; Blagoevgrad Regional Museum of History; New Bulgarian University; Municipality of Strumyani (Bulgaria).




  • Dr. Malgorzata Grebska-Kulova (PhD in Archaeology), Blagoevgrad Regional Museum of History. Dig and and Field School Coordinator.
  • Petar Zidarov (PhD candidate),deputy director of the Laboratory for Archaeometry and Experimental Archaeology, New Bulgarian University; PhD student at Eberhard Karls University, Tuebingen, Germany). Deputy Dig Director and Deputy Field School Coordinator.



50 astronomical hours of fieldwork per session; 

25 astronomical hours of Lectures (L), Workshops (W), Guided Tours (GT) and Field Instructions & Trainings (FIT) during the first session:      \


  • Emergence of Early Farming in the Near East and Europe: Causes and Consequence (L);

  • The Early Neolithic Site at Ilindentsi and Its Geographic and Cultural Environment (L);

  • From the Field to the Storage: Review of Basic Methods for Uncovering, "First Aid", Consolidation in Situ, Cleaning, Sorting, Labeling, Documenting and Storing Ceramic Artifacts (L);

  • Early Neolithic Pottery in Southwestern Bulgaria (L);

  • Dating Methods for Prehistoric Sites (L);

  • Basic Field Methods and Practices for Excavation and Documentation (FIT);

  • Use of Tools and Working Techniques (FIT);
  • Introduction to the Field Journal; Contextual Sheets, Log Book and Other Forms (FIT);

  • Three Dimensional Positioning of Finds, Features and Structures (L);

  • How to Use a Total Station? (FIT);

  • Stratigraphy: Horizontal and Vertical (L);

  • Field Graphic and Photographic Documentation:

    • How to Draw a Ground-plan/Elevetion-plan/Cross-section Using Scale (FIT);

    • Photography for Archaeologists (FIT);
  • Excavations Preparation. Preliminary Indoor Research (L);

  • Field Reconnaissance Survey. Geophysical (Electrical and Magnetic) Methods in Archaeological Reconnaissance Survey (L);

  • Excavation completion. Post excavation work and analyses;
  • Finds Processing and Flotation of Soil Samples (W);

  • History and archaeology of Melnik (GT).

Only for students in the two project sessions (1&2): 25 astronomical hours of Lectures (L), Workshops (W), Guided Tours (GT) and Field Instructions & Trainings (FIT) during the second session:  

  • Artifact Recording and Illustration: Prehistoric Pottery (W);

  • Technology of Production of Stone and Bone Tools during the Neolithic Period in Europe (L);

  • Introduction to the Neolithic Ceramic Studies - (W series);

  • Standards in Archaeological Reports And Publications (L);

  • Finds Processing and Flotation of Soil Samples (W);

  • History of Rila Monastery (GT);

  • History and archaeology of Sandanski (GT).


First day

Arrival at Ilindentsi by 7.00 pm 

8.30 - 9.30 pm - Traditional Bulgarian welcome dinner.

A pick-up transfer may be arranged from the Sofia airport upon request.

Second day

Presentation of the Balkan Heritage Field School and colaborative universities & institutions, the project and the participants. Ice-breaking and orientation. LECTURES

Day-off for participants, who join the two project sessions during the second session.

Work days

6.00 - 6.20 am - Breakfast

6.35 am - 1.00 pm - Fieldwork, includinginstructions and30 min  break *

1.00-4.30 pm - Lunch and Siesta break

4.30/5.00 - 8.00 pm - Lectures/Workshops/ Lab work/Finds processing **

8.00-9.00 pm - Dinner

* In rare cases of rain, the project program  envisions substitute activities including finds processing workshops and film projections at the guest-house.

** Lectures and workshops in the area of Prehistory and Field Archaeology

The BHFS team could organize/assist organization of various leisure activities for participants during their free time such as hiking, wine-tasting, movie screenings etc.








The first sessionís Saturday: Visit to the Rozhen Monastery and the medieval town of Melnik: sightseeing and optional wine-tasting.

The second sessionís Saturday: Visit to the Rila Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site)and Blagoevgrad Regional Museum of History.



Participants who join the two project sessions will join all the tours.


Visit to the town of Sandanski, a popular SPA resort keeping archaeological remains from the Late Antiquity for participants, who join the two project sessions during the second session.

Days between

session 1 and 2


Optional 2-day trip to Philippi, Kavala and the Aegean coast (Greece)

Last Day


A drop-off transfer may be arranged from Ilindentsi to Sofia upon request.

The guest-house in Ilindentsi



Accommodation and Food: in comfortable rooms with two to three beds (bathrooms with shower and WC) in a local guest house, wich also provides a cheap laundry service and free Wi-Fi. Participants are not expected to bring any additional equipment, bedclothes or towels. 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 guest-house garden. Requests for vegetarian food are accepted. Staying an extra day at the guest house costs 16 EUR. Single rooms in the guest-house are limited but available upon request for the supplement of 100 EUR per week. Higher class single-room accommodation is also available at Kiossev Boutique Wine Cellar for the supplement of 180 EUR per week. 


Free time: Guided visits to the medieval town of Melnik, Rozhen Monastery, the Blagoevgrad Regional Museum of History, Rila Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site) as well as the  town of Sandanski - a popular SPA resort, keeping archaeological remains from the Late Antiquity are part of the field school program and are covered by the admission fee. The village of Ilindentsi offers  great opportunities for mountain hikes in the Pirin Mountains, walks in the Art Center Ilindentsi and  wine-tasting of local wines at Kiossev Boutique Wine Cellar 

Extra trips and excursions: The BHFS participants could take advantage of their stay in the Balkans and take part in the optional excursions to:


1. Philippi, Kavala and the Aegean coast (Greece) available only for students in this field school project between the first and the second session on 27-28 June, 2015.

2. Istanbul and Troy (Turkey) on 6-10 June, 2015 available for all BHFS students



The Admission fee includes educational and fieldwork activities, tools, materials, Project Handbook, issue of Certificate of Attendance, full-board accommodation (including three meals per day), excursions/sightseeing tours/entrance fees and administrative costs.

SUPER EARLY BIRD SPECIAL by November 30, 2014 (includes 15% discount off the admission fees)!

Super Early Bird Admission fee for one project session is 1104 EUR / app.1419 USD*.  SAVE 195 EUR / 260 USD* 

Super Early Bird Admission fee for for two project sessions is 2208 EUR / app.2849 USD*.   SAVE 260 EUR / 340 USD*

EARLY BIRD SPECIAL December 1, 2014 - January 31, 2015 (includes 10% discount off the admission fees)!

Early Bird Admission fee for one project session is 1169 EUR / app.1479 USD*.   SAVE 130 EUR / 169 USD*

Early Bird Admission fee for for two project sessions is 2338 EUR / app.2969 USD*.   SAVE 130 EUR / 169 USD*

REGULAR Admission Fee after January 31, 2015:

The regular admission fee for one session is 1299 EUR / app.1688 USD*

The regular admission fee for two project sessions is 2468 EUR / app. 3208 USD* (including 5% discount for participation in 2 project sessions!).

*(please check current exchange rates!)

Admission fee transfer options
 (for further information contact Admissions Office at

  - Bank transfer
On-line transfers  



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

  1. Participation in more than 1 BHFS project or project session in 2015. (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 project session in 2015 (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 or project session in 2015 (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 2015. (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.


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