BALKAN HERITAGE FIELD SCHOOL PROJECT (COURSE) 2014:
THE BIRTH OF EUROPE - EXCAVATIONS OF THE NEOLITHIC SETTLEMENT ILINDENTSI, BULGARIA



 

 
 
 
Project type: field school (excavations). THE VARIETY OF ACTIVITIES AND TEAM FLEXIBILITY MAKE THIS PROJECT SUITABLE FOR EITHER BEGINNERS OR ADVANCED IN FIELD ARCHAEOLOGY.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN EVEN MORE COMPREHENISVE EXPERIENCE WITH OLD WORLD'S PREHISTORY, PLEASE SEE ALSO THE PREHISTORIC PACK (COMBINING TWO DIFFERENT BALKAN HERITAGE FIELD SCHOOL PROJECTS)!

IF YOU ARE A PROJECT ALUMNI YOU CAN APPLY FOR ADMISSION IN THE SAME PROJECT IN 2014 BENEFITTING FROM THE NEW BHFS DISCOUNT POLICY PROVIDING 45% DISCOUNT OFF THE REGULAR ADMISSION FEE (See the admission fees below at the bottom of this page!).

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 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 90 EUR.

How to get there?  On the arrival day all participants will be expected to arrive 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 by bus (stop only upon request) from Thessaloniki (Greece). 

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THE FIELD SCHOOL

Sessions' dates:
Field school session 1: 14 - 28 June, 2014
Field school session 2: 29 June - 13 July, 2014

Application Deadlines: until the places are filled, or latest 15 May, 2014 
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, 2011-2013) 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 2011-2013 revealed the reasons for the Northern anomaly: a Neolithic ditch and a palisade, but the reason for the Southern anomaly is still to be revealed during the next seasons. 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 2014 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 including Blagoevgrad Regional Museum of History, the medieval town of Melnik, Rila Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Rozhen Monastery (refer to the Course Program and Agenda!).
 
Participants who join the two project sessions are going to have a different schedule during the second session, which includes:
  1. (at the weekends) Visit to the town of Sandanski, a popular Bulgarian SPA resort keeping archaeological remains from the Late Antiquity;
  2. (in the afternoons) Extra lab work related to the finds processing and documentation.
  3. Special workshops for:
    • Archaeological Documentation and Illustration of Neolithic Pottery;
    • Neolithic Ceramic Studies.

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: Balkan Heritage Foundation, Blagoevgrad Regional Museum of History, New Bulgarian University, Municipality of Strumyani (Bulgaria), Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Nanterre (France)
 

   

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THE TEAM

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

Instructors and consultants:

  • Laure Salanova (PhD in Archaeology), Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Nanterre, France;
  • Julien Viege (PhD in Archaeology), Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Nanterre, France;
  • Ivan Vasilev (MA), Archaeologist, Balkan Heritage Foundation.         

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THE PROGRAM

Lectures (L), Workshops (W), Guided Tours (GT) and Field Instructions & Trainings (FIT):    

  • 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: Production and Decoration, Pottery Function and Ceramic Tools (L);

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

  • Dating Methods for Prehistoric Sites (L);

  • Technology of Production of Stone and Bone Tools during the Neolithic Period in Europe (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;
  • Basic Principles of Finds Processing and Flotation of Soil Samples (W);

  • Flotation of Soil Samples (W);
  • History of Rila Monastery (GT);

  • History of Melnik (GT).

Only for participants in two project sessions:

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

  • Standards in Archaeological Reports And Publications (L);

  • Paleogenetic Analysis in Archeological Studies (L).

THE AGENDA:

Dates
Activities
Notes
First day

Arrival at Ilindentsi by 7.00 pm 

8.00 - 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.

Working days

6.00 - 6.20 am - Breakfast

6.35 am - 1.00 pm - Fieldwork, including 30 min break*

1.00-4.30 pm - Lunch and Siesta break

4.30-6.00/6.30 pm - Lectures/Workshops

6.00/6.30 - 8.00 pm - 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

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

Mid-session

weekends

 

Visit to the Rila Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site)and Blagoevgrad Regional Museum of History.

Visit to the medieval town of Melnik: sightseeing, wine-tasting and free time.

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

Last day

Departure

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

Days between

Session 1 and 2


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


The guest-house in Ilindentsi

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ACCOMMODATION AND FREE TIME

Accommodation and Food: in comfortable rooms with two to three beds (bathrooms with shower and WC, TV) 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 200 EUR (for two-week period). Higher class single-room accommodation is also available at Kiossev Boutique Wine Cellar for the supplement of 300 EUR (for two-week period). 

 

Free time: Guided visits to Blagoevgrad Regional Museum of History, medieval town of Melnik and Rila Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site) are organized for all field school participants and covered by the admission fee. The village offers  great opportunities for mountain hikes, walks in the Art Center Ilindentsi and  wine-tasting of local wines at Kiossev Boutique Wine Cellar. There are a couple of recommended extra trips (not covered by the admission fee) our participants could take:
 
1. 2-day trip to Philippi, Kavala and the Aegean coast, Greece organized by GG Holidays (Bulgarian travel agency) only for project participants between the first and the second session for an extra fee of 150 EUR. It is:
  • an ideal project follow-up for participants in the first project session;
  • the best warming up trip for participants in the second session;
  • and the perfect holiday between the sessions for participants in two project sessions.

2. 3 to 7-day trip to either Athens, Greece (650 km/400 mi) or Istanbul, Turkey (740 km/460 mi) after the project. The BHFS and our partnering travel agency can fully assist the BHFS participants who are willing to plan and organize by themselves the best trip for their money to these cities from Ilindentsi, Bulgaria including: reservations of tickets, guides and hotels, travel insurance and tips. It is safer and cheaper option compared to the most trips organized by non-Balkan travel agencies.

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THE ADMISSION FEE

The Admission fee includes educational and fieldwork activities, full-board accommodation (at local guest-house + 3 meals per day), tools, materials, Project Handbook, issue of Certificate of Attendance, excursions/sightseeing tours/entrance fees and administrative costs.

LAST MINUTE REGISTRATION - BY MAY 31st, 2014:

The Last Minute admission fee for one project session is 1124 EUR  (app.1400 USD Check current exchange rates!).

The Last Minute admission fee for two project sessions is 2248 EUR (app. 2660 USD Check current exchange rates!)

REGULAR ADMISSION FEE:

The regular admission fee for one project session is 1249 EUR (app.1550 USD. Check current exchange rates!)

The regular admission fee for two project sessions is 2373 EUR (app. 2900 USD including 5% discount for participation in 2 project sessions!). Check current exchange rates!)

Admission fee transfer options (for further information contact Admissions Office at bhfs.admissions@gmail.com):

  - Bank transfer
  -
On-line transfers  

 

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 2014. (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 2014 (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 2014 (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 2014. (15% discount is valid only for the second, third etc. project/session to be attended).
* 45% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee is available for the BHFS alumni, who participated successfully in at least two sessions of this project in the past (2011-2013). (45% discount is valid for any session to be attended).

 

 
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 at:  http://www.bhfieldschool.org/bh.links.html

 

APPLY ONLINE FOR ADMISSION TO THE PROJECT!