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The Birth of Europe: Excavations of the Neolithic Settlement Ilindentsi, Bulgaria 2014

Location: Ilindentsi, Bulgaria, Bulgaria

June 14, 2014 to July 13, 2014

Session dates: 
Field school session 1: 14 - 28 June, 2014; Field school session 2: 29 June - 13 July, 2014.

Application Deadline: 
Thursday, May 15, 2014

Flyer: bhfs_brochure_season_2014.pdf

Discount for AIA members: 
5% discount off the regular admission fee

Program Type

Field school


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

Project Director:

Dr. Malgorzata Grebska-Kulova (archaeologist and curator at Blagoevgrad Regional Museum of History).

Project Description

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. 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 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?

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.

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.


Period(s) of Occupation: 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, Çatalhöyük - Western Tell (Anatolia).

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 1 session (two weeks)

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 

Room and Board Arrangements

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).

The regular admission fee is 1249 EUR / 2373 EUR (app. 1550 / 2900 USD) for participation in one / two project sessions. The admission fee includes educational and fieldwork activities, full-board accommodation (hotel + 3 meals per day), tools, materials, project Handbook, issue of Certificate of Attendance, excursions/sightseeing tours/entrance fees and administrative costs.

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
New Bulgarian University
Number of credits offered 6/9 credit hours
starting from 345 EUR


Contact Information
Ms. Anna Parmakova
204 Sveta Troitsa St.
Stara Zagora
+ 359 877 725 052
Recommended Bibliography: 

Boyadzhiev, Y. Early Neolithic Cultures on the Territory of Bulgaria. – In: I. Gatsov, Y. Boyadzhiev (eds.). The first Neolithic Sites in Central/South-East European Transcet, vol. I. Early Neolithic Sites on the Territory of Bulgaria. BAR International Series 2048, 2009, 7-43.

Bojadžiev, J. Absolute Chronology of the Neolithic and Eneolithic Cultures in the Valley of Struma.- In: H. Todorova, M. Stefanovich. G. Ivanov (eds.). The Struma/Strymon River Valley in Prehistory. In the Steps of James Harvey Gaul, 2. Sofia,2007, 309-316.

Gimbutas, M. Neolithic Macedonia. As reflected by Excavation at Anza, Southeast Yougoslavia. Monumenta Archeologica 1. Los Angeles, 1976.

Grębska-Kulova, M. and I. Kulov. Prehistorical Sites in the Middle Struma River Valley between the End of the VIIth  mill. BC and the beginning of the Ist Mill. BC.- In: H. Todorova, M. Stefanovich. G. Ivanov (eds.). The Struma/Strymon River Valley in Prehistory. In the Steps of James Harvey Gaul, 2. Sofia,2007, 279-296.

Гребска-Кулова, M. Раннонеолитната култура в долината на Средна Струма, Югозападна България (TheEarlyNeolithicCultureintheMiddleStruma(Strymon) RiverValley, South-WesternBulgaria)– in: Праисторически проучвания в България: нови предизвикателства (Prehistoric Research in Bulgaria: NewChallenges). София, 2008, 56-65.(Abstract in English)

Lichardus-Itten, M. and J.-P. Demoule, L. Perničeva, M. Grebska-Kulova, I. Kulov. The site of Kovacevo and the Beginnings of the Neolithic period in Southwestern Bulgaria. The French-Bulgarian excavations 1986-2000. – In: Beiträge zu Jungsteinzeitlichen Forschungen in Bulgarien. Eds.  M. Lichardus-Itten, J. Lichardus, V. Nikolov.Bonn, 2002, 99-158.

Malamidou, D. and D. Kryoneri.  A Neolithic and Early Bronze Settlement in the Lower Strymon Valley.- In: H. Todorova, M. Stefanovich. G. Ivanov (eds.). The Struma/Strymon River Valley in Prehistory. In the Steps of James Harvey Gaul, 2. Sofia,2007, 297-308.

Mitrevski, D., Prehistory in Republic of Macedonia-F.Y.R.O.M. – In: D. Grammenos (ed.). Recent Research in the Prehistory of the Balkans. Thessaloniki, 2003, 13-72.

Nikolov, D. Periodization of the Neolithic along the Struma Valley. In: Academia Litterarum Bulgarica.. Thracia XV. In honorem annorium LXX Aleksandri Fol. Serdicae, MMIII, 99-106.

Perlès, C. The Early Neolithic in Greece. The first farming communities in Europe. Cambridge, 2001.

Pernicheva, L. Prehistoric Cultures in the Middle Struma Valley: Neolithic and Eneolithic - In: Prehistoric Bulgaria. Monographs in World Archaeology No 22. Edited by D. Bailey, I. Panayotov, pp. 99-147. Madison Wisconsin 1995: 

Perničeva, L. Prehistory of the Strumešnica valley - In: Śliwa J., Domaradzki, M., (eds.). The lower Strumešnica Valley in prehistoric, ancient and early medieval times. Kraków, 1983, 11-34.

Perničeva, L. and I. Kulov, M. Grebska-Kulova. Early Neolithic House from Bălgarčevo, Blagoevgrad Region (SW Bulgaria). – Archeologia Bulgarica, 2000, 3, 1-10.

Weninger, B. and E. Alram-Stern, E. Bauer, L. Clare, U. Danzeglocke, O. Jöris, C. Kubatzki, G. Rollefson, H. Todorova, T. van Andel. Abrupt Climate Forcing Observed at Early Neolithic Sites in South-East Europe and the Near East. – In: The Struma River Valley in Prehistory. H. Todorova, M. Stefanovich, G. Ivanov (eds.), Sofia 2007, 7-28.

Čochadžiev, S. and V. Genadieva. Contribution to the Study of the Early Neolithic Age in the Struma River Basin. - In: M. Stefanovič, H. Todorova, H. Hauptmann (Hrsg.). James Harvey Gaul in Memoriam 1. Sofia, 1998, 79-89.