Excavation of the Roman Road Station on Via Diagonalis - Mansio Lissae - Bona Mansio, 2018 (Balkan Heritage)

Location: Septemvri, Karabunar, Bulgaria

August 25, 2018 to September 22, 2018

Session dates: 
Two-week session 1: August 25 - September 8, 2018; Two-week session 3: September 8 - September 22, 2018; Three-week session 2: August 25 - September 15, 2018; Four-week session 4: August 25 - September 22, 2018

Application Deadline: 
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Deadline Type: 
Exact date

Flyer: PDF icon bhfs_2018.pdf

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

Program Type

Field school

RPA certified



Balkan Heritage Foundation (BHF), Septemvri Archaeological Museum "Prof. Mieczyslaw Domaradzki", New Bulgarian University (Bulgaria)

Project Director:

Alexander Manev PhD candidate in Archaeology, Department of Classical Archaeology, National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

Project Description


Via Diagonalis (Via Militaris) became the most important road through the Balkan Peninsula in Roman times when it connected the city of Singidunum (today’s Belgrade, Serbia) on the Danube River with Byzantium (Istanbul) – the city which would later become the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. The road is ca. 1000 km (600 miles) long and passes through large important Roman cities like Naissus, Serdica, Philippopolis and Hadrianopolis. It is the fundamental connection between the western part of the Empire and the East. It was also the official route for armies moving throughout the provinces.

Mansio Lissae, later renamed Bona Mansio (Lat. Good Station) is one of the few archaeologically identified Roman road stations on the route of Via Diagonalis. The initial name of the site derives from the putative nearby Thracian settlement of Lissa. The road station was a fortified structure, one of many, intended to safeguard the main road. It is situated in the Thracian Valley, between the Roman cities of Serdica (modern Sofia) and Philippopolis (modern Plovdiv). The station is in the form of an irregular tetragon, surrounded by thick walls with corner towers. The ruins of the fortification are still visible high above ground. 


The very first investiagtions of the site were limited sounding trenches dug in 2002 within a Bulgarian-French archaeological campaign which sought to research the ancient legacy of the region. The trenches have revealed a thick cultural layer of over 3 meters in depth. The ruins of fortification walls as high as 4 meters were also unearthed. The archaeologists discovered Roman pottery and coins from the 2nd and 3rd CE. Nevertheless, the chronology and characteristics of the structure still remain unclear.

Although no modern construction threatens the Roman cultural legacy, the site is considered endangered. Since Roman archaeological valuables attract the interest of many people, during the last decades the site has turned into a training ground for treasure hunters. The hazard of further destruction, as well as scientific interest in the site, have set this project into motion. With the first archaeological campaigns in 2016 and 2017, BHF aimed also to draw the attention of the local community and the interest of the surrounding municipalities to put this endangered site on their priority list for protection of cultural heritage. Currently BHF is still the only sponsor of the excavations and the entire income from the field school participation fees for the 2018 season will be spent on financing the archaeological campaign! 

The practical goal of the Balkan Heritage Field School excavations in 2018 is to continue uncovering the fortification wall and to create a long-term strategy for the preservation of the architectural elements of the settlement. The scientific aspect of the project aims to gather information about the character and the chronological development of the site and thus to contribute to the study of the Roman road system in Thrace. In accordance to these objectives the starting campaign of the project is set with the following tasks:

  • Create a major plan of the existing fortification structures.
  • Carry out excavations within the fortification wall.
  • Plot the excavated area on the major plan.
  • Process and document all the collected material from the excavations.
  • Work out general stratigraphy for the site.

Period(s) of Occupation: Roman, Late Roman, Medieval

Field school & archaeological excavation. Mansio Lissae, later renamed Bona Mansio (Lat. Good Station) is one of the few archaeologically identified Roman road stations on the route of Via Diagonalis. The project is especially appropriate for students who would like to gather more experience with practical archaeological work in Roman and Late Roman Archaeology: technical documentation (drawing & photography), filling of context sheets and inventory cards, pottery reading and statistics, as well as completion of official field reports. The course includes intensive lectures on Roman and Late Roman Balkan Archaeology & History, as well as workshops on pottery & metal conservation!

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: Two weeks

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 
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.

Room and Board Arrangements

Accommodation is in Villa Terres Hotel, Karabunar, Bulgaria - in comfortable rooms with two to three beds (bathrooms with shower and WC), equipped with air-conditioning and TV in a local newly built hotel. The hotel has a small swimming pool and spa, free of charge for the participants in the field school. There are cheap laundry services and free Wi-Fi available.


The 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. Super Early Bird Admission fee for two week project session is 892 EUR / approx. 1070 USD; for three week project session is 1299 EUR / approx. 1558 USD; and for the four week project session is 1615 EUR/ approx. 1938 USD. (Register by 30 Nov 2017 to secure this pricing.)

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
New Bulgarian University, Sofia, Bulgaria
Number of credits offered 6 ECTS credits for attending the two-week session and 9 credits for the three- and four-week session.
Starting from 282 EUR for six ECTS credits. Participants who are not interested in academic credits do not need to pay the tuition fee.


Contact Information
Balkan Heritage Field School
7 Tulovo St., Floor 5, Apt.7
+ 359 877 725 052
Recommended Bibliography: 

Lander J. Roman Stone Fortifications. Variation and Change from the First Century AD to the Fourth, BAR International Series 206, 1984

Johnson S. Late Roman Fortifications, London, 1983

Hayes J.W. Late Roman Pottery, London, 1972

Hayes J.W. Handbook of Mediterranean Roman Pottery,

Pena J.T. Roman Pottery in the Archaeological Record, Cambridge, 2007

Van Tilburg C. Traffic and Congestion in the Roman Empire, Routledge, 2007

Roman Imperial Coinage vol. 1-10