Bresto: Digging in the Time of Troy 2023 (Balkan Heritage Field School)

Location: Banya, Bulgaria

Season: July 8, 2023 to August 5, 2023

Session Dates: Session 1: 8 - 22 July 2023 Session 2: 8 July - 5 August 2023

Application Deadline: June 8, 2023

Deadline Type: Rolling


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

Program Type:
Field School

RPA Certified:

Balkan Heritage Foundation (BHF); Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany; and New Bulgarian University, Bulgaria

Project Director:
Dig co-directors: Prof. Dr. Philipp Stockhammer, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany, Institute for Pre- and Protohistoric Archaeology and Archaeology of Roman Provinces (Germany); Asst. Prof. Bogdan Athanassov, New Bulgarian University, Sofia (Bulgaria)

Project Description:

The Bresto: Digging in the Time of Troy Field School Project is affiliated with the excavation project at Bresto in the mountains of southwestern Bulgaria. The latter explores a fortified settlement from the second half of the 2nd millennium BCE. It was founded in the 13th century BCE at the time of the zenith of Troy and both the Hittite Empire in Anatolia and the Aegean palatial civilizations. In the 12th century BCE after the collapse of these polities, new kinds of networks emerged in the Eastern Mediterranean. Former “fringe” areas became important hubs for the exchange of objects, ideas, and practices. Only 80 miles away from the Aegean Sea, the fortified site at Bresto presents many of the challenges for excavations, including complex stratigraphy. The settlement was protected by two large fortification walls. An international team of scholars from Bulgaria, Germany and the USA with a wide range of specialties is currently attempting to better understand the story behind Bresto and its place in the transition from the Bronze to the Iron Age. The excavations show that despite Bresto’s location in a marginal mountain valley, economic and social life flourished at the site during the 13th–11th century BCE, benefitting from Bresto’s position on an important route for communication and exchange between the Aegean and Central Europe. This idea was confirmed by the finding of an almost complete Mycenaean alabastron-vessel.

Archaeological context: The transition from Bronze to Iron Age in the Eastern Balkan Peninsula corresponds to the end of the Bronze Age in Anatolia, the Late Helladic IIIC period in the Aegean and the Greek mainland and the beginning of the Urnfield Period in Central Europe.

The excavation project at Bresto seeks to answer specific and general questions regarding Eastern Mediterranean and European Prehistory:

  1. What kind of economic and social processes mark the transition from Bronze to Iron Age in the river valleys north of the Aegean?
  2. What was the reason for the economic prosperity of Bresto, located in an area with restricted agricultural resources?
  3. What was the role of animal husbandry and hunting at Bresto as well as the scale of mobility of the domestic animals (investigated by isotopic ratio analyses)?
  4. How can we imagine the ‘social lives’ and biographies of everyday and valuable objects found at the site (small findings, pottery, and architecture) in Bresto?
  5. What was the role of fortification, warfare and conflict in Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age communities in the Eastern Balkans?
  6. What kinds of intercultural encounters can be observed in this part of Europe at the transition from the Bronze to the Iron Age? How did functions and meanings of objects (artifact biographies) change in this contact zone?
  7. What associated practices of adoption, acceptance or rejection of foreign objects and ideas can be traced?
  8. What was the role of the river valleys and the mountain ranges in the economic, social and political landscape at the end of 2nd millennium BCE?

Period(s) of Occupation: Transition from the Late Bronze to Early Iron Age (13th - 11th century BCE).

Major field school topics/activities: Archaeology of the Eastern Mediterranean during the Late Bronze and the Early Iron Ages; Excavations of the Late Bronze Age (13th - 11th cent. BCE) fortified site in Bresto; Applied theoretical classes on Artifact biographies and cultural encounters; Archaeological field techniques and methods for excavation and documentation; Recording of prehistoric (Bronze and Iron Age) artifacts; Processing of finds and samples; Excursions to significant heritage sites in Bulgaria and Greece.

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: Two weeks

Minimum Age: 18

Experience Required: None A medical COVID-19 certificate might be requested from each participant. The participants should have medical insurance including COVID-19 treatment and repatriation. The participants should inform the project staff about any health issues, allergies, and food preferences.

Room and Board Arrangements:
Accommodation: In comfortable rooms with two to three beds (bathrooms with shower and WC, tap hot water comes from a geothermal spring) at Hotel Pri Spaska. There are cheap laundry services available in the village and free Wi-Fi in the hotel and the lab. Participants are not expected to bring any additional equipment, bed linens, or towels. Staying an extra day at the hotel costs 25 EUR. A limited number of single rooms are available upon request not later than 15 May, 2023 for an additional fee of 100 EUR per week. Meals: Three meals of fresh Bulgarian food per day are covered by the reimbursement payment. They usually take place in the Hotel Pri Spaska restaurant. Requests for vegetarian food are accepted. Brown-bag lunches during the excursions and days off. Vegan, kosher and gluten-free restrictions are impossible to accommodate in this location. Participants must pay on their own for extra days and for single-room accommodation as well as for extra meals, beverages, services, and products!

Academic Credit:
New Bulgarian University grants 6 ECTS credits to students for attending any of two-week session (1) and 9 ECTS credits for attending the four-week session (2). Transcripts of Records (ToR) are available upon request for an additional tuition fee.

Contact Information:

Balkan Heritage Field School

7 Tulovo St., Floor 5, Apt.7


— Make a Selection —



Phone: +359 988 250 901; +359 898 681 366 (both available on WhatsApp)

support Us

The AIA is North America's largest and oldest nonprofit organization dedicated to archaeology. The Institute advances awareness, education, fieldwork, preservation, publication, and research of archaeological sites and cultural heritage throughout the world. Your contribution makes a difference.

Post a Fieldwork Opportunity