Tell Yunatsite Excavations – Seeking Europe’s First Civilization – 2020 (Balkan Heritage/Institute for Field Research)

COVID-19 NOTICE: Please be sure to reach out to the project contact to find out the status of their upcoming season. Many projects have cancelled fieldwork for 2020 and the information below may not reflect that.

This listing expired on December 31, 2020. Please contact for any updated information.

Location: Pazardzhik, BG

Season: July 11, 2020 to August 8, 2020

Session Dates: Session 1: 11-25 July; Session 2: 25 July - 8 August; Session 3: 11 July - 8 August

Application Deadline: June 1, 2020

Deadline Type: Rolling


Discount for AIA members: 5% discount off the regular admission fee (only for students registered through BHFS)

Program Type:
Field School, Volunteer

RPA Certified:

Balkan Heritage Foundation (Bulgaria), Tell Yunatsite Excavation Team from the National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences; Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History; New Bulgarian University (Bulgaria) and Institute for Field Research (IFR), USA.

Project Director:
Associate Prof. Yavor Boyadzhiev (PhD in Archaeology), National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Dig co-director; Asst. Prof. Kamen Boyadzhiev (PhD in Archaeology), Department of Prehistoric Archaeology, National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Dig co-director and field school coordinator.

Project Description:

During the 7th and 6th millennia BCE, the Balkan Peninsula was a gateway through which farming, animal husbandry and Neolithization spread from Anatolia and the Near East to Europe. This new population gradually settled down and got familiar with the surrounding region, suitable agricultural areas, raw sources and so on. In the 6th millennium BCE their economy, social organization, trade and cultural contacts evolved, to reach their peak in the 5th millennium BCE. In the beginning of the 5th millennium the earliest metallurgy in European and global prehistory (the processing of copper and soon after, gold) appeared in the Balkans. Thus, this period is known as Copper age, Chalcolithic, Eneolithic or Final Neolithic.

The continuative inhabitance of the same suitable places during these millennia led to the formation of a settlement phenomenon, characteristic of the Near Eastern and Balkan prehistory – the multilayered tell-sites.

Tell Yunatsite is located near the modern village of Yunatsite in Southern Bulgaria. It is among the biggest tells in Europe with a diameter of approximately 110 m/360 ft and height of 12 m/39 ft above the modern surface. Tell Yunatsite was first excavated in 1939 by the Bulgarian archaeologist Vasil Mikov. In 1976, regular excavations were restarted and have continued on an annual basis. Subsequently, research at Tell Yunatsite has grown into an important research program under the National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. At times, Greek and Soviet archaeologists have joined the research at the site and today this is an international research effort directed by Bulgarian scholars. The field school will be held for seventh year and is a joint cooperation between Balkan Heritage Foundation (BHF), the Regional Museum of History in Pazardzhik, the Tell Yunatsite Excavation Team from the National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and the Institute for Field Research.

The aim of the project is to provide participants with a theoretical background on the development of Neolithic cultures in Southeastern Europe with a focus on Final Neolithic/Chalcolithic, Europe’s first civilization, and with practical experience in excavating a complex prehistoric tell-site.

This field school provides a unique glimpse into the rise and fall of arguably the earliest European civilization. In 2020, field school students will take part in further excavation of the burned Final Neolithic/Chalcolithic layer buildings. Faculty and students will work together and explore why and how did one of the earliest proto urban centers in Europe emerge in the beginning of the 5th millennium BCE, and what are the reasons that caused its collapse 800 years later.


The archaeological field school takes place at the Tell Yunatsite lowest excavated layer, which corresponds to the time of Europe’s first prehistoric civilization in the 5th millennium BCE.

Excavations in the last years shed new light on the stratigraphy and development of the Chalcolithic/Final Neolithic, and brought new interesting discoveries. Among them are a golden bead and a golden amulet, which are among the earliest golden artifacts in the world.


There are three field school sessions (two consecutive two-week sessions and one four-week session) available. Each of them covers the following three modules: 1.fieldwork including excavation of the Final Neolithic/Chalcolithic layers and structures, which includes practicing basic excavation techniques as well as screening, sifting and flotation; the development of archaeological field documentation by 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 dumpy level, as well as taking photographs at the site; 2) lectures, workshops and field training in prehistoric (with emphasize on Neolithic, Chacolithic, prehistoric warfare and ceramics), and field archaeology, finds processing and documentation and 3) excursions to the Pazardzhik Regional Museum of History; the ancient town of Plovdiv including the Archaeological Museum, Old Town Quarter and major Roman monuments; and Stara Zagora including the Regional Museum of History, Roman monuments and the Museum of Europe’s best-preserved Neolithic (5600 BCE) dwellings, as well as the optional tour of Sofia, Bulgaria.


There are three application/enrollment paths for this field school:

1. All students at universities/colleges outside Europe seeking academic credit units have to apply through the Institute for Field Research (IFR), USA.

2. All students at universities/colleges in Europe seeking ECTS academic credit units have to apply through the Balkan Heritage Field School.

3.  Participants who don’t need academic credits have to apply through the Balkan Heritage Field School.

Period(s) of Occupation: Final Neolithic / Chalcolithic, Early Bronze Age, Iron Age, Antiquity and Middle Ages.

Major field school topics/activities: Archaeology of the the Copper Age and Europe's first civilization; Warfare in Prehistory; Archaeological field techniques and methods for excavation and documentation (with regard to the specifics of the tell's excavation); 3d intra-site modelling and documentation and GIS spatial analysis in archaeology; Documentation of prehistoric (Copper and Bronze age) weapons, tools and shards; Processing of finds and samples; Excursions to significant heritage sites in Bulgaria.

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: Two weeks

Minimum Age: 18

Experience Required: No experience required for applicants for Session 1 and/or 3. However, applicants for Session 2 are expected to have at least two weeks of archaeological field experience prior to their participation in this session. The project 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.

Room and Board Arrangements:
Accommodation*: In comfortable rooms with two to three beds (bathrooms with shower and WC, TV, a/c and free Wi-Fi) at the Hotel Primavera. The hotel is located in the central pedestrian and shopping area of Pazardzhik, very close to everything that the town can offer to tourists (shops, pharmacies, banks, markets, taverns, restaurants, bars, hospitals, cafes, post offices, tourist attractions, parks etc.). There is cheap laundry service available at the archaeological site. Participants are not expected to bring any additional equipment, bed linens or towels. Single rooms are available upon request for the supplement of 110 EUR per week. Staying an extra day at the hotel costs 25 EUR (per night per person). *Subject to change. May be substituted with similar level accommodation. Meals: Three meals (organic Bulgarian homemade food) per day are covered by the admission fee. During the workdays, all meals usually take place at the site. The meals during the weekends (except the brown-bag lunches during the excursions) take place at the hotel’s restaurant. This field school can accommodate vegetarians, vegans, and individuals with lactose intolerance. Kosher and gluten-free diets 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:
Students who study in Europe (EU, EEA, CH, Russian Federation and countries from the Western Balkans, Eastern Europe and Southern Caucasus): New Bulgarian University grants 6 ECTS credits to students for attending any of two-week sessions (1 and 2) and 9 ECTS credits for attending the four-week session (3). Transcripts of Records (ToR) are available upon request for an additional tuition fee. Students who study outside Europe wishing to obtain academic credits for attending the four-week session of this field school project must apply to the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans and enroll through the Institute for Field Research (IFR), USA. They will be awarded 8 semester credit units (equivalent to 12 quarter units) through Connecticut College and will receive a letter grade. The tuition fee is included in the IFR admission fee.

Contact Information:

Balkan Heritage Foundation / Institute for Field Research

7 Tulovo St., Floor 5, Apt.7 / 2999 Overland Ave. #103

Sofia / Los Angeles

Sofia / CA - California

1504 / 90064

Bulgaria / United States

Phone: + 359 877 725 052 (BHF); US Toll free number +1 (877) 839-4374 (IFR)

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