Excavations of St. Panteleimon church

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Archaeological excavations of St. Panteleimon church

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TYPE: Archaeological Field School
PERIOD: Late Roman Ages 4th - 6th c. AD
DATES: 30 July - 18 August
PARTICIPATION FEE: 1,587 for three weeks

General information

Old basilica and Roman road near Trastenaya hut, Svoge municipality

In 2023 the Svoge Heritage program (SHP) in cooperation with Bulgarian Archaeological Association (BAA) will conduct excavation at the locality "Trastenaya hut". At this place is situated an old church called by the locals "St. Panteleimon". In Bulgarian folklore St. Panteleimon is the saint, connected with travels, roads, and links between the worlds.

The church never had been studied. The legend says that at that place was situated an ancient Thracian sanctuary near which centuries later students of St. Clement of Ohrid built the monastery. There are suggestions that for some period an abbot of the monastery was the legendary priest Martin, who maintained close relationships with the monastery Seven Thrones.

However, there is indisputable evidence that the so-called "church" is much earlier than the Medieval period. Its dimensions - 20 x 8 m, its wide apse can be assigned to the Late Antiquity. Furthermore, in close vicinity are located the route of a Roman road. The name "St. Panteleimon" Traveler is an indisputable link to this earlier period. The main goal of this project is to clarify the chronology and the historical background of the church. The scientific significance of this historical monument could be essential as it will clarify the administrative basis of the Late Roman Empire.

In course of the excavations, the students will have a chance to take part in a completely new scientific project, to learn the basic steps of preliminary research activities, GIS studies, topographical and historical context, field methods of starting archaeological digs. The project offers an opportunity to gain basic skills of the "very beginning" of archaeological research, to discover and to analyze archaeological data.

Historical context

The plate of the inscription of two Dacias

These excavations are connected with the big question concerning the administrative organization of the Eastern Roman Empire at the time of its very beginning. In 1901 in the area of St. Panteleimon church was made a big discovery. This was a small plate with a very important inscription: "Caro et Carino / uugg(ustis) Gaianus / pr(a)eses finem / posui inter du/[as D]acias dila/[psum? ------". In translation from Latin, it says: In the time of the Emperors Carus and Carinus, the governor Gaianus restored the sign between the two Dacia which has been destroyed by time. This is the only written evidence in the region concerning the beginning of a new era - the big administrative reforms of Diocletian (284-305).

It is known that in 271 the Romans were forced to leave Dacia (the territory of modern Romania). This very dramatic political action was caused by the irresistible attacks of the Goths and the crisis inside of the Roman Empire in the second half of the 3rd c.A.D. As the official statement of the Empire was "we never lose" the old Dacia just was "moved" to the South, not "lost". This way the lands South of the Danube river were renamed to new "Dacia" and the old administration, military forces, etc. were moved in this territory.

In an extensive article J. B. Bury (The Provincial List of Verona. The Jurnal of Roman Studies, Vol 13, 1923, pp. 127-151) discuss the big administrative reform in this period. According to him "An important inscription on a small tablet, found at Bov, has been published by Mr. Filvow which proves that two Dacian provinces had been created by Aurelian. The date must be A.D. 283 and it is obvious that Aurelian set up the boundary stones, one of which Gaianus restored. There were, then, two Dacias when Diocletian came to the throne. The inscription proves that Aurelian divided Moesia into at least three provinces - Moesia Superior, Dacia Prima, and Dacia Secunda. We do not know how far his two Dacia corresponded to the two Dacia of later times."

Map of the area near St. Panteleimon church

The archaeological survey conducted in 2017-2019 discovers new data about the area where the inscription was found. This is a wide plateau in the mountains with two lakes and fertile arable land. At the place, the archaeologists found a crossroad of two Roman roads leading to the ancient Serdica (modern Sofia). In the vicinity is situated as well ore mining center, which was also used in antiquity. All these data prove that in this place we should expect a significant center from the Roman period.

The place is suitable to be used for road station (manssio), villa and even for customs. The ruins of the so-called "church" could be connected with each of these administrative or agricultural complexes. The excavations at this place will supplement the information we already have and will reveal new data about the administrative organization at the end of the 3rd c.A.D.


J. B. Bury. The Provincial List of Verona. The Jurnal of Roman Studies, Vol 13, 1923, pp. 127-151

B. Filow. Die Teilung des aurelianischen Dakiens. Klio, Vol 12, 1912, pp. 234-239

A. Panate. Villa rustica or mansio?

Course description

Archaeological fieldwork is a complicated discipline that required a wide range of skills. At the site, you will learn some geodetic methods: how to measure the ground and localize your place of work, how to calculate the position of the materials found, how to work on different scales. We should master the methods of documentation of different archaeological situations - drawing vertical and horizontal plans, measuring coordinates of the finds, taking professional photos. Dealing with the archaeological finds at the site is also a very important skill. You will learn the basic methods of collecting pottery, metal, bones, etc. A very important skill is to learn how to recognize and interpret the different chronological periods at the terrain (the archaeological layers). We will very carefully go deep into the cultural layers and describe all details in the archaeological diary.

The post fieldwork will give you the ability to understand and interpret the archaeological data. This is the second stage of the archaeological work and is focused on the materials found on the terrain. It will give you basic knowledge on field conservation of the artifacts, documentation of finds, and preliminary analysis of the archaeological data. You will learn how to deal with different types of archaeological finds, how to sort so-called "mass material" and how to fill in an inventory book. Short lessons will be given on illustration of the archaeological materials (technical drawing), processing of geodetic data, and working with the appropriate computer software - AutoCad, Photoshop, etc. Within 15 days you will go through all necessary competencies of field archaeology. Never forget, however, that the practice is the best teacher! So, we're open to your ideas and we hope that you will become a valuable member of our team.

  1. Sketch survey: offset surveying, triangulation, survey framework.

  2. Grid system. Methods of lay out.

  3. Process of levelling. Working with level. Working with theodolite.

  4. The written records: scientific diary, filing in statistical cards.

  5. The drawn record: contexts (pits, postholes, ditches, walls).

  6. The drawn record: Single-context plan; Section drawing; Site recording grid; Composite plan; Multiple-feature plan.

  7. Photographical records.

  8. Identification of living surfaces.

  9. Dating of contexts - terminus post quem and terminus ante quem. Artefact assemblages.

  10. Cross-sections and soil examples.

  11. Methods of excavation of artefacts.

  12. Types of artefacts.

  13. The finds record.

  1. Cleaning and field conservation methods (Pottery; Metals; Glass; Stone; Organic artefacts).

  2. Descriptive and measurement methods.

  3. Archaeological illustration (Pottery; Metals; Glass; Stone).

  4. Cataloguing. Inventory book.

  5. Working with image processing software.

  6. Interpreting the evidences. Archaeological report and presentation.

  1. Barker, X P. A., 1993. Techniques of Archaeological Excavation. London.

  2. Greene, K., Moore, T., 2010 (fifth edition). Archaeology, An Introduction. London.

  3. Archaeological illustration. Cambridge manuals in Archaeology. Cambridge University Press 1989.

Living conditions

Trastenaya archaeological field school
Trastenaya archaeological field chool
Trastenaya archaeological field school

THE ACCOMMODATION of the students is in Trastenaya hut. The archaeological site is situated just in front of the building and this will facilitate the organization and conduction of the excavations. The hut is located at an altitude of 1130 m in an old beech forest near a vast raspberry plantation, at the northern foot of Izdremets peak. The building is big (3-story) and offers 30 beds, a tourist kitchen, and a dining room. At place is produced raspberry wine.

The place has a spacious hall appropriate for seminars and post fieldwork as well as a comfortable dining room and many other facilities connected with the work at the site - working tables, storage place, etc. The owners are kind and hospitable. They offer 24 hours services for their customers and excellent cuisine with healthy and clean products from their farm.

Important ! In 2023 we offer camping opportunities. In front of the hut is a wide meadow suitable for tents. In summer 2023 the Svoge Heritage Program will provide 5 one-person tents for students who would like to save 415 euros from the basic participation fee. (Please check our Expenses & Discounts section.)

THE FOOD in general is traditional Bulgarian. The breakfast is at 7.30 AM. Work at the site begins at 8.30 AM and continue till 1.00 PM. We will have a short break at 11.00 AM for coffee or "second breakfast". The lunch is n 1.30 PM. The free time is between 3.00 and 5.00 PM (taking shower, rest, etc.). Next, we continue with finds processing and theoretical lectures and discussions on the materials found, history and archaeology in the region, etc. The dinner is at 8.00 PM.

Trastenaya archaeological field school
Trastenaya archaeological field school
Trastenaya archaeological field school

Useful to know about Bulgarian Cuisine

The Bulgarian cuisine is with an emphasis on fresh seasonal produce, and healthy, unfussy preparation methods. Influenced by the 500-year Turkish occupation and the country's proximity to Greece, Bulgarian cuisine features plenty of spices (many of which are indigenous), and predominantly chicken, pork, and veal, often baked with cheese or yogurt, and piles of fresh vegetables.

Bulgarians almost always start their meal with a simple salad accompanied by a shot (or two) of rakia, the local grape- or plum-based liquor. Meat - chicken or pork, usually chargrilled over coals or baked in an earthenware pot with vegetables - follows, with a side order of potatoes or bread. Chubritsa, a unique Bulgarian spice, usually is on the table to perk up a meal should you deem the flavors too bland.


Session 1: 31 July - 20 August

Sunday Afternoon Meeting the group at Sofia airport in the late afternoon. Transfer to Trastenaya with private bus. Accommodation in Trastenaya hut and meeting the team. Welcome party.
Monday Morning Free time. Resting after the long travelling and the party.
  Afternoon Visist the archaeological site. Introduction to the main goals and activities of the archaeological work.
Tuesday - Friday 7.30 AM Breakfast
  8.30 AM Working at the archaeological site
  11.00 AM Coffee break & second breakfast
  1.30 PM Lunch
  5.00-7.00 PM Post-fieldwork
  8.00 PM Dinner
Sunday - Saturday   Days off
Monday - Friday   Working at the archaeological site and post-fieldwork
Saturday   Departure

Free time

Svoge oficial vileo - THE LEND OF ADVENTURES

The digs are situated in a wonderful canyon where Iskar River crosses the Stara Planina Mountains - more commonly known as Balkans (the peninsula of the same name is called after the mountain). Hiking, mountain biking, climbing, and many other mountain activities can be practiced in this area. The out of reach uplands near Iskar River appears a perfect place for the construction of many cloisters, most famous of which are the Cherepish Monastery and the Seven Thrones Monastery. If you are a fan of pilgrim tourism this is the right place for you. There are so many superb and intriguing places around, made by humans and created by Nature, and every step of discovering it will be pure pleasure.

The Trastenaya hut is situated only 30 km from the main town of Bulgaria - Sofa. It is easy to organize a short sightseeing trip to the Bulgarian capital.

One session of the field school includes four free days in which you can organize your own trips or join the guided trips offered by our partners. In any case, our team will assist you and give you appropriate advice and help.

Horse riding

Not far from the excitation place is situated "Horse riding center Milanovo". In summer 2023 the center offers horse riding for beginners and advanced as follow:

  1. Training for beginners. Price €20 per person.

  2. A walk for beginners. Price €30 per person.

  3. A walk in the mountains for the advanced. Price €30 per person.

  4. Full day horse riding. Price €100 per person.

The booking is arranged in place according to your personal preferences.

Canyoning in Temnata dupka (The Dark Hole) cave

Organizer: WIDLAN

"Temna dupka" is the most famous cave in Iskar gorge. Its enter looks like a giant black hole in the rocks. It’s around 5 km long but not the entire inside is explored. The cave is a complicated labyrinth of entrances, galleries, waterfalls, rapids, drains, underground rivers, and lakes. Inside the cave, you will find a different kinds of ponds and even a river which flows in the most famous karst spring in this area, called Zhitolub (located near the main road). Due to its labyrinth nature, it should be visited with an experienced guide and with the required equipment.

Duration: 5 hours

Price €150 per groop. The personal price depends of the noumber of participants.

The booking is arranged in place according to your personal preferences.

Expenses & Discounts


  • The transfer from Sofia airport to the excavation place and back.
  • Tools and equipment.
  • Tuition fees (theoretical lectures and practical seminars).
  • All meals for the period of stay.
  • Accommodation in Trastenaya hut.


  • Your international transportation expenses.
  • In case you need visa for Bulgaria, you have to cover this cost also by yourself.
  • Health insurance.
  • Travel insurance.

One session (3 weeks) € 1,587  
One session camping (3 weeks) € 1,349 15%
Early registration (till January 31, 2023) - one session € 1,508 5%
Group of three or more people - one session € 1,428 10%
Alumni students and members of BAA € 1,111 30%



To join us you should simply fill in our Application form. In the time of applying we required 30 % of the participation fee to be paid in advance. This amount is not refundable! Your place is considered reserved only after the payment of the fee.

After receiving your application we will proceed with your documents and will contact you within three days with further instructions. The rest of the fee is payable two months before the beginning of the field school. This amount is fully reimbursable but in case of cancellation, you should inform us not later than one month prior beginning of the digs. After this deadline, the amount is not refundable!

Any additional questions concerning application procedure and field school you can send to svoge@bgheritage.bg

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