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Drenovets Excavation Project

The Project and the Course

Project Scope

DRENOVETS 2023 is a joint project of the Bulgarian Archaeological Association, Reenactment association "Bagachin", Svoge heritage program, and Drenovets community center. This is an intensive, two-week educational program in Roman field archaeology. In course of this program, the students will take part in ongoing excavations in the Roman town situated near the modern village of Drenovets (North-Western Bulgaria). The program offers a combination of fifteen days of hands-on fieldwork and seminars devoted to small finds processing and archaeological illustrations. Students will visit as well some of the most popular sightseeing places in the region and will take part in an Archaeological workshop in experimental archaeology "VITA AETERNA".

Project description

The teaching of the students follows a strict program. For this purpose at the site is developed a teaching center where in the first days of the school the participants are introduced to the basic methods in field archaeology: cleaning archaeological structures, single-context plan, section drawing, working with level.

After passing the first stage of the study the students are involved in personal (or group) tasks connected with the work at the site. The accent is on the development of their skills and abilities to describe and analyze the archaeological situations, filling in the scientific diary and statistical methods.

The afternoons between 5.00 and 7.00 PM are devoted to the post fieldwork which takes place in the field school residence place. The program offers basic knowledge and practical work with the material found, statistical and descriptive methods. A very important skill to be acquired is the documenting of small finds and archaeological illustrations. At the end of the program, the students will be familiar also how to use the computer software for archaeological purposes. This point includes working with graphical software (Adobe Photoshop), Geographic information system software (QGIS) and preparing scientific presentations (Microsoft PowerPoint).

The program incorporates as well an educational trip on the weekend and participation in a Archaeological workshop in experimental archaeology "VITA AETERNA".

International Summer School Facts in a glance

Main location: Vidin region, North-Westhern Bulgaria
Site: Village of Drenovets, locality "Gradiste"
Period: Late Roman period (4th - 6th c. AD)
Courses included: Introduction to the archaeological field methods and techniques
Academic hours: 40 hours practicum; 20 hours seminars
Project director: Krassimira Todorova (Bulgarian Archaeological Association)
Collaborating Institutions: Bulgarian Archaeological Association, Reenactment association "Bagachin", Svoge heritage program, Drenovets community center
Field school Regular session: September 3 - September 22, 2023
Application deadline: Until the places are filled but not later than 1 June, 2023
Minimum length of stay: One session (20 days)
Minimum age: 18 (16, if the participant is accompanied by an adult family member)
Number of places available per session: Maximum 10
Experience required: None
Educational trips: Belogradchik Fortress, Belogradchik rocks, and Magura Cave (see the "Free Time & Trips" section).
Workshop : Archaeological workshop in experimental archaeology "VITA AETERNA".

The Site and the Excavation Project

Historical background

Moesia was an ancient region and later Roman province situated in the Balkans, along the south bank of the Danube River. It included most of the territory of modern-day Serbia and the northern parts of the Republic of Macedonia, (Moesia Superior), as well as Northern Bulgaria and Romanian Dobrudja, (Moesia Inferior).

In 75 BC, C. Scribonius Curio, proconsul of Macedonia, took an army as far as the Danube and gained a victory over the inhabitants, who were finally subdued by M. Licinius Crassus, triumvir and later also proconsul of Macedonia during the reign of Augustus c. 29 BC. The region, however, was not organized as a province until the last years of Augustus' reign; in 6 AD, mention is made of its governor, Caecina Severus (Cassius Dio lv. 29). As a province, Moesia was under an imperial consular legate (who probably also had control of Achaea and Macedonia).

From Moesia, Domitian began planning future campaigns into Dacia and by 87 he started a strong offensive against Dacia, ordering General Cornelius Fuscus to attack. Therefore, in the summer of 87, Fuscus led five or six legions across the Danube. The campaign against the Dacians ended without a decisive outcome, and Decebalus, the Dacian King, had brazenly flouted the terms of the peace (89 AD) which had been agreed on at the war's end.

Due to military, strategic, and economic reasons, in the autumn of 86 AD, the province was divided into Moesia Inferior and Moesia Superior. Initially, the border between the two Moesian provinces ran up along the small right-bank tributary of the Danube (the Cibrica river – ancient Ciabrus or Kiabros). After 136 the border was slightly moved upstream, to the west of Lom (ancient Almus) in northwestern Bulgaria. In the west, Moesia Superior bordered the province Pannonia. The capital of Moesia Superior was Viminacium (modern-day Kostolac in Serbia) and that of Moesia Inferior – the old capital Tomis.

In 271 AD, Roman Emperor Aurelian (270-275 AD) transformed the province of Moesia Superior into the province of Dacia Aureliana with its capital at Serdica (today’s Sofia), after vacating Dacia Traiana beyond the Danube. Around 283 AD, Dacia Aureliana was divided into two provinces, Dacia Mediterranea, with its capital at Serdica, and Dacia Ripensis (“Dacia from the banks of the Danube") with its capital at Ratiaria (Colonia Ulpia Ratiaria - the modern village of Archar).

The archaeological site

The archaeological site near Drenovets is situated initially in the province Moesia Superior and after the establishment of Dacia Ripensis - in close vicinity of its capital - Ratiaria. The site was never studied and till 2010 it wasn't even registered. In the period 2008-2010, an archaeological expedition led by Krassimira Luka (Bulgarian Archaeological Association) found an important inscription - dedication made by the dux of Dacia Ripensis Aurelius Priscus:

I(ovi) O(ptimo) M(aximo)
Aurel(ius) Priscu(s)
v(ir) P(erfectissimus) dux
v(otum) l(ibens) s(olvit)

"To Jupiter, the Best and the Greatest, Defender, gladly vow (fulfilled) Aurelius Priscus, most excellent man, dux"

The "duxes" were in charge of the military detachments in the cities and forts along the Danube and of the whole defense system in the Lower Danubian limes. Till now the only name of a "dux" of Dacia Ripensis (Tautomed) was known from the Codex Theodosianus (15, 1, 13) dated back to 366 A.D. The dedication to a pagan deity date the newly found inscription in the period before the adoption of Christianity in 313 A.D. by Constantine the Great.

Over the last few years, the curator in Drenovets's archaeological collection Lubomir Andreev continues to gather materials from the site. This way were found several bricks with stamps of two Late-antique Roman legions - legio XIII Gemina and legio V Macedonica (check our Collection section here). According to Notitia Dignitatum (XLII) Under the command of the dux of Datia Ripenses were exactly these two legions, part of which were situated in the biggest towns along the Danube (see map). As can be seen, the site near Drenovets is located in close vicinity of the legion's camps, mentioned in Notitia Dignitatum. Unfortunately, the place is not mentioned in any written sources.

Dating of the pottery forms from "Gradiste" shows an intensive life from the beginning of the 1st c. AD till the end of 5th c. AD. However, the biggest part of the material belongs to the Late Antique period - the second half of the 3rd c. AD-4th c. AD. To the same period refers the brick stamps found here. It is clear that the flourishing period of the settlement was after the founding of the Late Roman province Dacia Ripensis and respectively - after location at the place parts of famous legions mentioned in Noticia Dignitatum - the XIII Gemina and the V Macedonica.

The dimensions of the site are huge - 2 km West-East to 1 km North-South. It could be compared only with the capital of the province - Ratiaria. Probably this was the second big center in the area, unfortunately, unknown from the historical sources but well presented in the archaeological evidence. Its detailed research is still forthcoming. The first season of the archaeological excavations here would be very important for further scientific information concerning the development and history of the Late Roman empire.

Reading Background

Southern, P. & Dixon, K. R., 1996. The Late Roman Army. London - New Haven: B.T. Batsford: Yale University Press.

Zaharide, M., 2015-2015. The Dacia Ripensis section in Notitia Dignitatum (XLII). Thraco-Dacica S. N., Том XXIX-XXX, pp. 119-154. (Academia.edu)

Băjenaru, C., 2010. Minor fortifications in the Balkan-Danubian area from Diocletian to Justinian. Cluj-Napoca: Mega Publishing House. (Academia.edu)

Gudea, N. & Zahariade, M., 2016. DACIA RIPENSIS Festungen an der Nordgrenze der Provinz und ihre Truppenkörper. Amsterdam (Academia.edu)


First day

By 7.00 pm - Arrival and check-in.
8.00 - 9.30 pm - Welcome dinner.
*A pick-up may be arranged from Sofia airports upon request. Please check our Travel instructions section.

Working days

In working days the breakfast is in 7.30 AM. We're leaving in 8.00 AM - it's takes about 20 minutes to reach the site. In 11.00 AM is the first break. In 1.30 PM we're leaving the site. The lunch is in 2.00 PM in the village. Between 2.30 and 5.00 PM the students have two and half hours for rest. The post field work starts in 5.00 PM and continue till 7.00 PM. The dinner is in 8.00 PM. More information about the meals and living conditions you can find in our Accommodation section.


Excursion to Belogradchik fortress and Belogradchik rocks, Magura cave. Lunch in restaurant in town of Belogradchik.


Participation in the Archaeological workshop in experimental archaeology (Only for the Second session).

Last day

*Please check our Travel instructions section.

Travel, Accomodation & Practicalities

Access to the working place

The students are responsible for arranging their transportation to Bulgaria. The regular sessions start on Sunday with a Welcome dinner at 8.00 PM. The students should schedule their arrival on the same day from Sofia airport to Vidin. The meeting point is Vidin Bus Station at 7.00 PM. From there the students will be transferred to Drenovets.

Please note! The participants who arrive earlier of the pointed dates should arrange their own accommodation. The organizers can provide assistance under request.

The archaeological site is located 150 km (about 90 miles) from the capital of Bulgaria - Sofia. The meeting point - town of Vidin is situated 190 km (about 120 miles) from Sofia and it takes about three hours traveling by bus.

At the Central Bus Station in Sofia, the students should ask for the destination Sofia - Vidin. The buses to Vidin live every hour but the last one is at 17.45 PM! The students who can't arrange an early landing in Sofia should schedule their flight for the previous day!

Optionally a transfer from Sofia to the archaeological sites may be arranged by request. Individual or group transfer prices may vary depending on the number of passengers from 30 to 120 EUR.

The departure at the end of the session is on Saturday. The organizers will provide assistance for booking bus tickets.

Arriving date: September 3, 2023.

Departure date: September 23, 2023.

Accommodation & Meals

Accommodation of the students is in a fully renovated building in the village. The building is state property and is used for accomodaton of the guests in the time of publick events. It is situated in the very center of the village, not far from the Drenovdts comunity center. The archaeological site is only 500 m away and it is easy to be reached from the residence place.

The students will be accommodated in double rooms with bathroom, TV set and i-net connection.

The breakfast is in 7.30 AM. It is advisable for the students to make a list with the preferred meals for breakfast (the Bulgarian breakfast is completely different and unusual for the foreigners) and give it to the supervisor. The lunch (in 2.00 PM) and the diner (in 8.00 PM) are in the village’s restaurant. In the time of the excursion the lunche in luxurious restaurants are included in the program. However any additional drinks (juices, beer, wine, etc.) are not included in the fee and the students should pay it on its own.

The students should buy also their own food if they need some for the first break at the site in 11.00 AM. The field school ensure a big bottle with mineral water at the site but the students must have their own glasses and small plastic bottles.

Free Time & Trips

The program incorporates a one-day trip to Belogradchik Fortress, Belogradchik rocks, and Magura Cave.

Belogradchik Fortress

One of the most attractive historical monuments in the region. This ancient stronghold had been built among the unreachable rocks when the Balkan Peninsula was within the confines of the Roman Empire (3rd century AD). The Vidin Tzar Ivan Sratzimir had used it as a mansion during the 13 century. Its present appearance is dated back from 1805-1837 when the Turks rebuilt it.

Belogradchik rocks

The rocks lay near the town of Belogradchik. The area length is about 30 km and its width is 3 km. Many of the rocks are related to interest legends. The central group of rocks is situated to the South of Belogradchik. Here are the most interesting and impressive formations - Adam and Eve, The Schoolgirl, The Bear many others. They are declared as natural landmarks. The second group is to the West of the town. The rocks are of Alpine type, they surround big precipices. The most famous rocks are Zbegovete, Erqupriya, Boritch. The third group is some 4 km away to the East of the town, which includes the rocks around The Latin Kale and The Lipenik cave. The fourth group is extended between the villages of Borovitsa and Falkovets. There is the well-known Pine stone (declared as a natural landmark), The Red stone, The Bee stone, Torlak, The Maid's rock. The last group is situated between the villages of Gyurgitch and Belotintsi.

Magura Cave

The Magura cave is in the Northwest of Bulgaria, 25km away from the town of Belogradchik. It is hollowed out in the Rabisha hill limestone (461 m above sea level). The Magura is one of the largest caves in Bulgaria. The total length of the galleries discovered till now is about 2500 m. The Magura cave's formation has started some 15 million years ago, the cave is hollowed by the Tortonian river. The caves gave fantastic formations - stalactites, stalagmites, stalactones, cave pearls, "cave milk". Pearls of the cave are unique paintings on stone, done in bat guano. Religious and hunting scenes are depicted on them; The Solar calendar from The Late Eneolith, with some later additions to it, made during The Early Bronze age, is quite accurate.


EU, American and Canadian citizens, do not need visas to travel and study in Bulgaria. Citizens from outside of the EU need passports to travel to the EU countries. Students, who are passport holders/citizens from countries outside of the European Union must arrange their visas through the corresponding embassy. Arranging the correct Visa is the sole responsibility of the student. No visa support documentation will be provided until all fees have been received by the organizers and a written request for visa support is signed and sent by the student.

   For all participants in the field school is recommended "Cancel for Any Reason" (CFAR) travel insurance!

Because of the unstable situation which is changing almost every week, CFAR travel insurance is recommended. This new kind of recovery of your expenses in case of unexpected cancelation (lockdown, closing the borders, illness, etc.) is available for all countries and is not very expensive. Because COVID-19 causes an unstable economic situation, the fee you pay may not always be refunded. Lots of the hotels and restaurants in Bulgaria have problems (they had to be closed and not working for a long time) and at the moment they required payment in advance. So, your money can be ensured only by making appropriate insurance.

It is strongly advisable as well before you decide to book your place in the field school, to check World Health Organisation's Travel advances and Centers for Disease Travel Guidance.

Organize your trip

1. Make sure you have packed laptop, camera and all international charges.

2. Please pack for summer, but have some warm jacket, just in case, and for sure an umbrella.

3. Give a copy of your passport face page to a close family member or friend at home.

4. Update all immunizations for travel to the country.

5. Make sure that your passport is valid for 6 months after your return.

6. Secure your visa if that is necessary for travel.

7. Acquire multiple forms of money: cash, ATM and credit cards. Do not carry large amounts of cash. Money belts are handy.

8. Keep a list of cards, account numbers, PIN numbers and emergency card replacement procedures in multiple places.

9. Inform your credit card/ATM provider of your overseas travel.

10. Purchase international phone cards or consider short term international coverage on your cell phone.

11. Consider international data plans for your tablet or cell phone.

12.Take all medicines with you for the trip along with copies of all prescriptions and the generic names of the drugs. Keep medicines in the original labeled drugstore containers. Take extra eyeglasses or contacts and the prescription.

Personal Equipment

1. Comfortable work shoes. We do not suggest open toed shoes or moccasins.

2. Shorts and tee-shirts (that you are willing to throw away after the excavation).

3. Two pairs of comfortable cloth work gloves or 1 pair of broken in leather gloves.

4. One pullover (sweatshirt, loose jacket, etc.~).

5. Wide-brimmed hat.

6. Pocketknife.

7. Sunglasses.

8. Sunscreen - at least SPF 25.

9. Bug spray.

10. Small backpack or handbag for lugging things off and on site.

11. If you wear prescription glasses, you might want to ask your doctor what the prescription is in case your glasses break.

12. Bathing suit and beach towel (for your free time).

13. Allergy medicine if you are picky about a prescription that works for you.

14. If you are allergic to bee stings or insect bites, bring your Benedryl or emergency Inhaler/shot with you and bring it on site every freaking day.

15. Personal entertainment - books, cards, Frisbees, music, sketchpad, camera, personal ice chest, games.

The Admission Fee

The Admission fee includes: educational and fieldwork activities, full-board accommodation (3 meals per day), tools, materials, issue of Certificate of Attendance, excursion/entrance fees, participation in Archaeological workshop in experimental archaeology and administrative costs.

The participation fee does not cover: international transportation expenses, transfer from Sofia airport to the excavation place and back, visa expenses (if is necessary), health insurance, CFAR travel insurance.

The price in USD is for orientation. Please check current exchange rates!

Super Early Bird Special - by December 31, 2023
Super Early Bird Admission fee is € 1,428 (app. 1,387 USD) - SAVE € 159 (app. 154 USD).
Early Bird Special - by January 31, 2023
Early Bird Admission fee is € 1,508 (app. 1,465 USD) - SAVE € 79 (app. 76 USD).
Regular admission fee - after January 31, 2023
The regular admission fee is € 1,587 (app. 1,542 USD).

Discounts of the regular admission fee


12% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:
Group Participation - three or more people, who participate together in one project session (the discount is valid for each participant).

THE DISCOUNTS ARE NOT CUMULATIVE! For example - if you're a group of three or more students and you apply for Super Early Bird Special, you can use ONLY one of the offered discounts - a 10% discount for Super Early Bird Special OR a 12% group discount.

Application Process & Admission Fee Transfer

To book your place in DRENOVETS 2023 archaeological field school you should fill-in and submit our Application form. We will get in touch with you with further instructions within three days.

Your participation is considered reserved after the payment of a participation fee of 30 % of the admission fee. The final payment is arranged not later than 60 days prior to the beginning of the field school.

Important! All payments made by you are non-refundable! We strongly recommend that you take out "Cancel for Any Reason" (CFAR) travel insurance after making the final payment. The DRENOVETS 2023 field school will not take responsibility for any kind of cancellations and lack of relevant insurance!

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