• Name: Paul McLerran
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Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Vratsata Project: Uncovering a Major Early Thracian Settlement

The ancient Thracians first enter the known historical record through Homer's Illiad, where they are described as allies of the Trojans. More recently, they have become known in popular accounts as the creators of strikingly beautiful and elaborately crafted gold and silver artifacts that have come to light through a number of excavations in the Balkans. The Thracians are important for far more than ancient treasures, however. Dr. Nartis Torbov of the Vratsa Historical Museum is leading an investigation of a site that may, according to his thesis, reveal much more about these ancient peoples and may, indeed, prove to be an important Thracian capital city with a settlement history going back 2,800 years. Known as Vratsata, he believes the site could yield evidence for the capital of the Tribali tribe, where generations of Thracian rulers lived. Research thus far has uncovered a citadel with a pentagonal layout. Materials found here have traced out four historical periods:

  • Thracians (5th - 1st century BC)
  • Roman period (1st - 3rd century AD)
  • Late Antique (4th - 6th century AD)
  • Medieval period (12th - 13th century AD)

>The Field School

Dr. Torbov is inviting volunteers and students from all over the world to join him and his team in this exciting, ground-breaking expedition of discovery. In association with the Vratsa Historical Museum, he is offering a formal field school that will teach, through practical hands-on activities, the methodology of systematic archaeological excavation and recording. The Field School will include a variety of related lectures and field trips to interesting historical and cultural points of interest in Bulgaria, including a stay in Sofia, the capital city.

The Field School begins June 1st and ends on June 28th. Participants may attend one or both 15-day sessions that make up the total field season. Accommodations are provided in a three star hotel in the town of Vratsa in shared double rooms with bathrooms, hot and cold running water, and TV. Meals include early morning breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the hotel. The food will be traditional Bulgarian. The project will supply all basic equipment needed.

For more information about this opportunity, go to the website at www.vratsata.archbg.net. The website includes information about how to apply. The application deadline is May 31, 2009.

Conbustica: Excavating a Roman Military Fort

By the first century A.D., the Romans had expanded their imperial reach into the eastern Balkans of present-day Europe. Among the many forts and towns they established in the region was the impressive fort of Conbustica, located in the northwest region of modern-day Bulgaria. The fort, situated on a plateau overlooking two major river valleys, was strategically positioned on the main road through the Roman province of Moesia. Conbustica is recorded on the Peutingerian Table, a schematic first-century A.D. map of the Roman world.

The Excavations

Over the years, excavations at the hilltop fort have revealed a classic model of Roman defensive architecture. The walls of the rhomboid-shaped fort were massive, with stone foundations measuring over six feet high and five feet wide. The wall's earthen superstructure is preserved to a height of four feet in some places. Inside the fort, archaeologists have found a range of artifacts that reveal the daily life of the soldiers who dwelt inside, including bronze artifacts, imported pottery and two unique bronze fibulae (ancient brooches used to fasten clothing). This season, excavation director Krassimira Luka, in conjunction with the Bulgarian Archaeological Association, will continue to excavate the camp's fortifications, but will also explore the site's pottery kilns and workshops.

The Field School

Volunteers and students are invited to join the team by participating this summer in the 2009 Field School. The training will afford students the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills in systematic survey and stratigraphic excavation techniques, including mapping of excavated features. The training will also inlcude plan and section drawing, archaeological drafting, laboratory processing and documentation of excavated material. In addition to the skills training, participants will attend formal and informal lectures throughout the dig period on a variety of topics related to the archaeological experience.

Team members will stay two-to-a room in a hotel in the nearby town of Belogradchik. Hotel amenities include private bathrooms, hot water, TV and internet access.

Does this sound interesting to you? Find out more about the project, program costs, and application procedures by going to the website at www.cambustica.archbg.net.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Edom Lowlands Regional Archaeology Project

This year, a team from the University of California, San Diego will excavate and survey in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan's Faynan district, 50 km south of the Dead Sea. Faynan, located near the beautiful Dana UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is home to one of the world’s best preserved ancient mining and metallurgy districts. Since 1997, UC San Diego has worked closely with the Department of Antiquities of Jordan on a deep-time, nine thousand year long, study of the role of mining and metallurgy on cultural evolution – from the Neolithic period to Islamic times. Known as the Edom Lowlands Regional Archaeology Project or ELRAP, its 2009 season will be devoted to excavating one of the largest Iron Age (ca. 1200 – 900 BCE) copper production sites in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Called Khirbat en-Nahas (Arabic, means ‘Ruins of Copper’), the site was the center of the earliest industrial scale metal production in the area and dates to the Biblical period. Excavations will focus on exploring some of the earliest metal production layers and administrative buildings at the site. In addition, the team will explore mines, and survey for hidden fortresses. The ELRAP project is special because it is at the center of using a high-tech on-site GIS digital archaeology system. Students gain extensive experience not only participating in archaeological survey and excavation, but also mastering an array of digital survey and recording tools. There is also a strong daily field laboratory component where students work in labs including ceramics, zooarchaeology, archaeometallurgy, lithics, digital photography, GIS and more. Local field trips, weekend trips and a special 3-day visit to the spectacular site of Petra – the Rose Red City - will take place. Petra was recently voted one of the new 7 wonders of the world and the team will spend three days visiting the area.

Are you interested in joining the team? Find out more by going to the website at www.anthro.ucsd.edu/~tlevy/index_files/Edom.htm.

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