Project Description


The Byzantine Cold Case File Project is a thrilling opportunity for students to gain a scientific glimpse into Early Christianity through a hands-on archaeological experience within the premises of a monastery complex, which emerged as early as the 5th century. The monastery church – a massive building with remarkable mosaic floors – gives out the Eastern origin of the complex’s founders. Only in the beginning of 21st century it became clear that the temple was the center of a large cloister. After revealing the first secret of this unusual church in the previous seasons, the project focuses on the inherent partition of the complex. The 2017 excavations are located in the representative colonnaded atrium, where the multi-layer stratigraphy bears record for at least four reconstruction periods and can give a detailed picture of the whole two-century lifespan of the monastery. The program include trips to significant heritage sites along the Western Black Sea Coast and Bulgaria.

Download Syllabus

Course Details

  • Course Dates: Jul 24-Aug 21, 2017
  • Enrollment Status: CLOSED
  • Total Cost: $4,850
  • Course Type: Field Archaeology
  • Payment Deadline: April 21, 2017
  • Instructors: Dr. Vassil Tenekedjiev, Prof. Alexander Minchev
  • Orientation: April 29, 11:00am Los Angeles Time
Program Closed


The directors welcome emails and inquiries about the research elements of this project. More general information (tuition, health insurance, and payment schedule) can be found under the ‘Students’ tab above. Any further questions may be addressed to IFR staff. Additional details about research, course schedule, travel, accommodation, and safety can be found on the syllabus. Contacting the directors or the IFR office is encouraged and appreciated. It may help you determine if this field school is a good fit for you.

Dr. Vassil Tenekedjiev
Dr. Vassil Tenekedjiev
Dr. Tenekedjiev is an archaeologist at the Varna Regional Museum of History, Department of Archaeology; Balkan Heritage Foundation – Varna branch manager.
Prof. Alexander Minchev
Prof. Alexander Minchev
Dr. Minchev is an archaeologist at the Varna Regional Museum of History, Department of Archaeology; Balkan Heritage Foundation affiliate.


My experience with Balkan Heritage met or exceeded all of my expectations. I truly enjoyed the instructors, staff, fellow excavators, and host city – Varna! This was 100% the hands-on archaeological experience I was craving!
Leslie Caccamese, California, USA
Everyone was friendly and helpful. The site was incredibly interesting. I would recommend this to anyone with a passing interest in Early Christianity!
Rebecca Neri, Canada
My month stay in Bulgaria has been the most rewarding experience in my life. Everyone with Balkan Heritage has been extremely kind and welcoming, and they have only contributed to this great experience. I look forward to returning next year to see what surprises await on Djanavara Hills!
Christine Peralta, Redlands, California, USA
Originally I was supposed to be here for two weeks, but after I seeing the site and meeting the people I worked with, I extended my stay by 3 more weeks. Djanavara is an amazing site, that offers so many questions and big thoughts. I would not trade this experience for anything in the world!
Kat Harden, KY, USA

Tuition Includes:

  • Costs of instruction
  • Cost of Academic Credits
  • Room & board
  • All local transportation
  • Health Insurance

Student Fees

A nonrefundable deposit of $500 is required to secure a seat in this program.  This program requires an application (no application fee is requested). Only accepted students should pay the deposit fee. Deposit fee is part of the program Tuition. The remaining tuition, minus the $500 deposit, must be paid prior to the tuition deadline (see above under “Course Details”).

Important Note: If you were accepted to this program but did not cancel your participation by the tuition payment deadline, you are legally responsible for the full tuition regardless of attendance in this program. Please read the IFR Cancellation Policy for further clarification.

  • A 2.5% Processing Fee is automatically assessed for all credit/debit card payments
  • A $100 Late Fee will be assessed if full tuition payment is not completed by the deadline.
  • Look at the field school syllabus above for room & board details.


Students will reside at Hotel Cherno More ( in downtown Varna in comfortable rooms with two to three beds each (bathrooms with shower and WC, TV, air-conditioning and fridge). Laundry service and free Wi-Fi are available at the hotel. Participants are not expected to bring any additional equipment, beddings or towels. Single rooms are available upon request for the supplement of 120 EUR per week. Staying an extra day at the hotel costs 30 EUR (per night per person). The distance from the hotel to the site is app. 8 km/4.5 mi, and it takes app. 15 min drive. Daily shuttle service will bring students to and from the site.


Three meals per day are covered by tuition. Meals usually take place (except the brown-bag lunches during the excursions) at a local restaurant. This field school can accommodate vegetarians and individuals with lactose intolerance diet. Vegans and people with kosher and gluten-free diets may not be accommodated at this location.

Students must pay on their own for extra days and/or for single room accommodation.

Bulgaria - Varna
Bulgaria - Varna

Travel Info

Students will be met by project staff at the Varna Airport (VAR) on July 24 at 5:00 pm. The meeting point is at the arrival area. Look for a person carrying the “Balkan Heritage Program” sign. Students will be transferred from the airport to the field house by taxi. If you arrive by bus from Sofia or from elsewhere in the Balkans, contact project staff for meeting arrangements. Students are responsible for transportation back to the airport – or onward travel – at the end of the field school.

If you missed your connection or your flight was delayed/canceled, call, text or email the project staff. Local contact information will be provided to enrolled students.

VISA REQUIREMENTS: Citizens of the US, EU, Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand do not need visa to visit Bulgaria for up to 90 days. Citizens of all other countries may need a visa. The Balkan Heritage Foundation can send an official invitation letter that should be used at the relevant embassy to secure a visa to the program. For more information visit the US State Department Travel Advice page or Balkan Heritage Foundation visa help web page.

HEALTH ISSUES: For specific information regarding travel health issues pertinent to travel in Bulgaria, consult with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Students are able to get general information, essential travel basics and tips concerning the project location and the country at (for Bulgaria) and  (for the project). All students will receive a travel info-sheet with specific travel details prior to departure.

Student Safety

Student safety is paramount for the IFR. Unlike many universities who are self-insured, the IFR purchases a range of high end insurance policies from some of the largest insurers in the world. Students in all our international programs have a comprehensive health insurance policy. It covers sickness, and chronic and mental health conditions at 100% of the cost. We have a strong evacuation and extraction policy. We can remove students from any location anywhere in the world with one phone call – whether medical evacuation, political or natural disaster extraction and anything in between. We purchase intelligence services from a global private provider and monitor the world 24/7. We automatically enroll our students to the US State Department STEP program. All of our students receive safety orientations both before and on the first day of each program. Our faculty have all been working in the areas where we operate field schools for years. They are intimately familiar with local customs and traditions, know the landscape well and have deep relationships with local communities.

All our domestic programs are coordinated with local authorities which are informed of our operations. Students in domestic programs are covered by their own health insurance and evacuations are managed by local emergency services, as appropriate.

The IFR has strong, explicit and robust policy towards discrimination and harassment in the field (click here for a shortcut). If students feel they cannot discuss personal safety issues with the field school staff, the IFR operates an emergency hotline where students can contact IFR personnel directly.

Travel does involve risk, but we try to minimize this risk as much as possible. Call us at 877-839-4374 or email us at if you have questions about the safety of particular programs.