Project Description


The Byzantine Cold Case File project is an excellent opportunity for students to gain a scientific glimpse into Early Christianity through a hands-on archaeological experience within the premises of an impressive monastery complex which emerged as early as the 5th century CE on the Black Sea coast of the Byzantine Empire. The monastery church, a massive building – unusual for Balkan architecture – points to the Eastern origin of the complex’s founders. The building size, the monumental walls, the remarkable mosaic floors, the precious marble decoration, the underground crypt and the set of three reliquaries (marble, silver and golden) hidden inside, reveal one of the most impressive and extraordinary Early Christian monuments in the Balkans. The recent excavations proved that the temple was just the center of a large cloister which is the focus of the current research. The 2018 excavations will be 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 dynamic and turbulent 5th and 6th centuries of the Early Byzantine Empire. The site is situated near Varna, ancient Odessos, on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. The participants will be accommodated in Varna downtown – a regional administrative center, sea resort and historic town with rich cultural heritage. The program includes excavations, finds processing, various workshops, lectures and presentations by specialists in the field of Early Christian and Late Antiquity art and archaeology, as well as trips to heritage sites along the western Black Sea Coast and Bulgaria.

Download Syllabus

Course Details

  • Course Dates: July 23-August 20, 2018
  • Enrollment Status: OPEN
  • Total Cost: $4,430
  • Course Type: Field Archaeology
  • Payment Deadline: April 20, 2018
  • Instructors: Dr. Vassil Tenekedjiev, Prof. Alexander Minchev
  • Online Orientation: June 3, 2018, 8:30 AM PST
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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.


“It was fun to see all the different parts of one site that people can have access to and what their responsibilities were. Everybody had something to do and it varied from person to person so I found myself surrounded by very hard-working people which is motivating.”
Guilio Romano, University of Ottawa (2017)

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 Cherno More Hotel in downtown Varna in 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

Bulgaria - Varna
Bulgaria - Varna

Travel Info

Students are expected to arrive on July 23, 2018 by 7:30pm to the Interhotel Cherno More (33 Slivnitza Str. in Varna ( Enrolled students will receive a travel info-sheet with specific travel details prior to departure.

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

Particiants who arrive at Varna airport could take a taxi to Cherno More hotel. We recommend you to use the service of Triumf Taxi company which office is in the terminal and which is authorized by the airport authorities. The taxi should cost about 15 BGN (9 USD).

Bus and train lines connect Varna with Sofia (the Bulgarian capital), Burgas and Plovdiv.

A transfer from Sofia, Burgas and Varna could be arranged upon request for additional fee.


Citizens of the US, Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand do not need a 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 Balkan Heritage Foundation web site at and the links provided there.

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.