CONBUSTICA archaeological field school 2017

In the summer of 2017 once again we run the CONBUSTICA project. This is an amazing archaeological site where every day we find something interesting and unexpected. Conbustica is THE ONLY military camp in Moesia preserved in its original look with wooden and clay construction of the soldiers contubernium (tents), main streets and fortification system. Conbustica is THE ONLY place still hiding the big question "How the Romans succeeded to conquered the world?"

For the seventh year already we will continue to keep the tradition of free voluntary access for everyone who wanst to help reveal the secrets of Conbustica. We need your support! All this years the team of Bulgarian Archaeological Association was working for free and we will continue doing. We welcome all volunteers and we're grateful for your help.

What the students say about us

Archaeology =

Well for a start we had a very nice, kind and friendly team. This made it very easy for us to work a team

Students were allowed to offer their opinions about certain aspects of Archaeology on site and in Bulgaria to their Bulgarian instructors and their questions were meet with attention. It was great to know that our ideas were appreciated.

Site management was very clearly organisied and most important it was a safe environment to work. Bulgarian supervisors were on hand to help at any time. Work was done with efficiently in order to discover artifacts at Cambustica which will hopefully improve the knowledge of Roman Military and Social life in Bulgaria and other countries.

On this Field school some of the instructors brought us to see many important Roman sites like Roman roads, Road stations and the ancient Roman city of Ratiaria. Many more sites are waiting to be found and it is only right that Bulgarian Archaeologists receive more support in their quests to discover these sites and to work at them so that we can uncover the beauty and splendor of Bulgarian Archaeology. They cannot be ignored anymore and neither can the sites. But it must be left to the professionals and not the criminals to uncover them. These sites must be protected and their finds keep safe for future generations.

I must thank Krassimira, Marian, Mladen and Mitko among many others for their amazing work in the effort to promote and help Bulgarian Archaeology. The trip will add greatly to my Archaeological experience and it will make me a better Archeologist.

The stay in Bulgaria =

It was a beautiful experience to stay in a spectacular country. In Vidin the group made many friends of our age and we have formed strong bonds with these. I loved to the Traditions and Culture of Bulgaria. I enjoyed making Friends here and contacts that will help me in my future Archeological career.

Thank you Bulgaria!

Yours sincerely Byron Jones

Worldwide there are more and more excavations annually, but Cambustica and the region it is geographically situated in standout, specifically for classical archaeologists studying the ancient Greco-Roman World and its civilization(s). What was special about working at Cambustica was that the area this Roman fortress is situated in is home to a group or series of archaeological sites that form a rich and relatively untouched archaeological region that forms the last known great and unexcavated remains of the once might Roman Empire. Rataria and the renown site of Gamzigrad or Felix Romuliana, just inside the Serbian border, are both parts of this archaeological region and its rich heritage. This is what made doing excavation work at Cambustica, situated near these other historic and archaeological sites and remains, a real pleasure and privilege.

The excavation at Cambustica was more than just archaeological work, it was also a cultural and social experience, as well as a chance to visit and see Bulgaria and its heritage, culture, and natural beauty. Cambustica was an eye-opening process and exercise in archaeology and even about different views, perspectives, methods, and values amongst different archaeologists or those practicing archaeology from different corners of the globe. Colleagues came with different disciplinary backgrounds, such as anthropology, history, and classical studies, and from various institutions, such as the University of Belgrade (Serbia), Oxford University (U.K.), King’s College (U.K.), University of Victoria (Canada), and Moscow State University (Russia). Each brought with them different experiences, talents, expectations, and modes of thoughts on conducting archaeology. This at times led to clashes, but was part of the constructionist learning aspect of the excavation as a broader learning experience.

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Ottawa

On the map of Roman Empire we are here

In the early 1st century AD Roman rule was finally established in the Eastern Balkans. The present-day Bulgarian lands were included in the territorial and administrative division systems and government of the vast empire. They belonged mainly to the provinces of Moesia Inferior and Thracia till the end of the 3rd century AD. After the 3rd-4th century reforms the latter were replaced by several smaller provinces included in two higher-ranking territorial and administrative units: the dioceses of Thracia and Dacia. The annexation of the present -day Bulgarian lands by the Roman Empire secured their complete economic and cultural integration into the ancient Mediterranean world. They joined new forms of economic activity, as well as new material culture standards. After the establishment of the Roman rule, however, life did not become totally uniform with that of Italy and the rest of the provinces and territories of the Empire.

The field school is situated in the areo of modern town of Vidin. Vidin is situated in North - West Bulgaria, at 199 km from Sofia, on the right bank of Dunabe river. It is linked with Kalafat town (in Romania) by a ferry. A major factor making the city a resort is the availability of mineral water. Vidin is one of the oldest towns along the Bulgarian Danube bank. It appears as the Roman fortress of Bononia on the foundations of a Thracian settlement. During the First Bulgarian Kingdom it is known as Budin (Bdin). Bishop`s centre. During the Second Bulgarian Kingdom it is a strong fortress and after 1371 a capital of the Vidin Kingdom under Tsar Ivan Sratsimir. To this day the following sites have been preserved: Baba Vida fortress, built in the 9th-10th centuries on the ruins of a Roman fortress (rebuilt many times, its present appearance dating back to the 18th C.), the Turkish konak (the second half of the 18th C.), the mosque and library of Osman Nuri Pasha, the cruciform barracks of 1798, old Renaissance buildings, a synagogue Vidin is a starting point for excursions along the Danube. The second Danube bridge between Bulgaria and Romania will be constructed there.


The ancient site near village of Kladorub is localized in 18 century by F. Kanitz. In 1890 V. Dobrusky visited the site and described a quadrangular fortress measuring 140 x 140 feet with walls up to 4 m thick. Later the site is identified with the Roman road station Conbustica mentioned in Tabula Peutengeriana on the road between Ratiaria and Timacum Minus to Adriatic Sea (TP VII 5). Village with a similar name (Combusticia) is mentioned in Anonymi Ravennatis Cosmographia (RC IV 7), but located on the road between Philippopolis and Serdica. No other data about the name of the site are known. Since the late 19 century, however, the name Conbustica (Combustica) is used in the scientific literature as the antique name of the site located near the modern village of Kladorub. In the middle of the last century B. Gerov based on epigraphic data defines Conbustica as "the most significant center of city life and Roman population in the hinterland of Ratiaria".

The site is located east of the modern village Kladorub on a large plateau concluded between the influx of the River Salash in Archar River. The plateau covers an area of over 20 hectares at an average altitude of 170 meters and dominates the surrounding terrain, providing visibility over the valley of Archar. From the north, east and south steep banks of the two rivers are natural defenses of the terrain, accessible only from the west. Studies in 2008 proved the existence of a rectangular fort, located in the center of the plateau and orientated SW with dimensions 140 x 110 m.

Piece of Roman sword (gladius type Minze) found in Conbustica

Artifacts found in a closed complex (pit No 2)

Imported pottery (terra sigillata) - South Gaulish production

The earliest traces of occupation of the site are associated with the presence of thick coatings of opal clay, on which in all sectors had registered 10-15 cm layer of charcoal and ashes. Unfortunately, the destructions caused by treasure hunter's intervention did not allow delineation of the plan of these structures. It can be assumed that it comes to floors of temporary buildings that in height were with wooden structures and coated with clay. Findings of a large amount of clay plaster with prints of bars on them prove this assumption.

The remains of clay coatings step directly on the sterile yellow loess and they are registered as individual spots, among which in 2009 was investigated a pit with materials from the time of Flavian dynasty. Strong opals of clay floors and the presence of a thick layer of charcoal and ash on them indicate that these structures were destroyed by intense fire. The terrain for a long time thereafter remains uninhabitable. These data allow us to express a new hypothesis concerning the name of the town, whose origins are likely to be associated with the Latin word "combustium" - burned.

Findings derived from this earliest layer can be placed no later than the Claudius-Tiberius time. Upper chronological limit is currently not supported by sufficient categorical data.

To this first chronological horizon belongs a find of brick with stamp [Leg (ionis) VII C (laudiae)] p (iae) f (idelis). The brick with stamp of Legio VII Claudiae in Conbustica states the dating of such finds, coming from Ratiaria and clarifies the nature of the military unit located in this place, which may be related to vexillatio of the same legion.

On the destruction of the Early Roman camp was discovered a layer connected with the establishment of the fortification wall. In 2010 in this layer were found four coins of the Emperors Constantius II, Julian and Valens, the latest of which minted in 364-375. The coins dated the construction of the stone fort in the last quarter of the 4 century.

The final period is presented by 0.5 m thick layer of stone destruction, where were found various household items, metal ornaments, tools and a large amount of household and building ceramics. The layer is dated by cons in the end of 5 century.

General plan of the excavated area


Training Excavation

The investigations will include extensive stratigraphic excavations, as well as mapping of the archaeological features and architectural remains uncovered. In the course of the training excavation students will attain basic surveying skills. An individual programme of activities intended to give students direct experience of all the activities follows up this training. Students will be taught to take responsibility for the excavation and recording of their own area, under the guidance of a site supervisor.

This practical course provides an ideal introduction to the world of archaeology. Prior experience is not necessary, as training will be provided in excavation methodology, surveying, planning, archaeological drawing, etc.

Program Length: Estimated Costs: Program Options:

2 weeks
8:00 AM - 1:30 PM

field school tuition

Certificate of Completion

Planning and Section Drawing

Participants will be taught how to draw the features they excavate - both in plan and in section (profile). Planning is usually carried out with the use of a 1 metre planning frame and at a scale of 1:20.

During the course the following topics will be covered:

  • Surveying Techniques: Setting out a Grid - Plane Table Drawing; Levelling; Contour surveying using a Theodolite;
  • Trowelling, planning and recording of archaeological features;
  • Architectural survey;
  • Context sheet recording;
  • Artefact identification;
  • Archaeological photography.

Program Length: Estimated Costs: Program Options:

2 weeks
8:00 AM - 1:30 PM

field school tuition

Certificate of Completion


The project incorporates daily laboratory work where students participate in the processing and documentation of the artifacts recovered from the site. All participants will have a chance to work with artefacts recovered during the excavation. This work will involve washing them and marking them with their find and context number.

During the course the following topics will be covered:

  • Artefact retrieval, identification and recording procedures;
  • Finds processing and cataloguing ;
  • Analysis of finds;
  • Draughtsmanship ('Inking - in').

Program Length: Estimated Costs: Program Options:

30 hours
3:00 PM - 6:00 PM

field school tuition

Certificate of Completion

Field Survey

This program involve all aspects of work, from planning, measuring, and taking field notes. Students learn field survey techniques, calculation, and office skills through extensive hands-on training.

During the course the following topics will be covered:

  • Research and planning. Artifacts found, Aerial photography;
  • Geophysical survey;
  • Analysis.

Program Length: Estimated Costs: Program Options:

20 hours
4:00 PM - 8:00 PM

tuition: 230 EUR
supplies: 50 EUR

Certificate of Completion


This course offers the opportunity to concentrate on the artistic elements of the archaeological documentation. All these courses encourage you to work in pencil, charcoal and a variety of other drawing and sketching media.

Timetable of the additional courses for groups starting afternoon at 5 pm. Approximately duration of a lesson per day is 2 hours.

During the course the following topics will be covered:

  • Classical type drawing. This is a course for anyone who wants practice with basic techniques. There will be plenty of demonstrations, structured exercises and individual tuition to help you improve your understanding of brushwork and tone;
  • Drawing with the help of a model. This section gives opportunity for students to practice how to use materials and techniques and how to approach a complete picture;
  • Nature drawing - excursions to a different locations. This section offers for each student to gain a feeling of accomplishment through increased perception and skills, while enjoying the atmosphere of this historic and inspirational setting.

Program Length: Estimated Costs: Program Options:

20 hours
4:00 PM - 8:00 PM

tuition: 230 EUR
supplies: 120 EUR

Certificate of Completion

Ceramic and Metal restoration

This is an training course for restoration of pottery and metal finds and production of replicas of antiquities. The course gives basic knowledge on manufacturing techniques of the ancient artefacts.

During the course the following topics will be covered:

  • Theory. How to work with clay - kneading, types of clay, paints;
  • Practical work. How to work with special chemicals for restoration;
  • How to clean metal finds. Establish level of preservation. Partial restoration.

Program Length: Estimated Costs: Program Options:

20 hours
4:00 PM - 8:00 PM

tuition: 230 EUR
supplies: 100 EUR

Certificate of Completion

Coins and Archaeology

This new course will focus on the role and significance of numismatic evidence in modern archaeological surveys. A special emphasis will be given to the ID, explanation and dating of ancient coins found in excavated context. Coins as witnesses of economical development of ancient societies. Coins in stratigraphy - principles, regular cases and known anomalies.

During the course the following topics will be covered:

  • Theory: General introduction to the Roman Imperial coinage (1st - 5th century AD). Periods, dynasties and emperors; basic types and denominations; main deities and personifications featured on coins. Most common and rarely found varieties of Roman coins from the Balkan provinces. Analysis of excavated coins - hoards and stray coins;
  • Practical seminar for basic ID and dating (work with genuine specimens and modern fakes). Documenting and recording of excavated ancient coins. Basic and lab-cleaning;

Program Length: Estimated Costs: Program Options:

20 hours
3:00 PM - 6:00 PM

tuition: 310 EUR
supplies: 30 EUR

Certificate of Completion


"Cambustica" field school will take between July 8 and August 4, 2017 and offers two sessions. The program includes 60 hours working on the archaeological site, 30 hours laboratory work, 20 hours additional courses (optional) and 2 excursions in the weekends (Sunday and Saturday).

Session Dates:
July 8 - July 22, 2017
July 22 - August 4, 2017

Application Deadline:
April 30, 2017

Minimum age: 16
Minimum length of stay: One session - 15 days
Number of places available: 10
Language: English
Experience required: None

The Field School training (Excavation, Field Planning and Section Drawing) will take place for 2 five-day weeks. The breakfast (including the Weekends) is at 7.00 AM. The work at the site begins at 8.00 AM and finishes at 1.30 PM. The lunch is at 2 o'clock.

The daily laboratory work (documentation of the artifacts discovered from the site) will take place between 4.00 and 7.00 PM from Monday till Friday for two weeks.

The additional courses (Field Survey, Illustration, Ceramic and Metal restoration) will be organized in the afternoons between 4.00 and 8.00 PM for one weeks. The length of each course is 5 working days. These courses are optional and each participant is allowed to take only one of them.

The Field trips. The program includes two excursions in the weekends to the most attractive places in the area.

In Saturday we're visiting the touristic town Belogradchik and the impressive Belogradchik rocks and fortress. The lunch is in a folklore restaurant in the town. In the afternoon the trip continue to the Magura cave where can be seen the earliest wall paintings in Europe.

In Sunday we organize trip to the neighbor Serbia. This travelling is exclusively interesting as only 8 km from the border is located the palace of Emperor Galerius - well preserved whit spectacular museum. The trip include as well as a lunch in traditional Serbian restaurant.

Traveling / access to the site. The archaeological site is located in the modern North-West Bulgaria near the town of Dimovo. Dimovo may be reached by bus from Sofia (Bulgaria). The nearest air terminal is Sofia (Bulgaria, 150 km). If participants arrive at Sofia airport, a transfer to the archaeological sites may be arranged by request. Individual or group transfers' price may vary depending on number of passengers from 30 to 120 EUR.


During the Field School guided Field Trips will be taken to:


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 (461m above sea level). The Magura is one of the largest caves in Bulgaria. The total length of the galleries discovered till now is about 2500m. The Magura cave's formation has started some 15 million years ago, the cave is hollowed by Tortonian river. The caves gave fantastic formations - stalactites, stalagmites, stalactones, cave pearls, "cave milk". Pearls of the cave are the 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.


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 (III century A.D.). The Vidin Tzar Ivan Sratzimir had used it as a mansion during the XIII century. Its present appearance is dated back from 1805-1837, when the Turks rebuilt it.


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 with 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 a 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 are 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.


Town history museum is one of the oldest scientific and cultural institutions in Vidin, important society centre engaged in keeping, scientific processing and popularizing the cultural and historic values.

The foundations of the museum activity in Vidin region were laid in 1910 when the Archaeological Society was established and the first museum collection was arranged. When the wars from the mid 20-ties of the 20th century were over Bononia Archaeological Society activated its collecting activity and under the guidance of the teacher Vasil Atanasov arranged an exposition of numismatic materials and Bulgarian embroideries in the old Turkish post-office building.


Baba Vida fortress. Baba Vida is a medieval fortress in Vidin in northwestern Bulgaria and the town's primary landmark. It consists of two fundamental walls and four towers and is said to be the only entirely preserved medieval castle in the country.

The construction of the fortress began in the 10th century at the place of an Ancient Roman watchtower. The building of Baba Vida is tied to a legend, according to which a Danubian Bulgarian king who ruled at Vidin had three daughters: Vida, Kula and Gamza. Prior to his death, he divided his realm among the three. Vida, the eldest, was given Vidin and the lands north to the Carpathians, Kula was awarded Zaječar and the Timok Valley, and Gamza was to rule the lands west up to the Morava. Although Gamza and Kula married to drunkard and warlike nobles, Vida remained unmarried and built the fortress in her city. The name of the castle means "Granny Vida".

Baba Vida served as Vidin's main defensive installation during the course of the Middle Ages and acted as the most important fortress of northwestern Bulgaria. The Baba Vida stronghold stood an eight-month-long siege by Byzantine forces led by Basil II, but was destroyed and once again erected during the rule of Ivan Stratsimir, as whose capital it served. Between 1365 and 1369, the fortress was in Hungarian hands. Vidin was suddenly attacked by the forces of Louis I of Hungary, but it took several months to conquer Baba Vida. In 1369, Ivan Sratsimir managed to regain control of his capital, albeit he had to remain under Hungarian overlordship.

In 1388, the Ottomans invaded Sratsimir's lands and forced him to become their vassal. In 1396, he joined an anti-Ottoman crusade led by the King of Hungary, Sigismund, placing his resources at the crusaders' disposal. The crusade ended in the disastrous Battle of Nicopolis at Nikopol, Bulgaria, with the Ottomans capturing most of Sratsimir's domains shortly thereafter, in 1397.

The fortress played a significant role during the Ottoman rule of Bulgaria, serving as a weapon warehouse and a prison, as it has been no longer used for defensive purposes since the end of the 18th century.

Today, Baba Vida is a fortress-museum, where finds and intelligence about its history are kept. Being a popular tourist attraction, the fortress was restored to its former appearance.


Castra Martis is Roman military castra from 4-th century. Destroyed by huns, then rebuild by Justinian and again destroyed by avars. It used to protect the road through Vrashka Chuka pass in the western Balkan mountains. The castle was invaded and seized by the hun's leader Uuldis in 408 AD. In 377 AD the emperor Gratian comes and stays here for some time on his journey to lower Thrace.

The first man to locate this castel was someone Kanitz from Hungary in the early XIX century. The Beautiful remains of the castel and the tower can be seen now at the center of the small bulgarian town of Kula.


In the vicinity of Gamzigrad lie the ruins of a huge Roman complex called Felix Romuliana, one of the most important late Roman sites in Europe. Early explorers believed the ancient ruins to have been a Roman military camp, because of their size and numerous towers. Systematic archaeological excavations conducted since 1953 revealed that the site was, in fact, an Imperial palace. It was conceived and built by one of the Tetrarchs, Emperor Galerius, the adopted son and son-in-law of the great Emperor Diocletian. Galerius started construction in 298 (after a victory over the Persians that brought him admiration and glory) to mark the place of his birth. The name Felix Romuliana was given in memory of his mother Romula, who was also a priestess of a pagan cult. The complex of temples and palaces served three main purposes - a place of worship of his mother's divine personality, a monument to his deeds as emperor, and a luxurious villa for Galerius. Romuliana survived until it was plundered by the Huns in the mid 5th century. Later the site became a humble settlement of farmers and craftsmen, finally to be abandoned at the beginning of the 7th century with the arrival of the Slavs.

Please pay attention!

1. Your admission fee covers only the transport and the entrance fees in the museums. The program does not include the expenses for visiting restaurants, coffees and etc. in the time of traveling. For each trip we ensure packed food.

2. The trip to Serbia is an additional option and it is additional paid. The price is 30 Euros and includes the transport, the entrance fee and a visit to Serbian restaurant in town of Zaichar (8 km far from Bulgarian border). If you wish to join this trip you have to inform you supervisor at least two weeks before that.

And more ...

Beautiful nature, friendly people, and good food!


The field school will use complex Magura. The resort has an outdoor pool, sun terrace and views of the mountain, and guests can enjoy a meal at the restaurant or a drink at the bar. Each room comes with a flat-screen TV. A terrace or balcony are featured in certain rooms. Every room is fitted with a private bathroom. Complex Magura features free WiFi throughout the property.


Full-time stay per 1 Field school session (2 weeks)

Field school expenses (accommodation, meals, transportation, supplies) for 2 weeks session

€ 853

Additional courses

Field survey € 280
Illustration € 350
Ceramic and Metal restoration € 330

Participation fee covers:

  • Accommodation.
  • All meals for the time of excavations and field trips.
  • Travel expenses to and from excavation site for the entire duration of the program and the transport during the excursions.
  • Entrance fees in the museums.
  • Fees for participating in the excavations.
  • Honorariums for the day lectures and site talks when done by outside experts.
  • A Reader with materials in English for the excavation sites.
  • Tools and equipment for specialized artifact processing.

Program DOES NOT include:

  • Your international transportation expenses to and from the rendezvous point (Sofia airport, bus station or train station).
  • In case you need visa for Bulgaria, you have to cover this cost also by yourself.
  • Additional courses (Field Survey, Illustration, Ceramic and Metal restoration).
  • The transfer from Sofia airport to the archaeological site. Individual or group transfer may be arranged by request. The price may vary depending on number of passengers from 30 to 120 EUR.

Payment schedule:

A non-refundable booking fee of 150 euros should be paid once a place has been offered, and the balance no later than 6 weeks before the course begins. Reservations will only be effective after payment of the registration fee.

For the additional courses we required a non-refundable deposit of 50 euros. The balance should be paid 6 weeks before beginning of the dig.


Please read carefully before you consider applying. Thank you for your interest in our project.

- You are applying to join a research project, which is operating in a culturally diverse country under conditions, which will likely be quite different from those to which you are accustomed to in your home country.

- Field archaeology is physically, emotionally and mentally challenging.


Fill in the Online Application Form!

After submission of your application you will receive by e-mail 1) BAA standard Contract that specifies the conditions of the "CAMBUSTICA" 2017 field school; 2) Invoice.

Contract your participation!

You should confirm or cancel your participation by e-mail within the period of one week. In case of confirmation, you should:

  1. Print the contract, fill in the required fields and information and then scan it.
  2. Transfer the registration fee to the BAA bank account, specified in the Invoice! Scan the bank receipt!
  3. Send by e-mail all scanned copies of the Contract filled and signed by you and the bank receipt! The e-mail with the attachments should be sent in the two-week period following the admission's date!

Payment schedule:

A non-refundable booking fee of 150 euros should be paid once a place has been offered, and the balance no later than 6 weeks before the course begins. Reservations will only be effective after payment of the registration fee.

For the additional courses we required a non-refundable deposit of 50 euros. The balance should be paid 6 weeks before beginning of the dig.

Application form

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