The Archaeological Field Survey of the Sliven Region Project (AFSSRP) began as a joint-project between the American Research Center in Sofia and the National Institute of Archaeology with Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. While the pilot stage, funded by the American Research Center in Sofia, took place in April and October of 2015, the second season, which received funding from the Ministry of Culture, was carried out in October of 2016.

As much as the AFSSRP aims to document unknown archaeological sites, and thereby contributing to the development of the Archaeological Map of Bulgaria, it also purports to generate new data on the settlement patterns in the area of Middle Tonzos Valley from prehistoric times to the medieval period. The close proximity of the Macedonian colony Kabyle founded by Philip II of Macedon in 341 BC, as well as the rich aristocratic burials of the Odrysian overlords (Kaloyanovo, Topolchane [Dalakova tumulus], Krushare [Yakimova tumulus]) excavated by the expedition of the late G. Kitov in 2007-2008 brings out the role of the Sliven region for the administration of the Odrysian kingdom during the periods preceding the Macedonian expansion in Thrace. Significantly, the discovered inscribed lead sling bullets and the iron arrowheads originating from the sites Kolopenishteto (SITE 1) and Haramiyata (SITE 2) testify to a unrecorded battle between military detachments from the army of Philip II of Macedon with that of an Odrysian dynast (see Nankov 2015; Лещаков и др. 2016, Обр. 3).

THE SEASONS, 2015-2016

During the 2015 season the team through extensive field walking collected surface data for seven archaeological sites located within the boundaries of the villages Sotirya and Topolchane, Sliven region (see Map below). The topographic signature of the sites points to several preliminary conclusions. First, the lower parts of the Grebenets mountain ridge, which forms part of East Balkan range, were first inhabited during the 6th and the 5th millennium BCE. The sites seem to cluster around river terraces situated in close proximity to water sources. During the Early Bronze Age (EBA) and Early Iron Age (EIA) there emerges a noticeable change in the topography of the sites registered; preference is given to naturally defensible elevated grounds that received additional fortification in the later periods. During the Classical-Hellenistic periods in the southern foothills of the Balkan range we have documented a settlement pattern that potentially can be conceived of as a precondition for the emergence of the rich tumular burials near the villages of Topolchane and Kaloyanovo. These sites continued their existence during the Roman and Late Antique periods (see Лещаков и др. 2016).

During the 2016 season the team carried out a geophysical survey on one of the most prominent sites (SITE 5) registered in 2015. The site is situated on a naturally defensible position on the right bank of Sotirska River. The surface scatters of domestic pottery and small finds, including loomweights and metallurgical slag, indicates continuous habitation from the Early Bronze Age (EBA) down to the Roman period. Along the eastern edge of the hill there is a substantial fill of small- and middle-sized stones, ca. 40 m long and 5-6 m wide, which belonged to the fortification wall of the settlement. Both the electric resistivity and the magnetometer surveys confirmed the preliminary observations that we are dealing with a fortified compound yielding considerable traces of continuous habitation. The chronology of the fortification and the architectural features detected through the geophysical surveys will be established during the next stage of the project involving archaeological excavations.


Emil Nankov, Ph.D. (Academic Director, ARCS)

Petar Leshtakov, Ph.D. (Department of Prehistory, NIAM-BAS)

Alexandrina Tsoneva, Ph.D. Candidate (Department of History and Archaeology, Shumen University)

Iordanka Ilieva, B.A. (Department of Archaeology, Sofia University)

Dian Dryanovski 

Hristijan Tsankov, Assist. Prof. (Department of Applied Geophysics, University of Mining and Geology “St. Ivan Rilski”)

Atanas Kisyov, Assist. Prof. (Department of Applied Geophysics, University of Mining and Geology “St. Ivan Rilski”)





Nankov, E. 2015. The Mobility of the Macedonian Army in Thrace during the Reign of Philip II and the Inscribed Lead Sling Bullets from Kozi Gramadi. – Bulgarian e-Journal of Archaeology, vol. 5, 1-13.

Лещаков, П., Нанков, Е., Цонева, А., Илиева, Й., Дряновски, Д. 2016. Издирване на археологически обектив землищата на селата Сотиря и Тополчане, община Сливен. – Археологически открития и разкопки за 2015, София, 869-872.