Over 200 Archaeological Research Projects Vying for Meager Funding from Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture in 2016
Over 200 archaeological projects are expected to compete for the meager excavation and conservation budget slated by Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture for 2016.
The sum that the Ministry of Culture is going to apportion among several dozen projects that will be approved for funding in 2016 will range between BGN 500,000 (EUR 250,000) and BGN 600,000 (EUR 300,000), which is roughly the same amount as in 2015.
“This funding is extremely small,” says Assoc. Prof. Konstantin Dochev, Director of the Veliko Tarnovo Branch of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, as cited by Darik Veliko Tarnovo.
In mid January, the Ministry of Culture announced that all applications for 2016 archaeological excavation funding are supposed to be submitted between March 15 and April 11, 2016.
The eligible beneficiaries include “cultural, scientific, or university institutions whose activity is connected with the seeking, studying, and preservation of the archaeological cultural heritage.”
Luckily, the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture with its meager budget is not the only source of funding for archaeological research in the country.
The Bulgarian Cabinet itself occasionally allocates substantial sums of money for certain archaeological projects such as the 9th century AD Great Basilica in Pliska, the ancient and medieval rock city Perperikon, and the St. John the Forerunner Monastery near Kardzhali, even though there are no clear-cut criteria for this type of funding.
Some private foundations and other types of NGOs also contribute certain sums of money. EU funding and funding from the Norway Grants / EEA Grants are also options but those sponsor primarily archaeological restoration projects (which may involve excavations as well).
However, the Bulgarian local authorities are emerging as a major funding source as more and more municipalities have started giving money for excavations and restoration works, now that they have become aware of the potential of cultural tourism.
“We hope that now that Veliko Tarnovo Municipality has taken over the management of the Trapesitsa Hill Fortress, it will also allocate money for research,” Dochev states.
His statement is in reference to the recent decision of the Bulgarian government to grant Veliko Tarnovo Municipality management rights for the Trapesitsa Hill Fortress, which together with the Tsarevets Hill Fortress was one of the two citadels of medieval Tarnovgrad, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD).
Dochev also notes that the archaeologists from the Veliko Tarnovo Branch of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology are going to meet with Veliko Tarnovo Mayor Daniel Panov in order to discuss future joint efforts for the further exploration and promotion of the Trapesitsa Hill Fortress.
The Trapesitsa Hill Fortress is presently being restored by the local authorities with BGN 2.5 million (app. EUR 1.25 million) in funding from the Azerbaijan government (a project criticized by independent journalists and NGOs because of the human rights situation in Azerbaijan).
Dochev reminds that in 2015, the Ministry of Culture provided only BGN 16,000 (app. EUR 8,000) for the archaeological excavations of the Trapesitsa Hill Fortress.
The archaeologists from the Veliko Tarnovo Branch of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology are now going to seek at least BGN 30,000-40,000 (app. EUR 15,000-20,000) for the 2016 digs on Trapesitsa where they plan to excavate three sections of the medieval fortress.
Prof. Konstantin Totev will continue his excavations in the northern section of Trapesitsa where the fortress wall is being restored at present.
Assist. Prof. Deyan Rabovyanov will continue his research of the residential quarter in the southeastern part of the Trapesitsa Hill Fortress. In 2015, Rabovyanov and his colleague Pavel Doychev created a 3D model showing what this residential quarter of the late medieval Bulgarian capital Tarnovgrad looked like in the 14th century.
Assoc. Prof. Mirko Robov will be excavating the Trapesitsa Fortress section which is located above the historic church St. Dimitar Solunksi (St. Demetrius of Thessaloniki).
The Trapesitsa Hill is one of two main fortified historic hills in the medieval city of Tarnovgrad, today’s Veliko Tarnovo, in Central Northern Bulgaria, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire between 1185 and 1396 AD. Together with the Tsarevets Hill, Trapesitsa was one of the two fortresses of the inner city acropolis of Tarnovgrad (Veliko Tarnovo).
The Trapesitsa Hill is a natural fortress on the right bank of the Yantra River, and is surrounded by it on three sides. It is located northwest of the Tsarevets Hill. The Trapesitsa Fortress had four gates, the main one being its southern gate, which was also connected with the Tsarevets Fortress with a bridge across the Yantra River. There are two hypotheses about Trapesitsa’s name. The first one is that it comes from the Bulgarian word “trapeza” meaning a “table” or “repast”, possibly referring to the receptions of the medieval Bulgarian Tsars; the second hypothesis is that the word comes from “trapezium” because the hill is in fact is a trapezoidal plateau.
The first archaeological excavations on the Trapesitsa Hill Fortress in Bulgaria’s Veliko Tarnovo between 1884 and 1900 revealed the foundations of 17 medieval Bulgarian churches with fragments of rich murals, colorful mosaics, and beautiful floor tiles. The documented artifacts discovered there include crosses, necklaces, coins, rings, earrings, vessels. The churches on Trapesitsa were richly decorated with various architectural forms such as pilasters, niches, blind arches, colored slabs, among others.
The largest preserved church on the Trapesitsa Hill known as “Church No. 8” is named after the 10th century AD Bulgarian saint, St. Ivan Rilski (St. John of Rila) (876-946 AD); it was surrounded with other buildings which are believed to have been part of a monastery complex. It is known that in 1195 AD, Bulgaria’s Tsar Asen I (r. 1189-1196 AD) transported the relics of St. Ivan Rilski from the city of Sredets (today’s Sofia) to Tarnovgrad (today’s Veliko Tarnovo), and had them placed in the specially constructed church on the Trapesitsa Hill. The Bulgarian archaeologists believe that a room in the southern part of Church No. 8 was the reliquary for St. Ivan Rilski’s relics. The relics of St. Ivan Rilski (St. John of Rila), who is Bulgaria’s patron saint, were kept in Veliko Tarnovo until 1469 AD when they were transported to the Rila Monastery where they are kept to this day in what became a major event for the Bulgarians during the early period of the Ottoman Yoke (1396-1878/1912), as the Second Bulgarian Empire had been conquered by the invading Ottoman Turks in 1396 AD.
The numerous and richly decorated small churches indicate that the Trapesitsa Hill harbored the homes of the medieval Bulgarian nobility, the boyars, and the supreme clergy. More recent excavations, however, also indicate that the imperial palace of the early Bulgarian Tsars from the House of Asen (the Asen Dynasty, r. 1185-1257 AD) was in fact located on the Trapesitsa Hill, and the imperial seat was possibly moved to the nearby Tsarevets Hill only later, during the reign of Tsar Ivan Asen II (r. 1218-1241 AD). In the recent years, the Trapesitsa Hill Fortress has been excavated by Assoc. Prof. Konstantin Dochev, Prof. Konstantin Totev, Assoc. Prof. Mirko Robov, and Assist. Prof. Deyan Rabovyanov, all of them from the Veliko Tarnovo Branch of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and by Prof. Hitko Vatchev from the Veliko Tarnovo Regional Museum of History.