The history of the Department of Classic Archaeology (DCA) at the National Institute of Archaeology with Museum-BAS is closely related to those of the National Museum of Archaeology and the Bulgarian Institute of Archaeology.
The Museum was part of the National Library in the period 1879-1992. In 1892 it became a separate institution and in 1908 it was proclaimed People’s (meaning “national”). The Classic Department of the Museum was among its main departments during its entire independent existence until 1948 when it was attached to the Institute of Archaeology. The first directors of the Museum were archaeologists of the Classic period – the Czechoslovakian Václav Dobruski (1893-1910) and Bogdan Filov (1910-20). V. Dobruski stood actively for passing a Law for protection of the historical sites and monuments (1911). B. Filov was generally recognized as a leader of the Bulgarian archaeology in the period 1910-44. In 1920 he became the first head of the newly established Department of Archaeology and Art History at St Kliment Ohridski University, Sofia. In the period 1931-1932 he was a rector of the above University, and between 1937-1941, a chairman of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. In the years between 1940-1943 and 1943-1944 B. Filov was consecutively a Prime Minister and a Regent of Bulgaria. Ivan Velkov made lots of archaeological surveys and excavations on the territory of the whole country being for almost 20 years a curator at the National Museum of Archaeology. He was appointed its Director for the period between 1938 and 1944.
Bulgarian Institute of Archaeology (BAI) was established in 1921 having as a basis the Sofia Archaeological Society (established in 1901). Bogdan Filov was the mastermind of its establishment and for a period of 20 years he was acting Head of the Institute, in which the librarian was the only full-time employee. Under the direction of B. Filov the Bulgarian Institute of Archaeology acquired real estate in Sofia, for a short period of time its library was enriched (it had more than 30 000 books), it had a productive scientific and promotional activity becoming the leading center of archaeological research in Bulgaria.
Leading Bulgarian archaeologists in Classic archaeology studied in Germany and Austria until World War II. Excavations took place of the Roman cities Nicopolis ad Istrum (near the village of Nikyup, Veliko Tarnovo region), Oescus (near the village of Gigen, Pleven region), Roman villas, Thracian burial mounds and sanctuaries.
The actual history of the Department of Classic Archaeology started after the union of the Museum and the Institute under the direction of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (Institute of Archaeology and Museum/IAM) in 1948. The leading role in the adaptation of the Bulgarian archaeology to the changing reality of the the social and political life 1944 belongd to another Classic period archaeologist and B. Filov’student – Dimitar P. Dimitrov, who also specialized in Germany. His work “Introduction to Archaeology” (1958) reflects those changes as well as the typical features of the Bulgarian archaeological sites and monuments. D.P. Dimitrov became Head of the Department of Classic Archaeology in 1956 and Director of the Institute of Archaeology and Museum in 1963. Before WWII he was interested particularly in Roman archaeology and later on he focused his scientific research on the culture of the Thracian tribes in the Hellenistic period. He was the leader of the team, which excavated the Thracian town Seutopolis in 1947-53, team leader of the Bulgarian-Polish team excavating the Roman legion camp and an early Byzantine town Novae near Svishtov (since 1960). D.P. Dimitrov became also Head of the Department of Classic Archaeology 1950 at St Kliment Ohridski University, Sofia traditionally headed by Classic period archaeologist. In the period 1965-1982 Theophil Ivanov became Head of the Department of Classic Archaeology. A Classic phylology graduate of St Kliment Ohridski University, Sofia he later specialized in Vienna. He was an active participant in the excavations of the necropolis of the Greek colony Apollonia (present-day Sozopol) on the Western Black sea coast, the first team leader (1958) of the Bulgarian-German team excavating the Late Roman and Early Byzantine Iatrus (near the village of Krivina, Ruse region), team leader of the excavations at Nicopolis ad Istrum, Oescus, Abritus (present-day Razgrad). During 1960s and 1970s the members of the Department continued to work at the 1st – early 7th century sites, i.e. Roman and Early Byzantine sites mainly. The researches were focused on their fortification, town planning, pottery and adornments. In 1983 Alexandra Milcheva became Head of the Department of Classic Archaeology. At the same time new scientific unit was formed– Tracian Archeology Section. . The ethnic priority of the latter duplicates to a great extent the chronological frame of the Department of Classic Archaeology. Under the leadership of A. Milcheva the Department of Classic Archaeology kept and developed its capacity regardless of the serious social cataclysms in the 1990-es. New valuable members are attracted and the reach of scientific research and international contacts expands significantly. In the middle of 1980s two decades of Bulgarian-British excavations at Nicopolis ad Istrum and its vicinity started and in 1992 the Bulgarian-German excavations at Iatrus were renewed. Members of the Department of Classic Archaeology made excavations in the 1980s together with their Italian colleagues at the Roman colony Ratiaria (near the village of Archar, Vidin region). In the late 1990s French specialists joined the Bulgarian archaeologists working at the necropolis of Apollonia. The increased interest to the ancient Greek colonies along the Western Black sea coast resulted in several co-publications and exhibitions of members of the Department of Classic Archaeology and Greek archaeologists. Representatives of the Department of Classic Archaeology took part in various international conferences and symposia. Its members took active part in the development of the “Archaeological Map of Bulgaria” database. In 1999 Georgi Kuzmanov became the new Head of the Department of Classic Archaeology and in 2003 he was replaced by Lyudmil Vagalinski. Currently members of the Department of Classic Archaeology are very active participants in rescue excavations related mainly to infrastructure projects of national importance. Important sites, which are regularly excavated, include Novae, Oescus, Apollonia and the Roman colony Deultum (near the village of Debelt, Burgas region).
With a law in 1969 IAM was authorized to accomplish the main implementation, control and methodical management on archaeological research in Bulgaria. The Department of Classic Archaeology was given the same status with regard to the Classic period sites in the country.
Members of the Department of Classic Archaeology teach at St Kliment Ohridski University, Sofia, and New Bulgaria University, Sofia being also students’ advisors and team leaders of archaeological field schools.
The members of the Department of Classic Archaeology focus their research on the following main topics: “Culture along the Bulgarian Black Sea in the 6th c. BC – the early 7th c. AD”, “Thrace in the 2nd c. BC – the 1st c. AD”, “Roman Provincial Culture on the Bulgarian Territories (the 1st – the 3rd centuries)”, “The Lower Danubian Limes (the 1st – the early 7th centuries)”, “Material Culture of the Bulgarian Territories in the Early Byzantine Period (the 4th – the early 7th centuries)”.
The Department of Classical Archaeology of the National Institute of Archaeology with Museum of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences comprises 15 scholars covering all the levels of development of the academic staff – professors, ass. professors, chief assistants, assistants and specialists. The department also promotes 7 doctorants.
In the course of recent years the academic staff of the department develops research programmes concentrated on five macro-projects. These priorities of the Department of Classical Archaeology outline the major directions of all academic activities of the Classical Archaeology on the territory of Bulgaria.
The main academic projects of the department are as follows: The Lower Danube Limes (1st – early 7th century) directed by Ass. Prof. D-r Eugenia Gencheva; the Antique Culture along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast (6th c. BC – early 7th c. AD) directed by Ass. Prof. D-r Krastina Panayotova; the Roman Provincial Culture in the Bulgarian territories (1st – 3rd c. AD) headed by Ass. Prof. D-r Eugenia Gencheva; the Material Culture in the Bulgarian Territories during the Late Antiquity (4th – 7th c.) headed by Ass. Prof. D-r Ventzislav Dinchev; and Thrace in the course of the 2nd c. BC – 1st c. AD headed by Ass. Prof. D-r Lyudmil Vagalinski.
Within the frames of these projects, the members of the department direct projects and archaeological research of some of the most significant antique sites in Bulgaria: Ulpia Oescus, Dimum and Novae along the Lower Danube Limes; Apollonia, Ulpia Anhialos, the Roman colony of Deultum and Kiten along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast; Heraclea Sintica, Serdica, Philipopolis and Sandanski in Thracia Mediterranea.
In September 2012 the Department of Classical Archaeology took the major part in organization of the XXII International Limes Congress, held in Ruse, as Bulgaria hosted it for the first time. The members of the department are also the main partners in a series of international projects – Bulgarian-Polish research in Novae, the Bulgarian-French research in Apollonia, as well as the Bulgarian-British project investigating the territory of Nicopolis ad Istrum a couple of decades.
The released works of the departmentduring the recent years are great in number. The members of this academic department of NIAM-BAS are authors of a series of monographs (in Excavations and Research, Dissertations, other monographs), as well as collections of international impact as TABULA IMPERII ROMANI, The Lower Danube Roman Limes (1st – 6th c. AD), Roman and Early Byzantine Towns in Bulgaria, and a series of other thematic collections.
Text Lyudmil Vagalinski and Zdravko Dimitrov