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Authors: Vasil Mikov and Nikolai Djambazov


About IAM

The Institute of Archaeology and Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences covers the complete study of the culture of tribes and peoples who have occupied present day Bulgaria from the remote past until the 18th century. IAM-BAS is a national center and coordinator of all field research in Bulgaria and exercises scholarly and methodological control on it.

The Museum of Archaeology hosts the most numerous collections in Bulgaria and its exhibitions reveal it as one of the most important centers in the country for promotion of the cultural heritage of present day Bulgaria. Its academic and museum potential turns IAM-BAS into the biggest research archaeological unit in southeast Europe.

IAM-BAS was established in 1949 as a follower and successor of the Department of Valuables part of the Library established in Sofia in 1878-1879 and reformed into a National Museum in 1892 and the Bulgarian Institute of Archaeology (1921), which was the first academic institute in Bulgaria.



Famous Figures of the IAM History

Stancho Vaklinov (1921-1978). He graduated in Classics from the University of Sofia in 1944. Assistant at the Museum (1946-49). Professor in 1965. PhD in 1978. He worked in the domain of medieval archaeology. He directed archaeological research in Pliska, Veliki Preslav, Novi Pazar, Veliko Tarnovo, etc. He produced the first publication of a proto-Bulgarian necropolis, the one at Novi Pazar in 1958. He found and published the epitaph of Chargubilia Mostich from Preslav in 1955. "Formation of the Bulgarian Culture 6th-9th century" is his most important monograph among numerous works on various problems of medieval Bulgarian history and archaeology.

Ivan Velkov (1891-1958). He graduated with a Ph.D. in Ancient History and Classical Archaeology from the University in Vienna in 1915. From 1919 to 1937 he was head of the Ancient Department at the Museum in Sofia. From 1938 to 1944 he was Director of the Museum. He worked primarily in the domain of the Thracian archaeology. He directed excavations of Thracian settlements, such as Duvanli, Mezek, Brezovo and Roman towns and fortresses. He studied and worked upon the archaeological map of Bulgaria and many Thracian fortresses in the Balkan and Rhodope Mountains.

Ivan Venedikov (1916-1997). He graduated in Classics from the University of Sofia in 1939. Professor in 1980. He worked as an assistant at the Ancient Department of the Museum in Skopje in 1941. In 1945 he was appointed head of the Ancient Department of the Museum in Sofia. His studies were mainly in the field of the material and spiritual culture of the ancient Thracians. He directed the excavations of a number of sites, among them the ancient Greek cities of Apollonia Pontica (1946-49) and Messambria (1949-74).

Vaclav Dobruski (1858-1916). He graduated in Classics in Prague and was one of the founders of archaeology in Bulgaria. He was the first director of the Museum from 1892 to 1910. From 1891 he was associate professor at the University of Sofia. He was the initiator, author and editor of the first issue of the Museum Guide. Participated at excavations of the ancient towns of Gigen, Pleven region (1903), Nicopolis ad Istrum (Nikjup), Veliko Tarnovo region (1906) and the sanctuaries near Glava Panega in 1895 and Saladinovo in 1905. Over 50 works in ancient archaeology, history and epigraphy.

Andre Grabar (1896-1994). From 1926 he lived in France and wrote mainly in the French. He was a member of the Institute of Archaeology and Museum since 1921 and a director of the Museum. He was a specialist in Byzantine and medieval art of the Orthodox Slavs. He was a foreign member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in 1969 and professor at the Universities in Strasbourg and Paris.

Gavril Katzarov (1874-1958). Graduated in Classics and Ancient History with a Ph.D. in Philosophy in Leipzig. He was a founding member and a chairman of the Bulgarian Archaeological Society from 1906 to 1920, and became an academician in 1906. He was the Director of the Museum from1928 to1929 and of the Institute of Archaeology with Museum from 1940 to 1947. He was also a member of the Russian Institute of Archaeology in Constantinople, a regular member of the German Institute of Archaeology, a member of the Austrian Institute of Archaeology, etc. The founder of Thracology in Bulgaria. Over 300 works in the domain of the Thracian history and religion.

Nikola Mavrodinov (1904-1958). Graduated in History of Art and Archaeology in Liege, Belgium in 1926. He was an assistant from 1931 to 1935, a keeper from 1935 to 1944 and director of the Museum from 1944 to 1949. A specialist in the history of Bulgarian art.

Vera Ivanova-Mavrodinova (1896-1987). She graduated in Slavistics and Ethnography from the University of Sofia. She specialized in archaeology and history of the Byzantine art in Paris, France. She was an assistant at the Museum from 1922 to 1938, a keeper from 1938 to 1946 and an assistant professor from 1950 to 1964. She was a specialist in medieval archaeology, architecture and ethnography.

Vasil Mikov (1891-1957). He was a specialist in Prehistory. Since 1925 he was an assistant and since 1931 a keeper of the Prehistoric Collection. Founder and later head of the Prehistoric Department at the Museum. He participated in the creation of the first prehistoric exhibition in 1938. He was one of the authors of the exhibition on "Life and Culture of the Pre-class and Early Class Society in Bulgaria" in 1951. He directed excavations at more than 40 sites including: Kubrat, Razgrad region in 1925; Krivodol, Vratsa region in 1946; Karanovo, Nova Zagora region from 1947 to 1957; Vesselinovo, Yambol region in 1935; Devetashka cave, Lovetch region in 1927 and 1950, etc. Over 240 scientific and popular works on the archaeology of Bulgaria.

Krastju Mijatev (1892-1966). Graduated in Slavistics and History of the Balkans in Vienna, Austria, in 1915 and specialized in history of the Byzantine art in Berlin, Germany from 1922 to 1924. A keeper at the Museum from 1920 to1938. Director of the Institute of Archaeology with Museum from 1951 to 1963. His scientific work was in the field of the medieval Bulgarian culture and the Byzantine art. He directed archaeological excavations in Pliska, Madara, Preslav, and Tsarevets.

Peter Mutafchiev (1883-1943). He graduated in History and Geography from the University of Sofia in 1910. Professor in 1937. Specialized Byzantine Studies in Munich, Germany from 1920 to 1922. He was a keeper of the Medieval Collection at the Museum from 1910 to 1920. Specialized in medieval Bulgarian history and Byzantine history, and a member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

Nikola Mushmov (1869-1942). In 1894 he started working as a secretary at the National Museum of Archaeology. From 1918 to 1931 he was the keeper of the Numismatic Collection.

Raphail Popov (1876-1940). A keeper of the Prehistoric Collection from its creation in 1909 until 1931. From 1929 to 1938 director of the National Museum of Archaeology. He was a founding member and secretary of the Bulgarian Institute of Archaeology from 1920 to 1939, and a member of the Museum Committee. He studied a number of prehistoric sites: Temnata dupka, Lukovit region in 1925 and 1926; Bacho Kiro, Drianovo in 1938 and 1939; Mirizlivka, Belogradchik region in 1929; Morovitsa, Glozhene in 1912; Beliakovo plateau, Tarnovo region in 1906 and again in 1921; Madara Plateau, Shumen region in 1902, 1903, and 1908; Kodzhadermen, Shumen region in 1907 and 1914; Salmanovo, Shumen region in 1908 and 1912; Popovo from 1921 to1922, etc.

Andrej Protich (1875-1959). He graduated in Germanistic, History of Arts and Philosophy in Leipzig, Germany in 1904. Academician in 1946. He was a member of the Institute of Archaeology with Museum, and director of the Museum from 1920 to 1928. He organized its Artistic Department. He was a member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

Domenico Tachella (1832-1913). First keeper of the Numismatic Collection from 1893 to 1903. During his management, the collection of ancient coins from the Balkan Peninsula became one of the richest in Europe.

Bogdan Filov (1883-1945). Graduated with a PhD in Archaeology in Freiburg in 1906. He specialized in Bonn, Paris and Italy. Director of the Museum from 1910 to 1920. In 1920 became a professor at the University of Sofia. He was a member of the Archaeological Institute in Vienna. He was the founder and first director of the Bulgarian Institute of Archaeology, and a regular member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Over 100 works in history, archaeology and epigraphy.



Miscellaneous: The first thing that a lay person encounter at a field tour in archaeology is its vastness. Someone wants to grasp everything in one visit, which is impossible even on a whole day agenda. Thus, any living thing or inanimate object can exist in a multiplicity of relationships to other organisms, materials, forces and, therefore, may be considered from many different aspects. Animals, for instance, may be regarded from the viewpoint of geography, of a systematic series (taxonomy), of association with other animals and plants in a particular environment (ecology), or in many other ways.

Antiquities could be subdivided as to their artifact strata and could belong to dwellings, agriculture, industry & trade, art, religion, army & military works, government etc., according to find-places and technical terms. Little by little knowledge accumulates and a picture from the dim past appears extrapolated in present time, which is immaculately ignorable at a comparable time-scale.

Ad passim, the story of archaeology in Bulgaria evolved with contributions from foreign scholars working in the country i.e., the czech epigraphist V. Dobrusky, the brothers K. and H. Skorpil which, persisted until the early 1900s and the attaining of autonomous state structure for Bulgaria, per se. Their role extended more like antiquarians and classicists rather than professionally trained researchers with excavations and stratigraphy.

The appearance of scholars such as Prof. Rafail Popov /1876-1940/, subsequently, added the national flavor that scientific circles in Bulgaria were looking for. Thus, R. Popov graduated Natural Sciences from University of Sofia with two subsequent years of specialization at archaeology branch in Berlin 1906 to 1909. As part of his doctoral dissertation he held the first stratigraphic survey in Bulgaria at Kodja-Dermen tumuli near Shumen in 1907.

Prehistory section at the Archaeological Museum in Sofia was established in 1920. It was part of the wholesale exhibition in the museum and first curator of pre-history archaeology was Rafail Popov. Since the 1940s successor in the field became Vasil Mikov, but the work done by Prof. R. Popov in the period between the two wars remained unsurpassed. It was his main contribution that archaeology in Bulgaria gained worldwide recognition and principally through the landmark field research of the american scholar James H. Gaul - viz., his monograph "The Neolithic Period in Bulgaria. New Haven, Connecticut: American School of Prehistoric Research, 1948". Further on this topic we should return later albeit, the work of J. H. Gaul was unavailable to the author of this lines and neither it could be found in any large library in the country, ditto.


Picture 1 & 2: The precursor book for Gaul's "Neolithic ..." was written by Rafail Popov in bulgarian language. This classical monograph for archaeology in Bulgaria appeared in two volumes (i.e., 1928, 1930), published by the Bulgarian Archaeological Institute with funds from foundation "Ivan D. Burov".

(i). Title page of "Culture and Life of the Prehistoric Man in Bulgaria. Part I: The Stone Age" from Rafail Popov.


(ii). Title page of "Culture and Life of the Prehistoric Man in Bulgaria. Part II: The Age of Metals" from Rafail Popov.


(iii). Last photograph of Rafail Popov in front of the National Archaeological Museum (1939); from left to right N. Mavrodinov, Prof. Geza Feher (taller), Rafail Popov (white suite), Prof. G. Katzarov (full size), unkown and K. Mijatev.



Copyright 2007, 2008 by the author.