Tell Yunatsite is one of the most impressive prehistoric sites in southeast Europe. It has a history of occupation spanning from the Middle Ages to the time of Europe’s earliest civilizations in the 5th millennium BCE. Thus it presents a point of interest not only for scholars but also regular visitors. The site has been a part of the Balkan Heritage Field School projects portfolio since 2013 and was recently featured in a true-crime bestseller. The latest news is the completion of a design for a conservation project several years in the making.

In 2018 the Balkan Heritage Foundation, the Regional Historic Museum of Pazardzhik, and the research team from the National Archaeological Institute and Museum initiated a discussion regarding the conservation and preservation of the site. In 2019 the Balkan Heritage Foundation invited US conservator Michael Morris as a consultant and also introduced architectural studio “Atelier 3” as a potential designer. The Regional Historic Museum of Pazardzhik later commissioned “Atelier 3” for the project. In 2020 with funding from the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture, “Atelier 3” completed their design for the conservation and presentation of the site, which we hope to see implemented in the following years.

Due to the nature of the site – a massive earthen mound with multiple cultural layers, the architects had to take into consideration some unique challenges. The ongoing archaeological excavations posed another difficulty, not only in terms of conservation but also in presenting a cohesive, easily understood story. Accessibility and safety, as well as preserving the natural state of the surrounding area served as guidelines for the project.

The architectural approach is based on contrasts. The new protective structures are easily distinguishable from the archaeological material without being jarring to the surrounding area. Color and shape accentuate areas of interest and guide visitors throughout their tour of the site. All the constructions are designed to preserve the archaeological structures but without being permanent and thus potentially obstructing future excavation in the unexplored areas of the site.

You can find a short presentation of their project on Atelier 3’s website.