This project investigates raw materials and technological practices used to make Late Bronze to Early Iron Age pottery from the Ada Tepe goldmine in Bulgaria. It examines provenance, specifically the degree to which pottery/technological knowledge was brought with the mining community, and questions about the diachronic development of ceramics at the site.

Ada Tepe is located 495m above sea level, 3km southwest of Krumovgrad in the eastern Rhodopes, and was identified as an archaeological site of interest following a large-scale survey in the 1990s. It was excavated ahead of planned modern mining activities between 2000–2006 led by G. Nehrizov and then again between 2010–2015 led by C. Popov, co-directed by K. Nikov. (Popov et al. 2017). The excavations revealed two mining complexes with small mudbrick buildings, one dating from the Late Bronze Age and one from the Late Bronze Age into the Early Iron Age (1500–1100BC).

Ceramic Analysis

Detailed typological examination of Late Bronze Age pottery from the Bronze Age mining complex was conducted by Laura Burkhart as part of the FWF funded project ›Bronze Age Gold Road of The Balkans – Ada Tepe Mining: Producers and Consumers‹ (P23619) led by Barbara Horejs. C. Burke undertook preliminary sampling of the material for thin section analysis which is ongoing, but results indicate that potters adapted their recipes based on the types of pottery being made.

This work is now being expanded by the ›Filling in the Gaps‹ project which focuses on pottery from the Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age complex which is currently being typologically studied by Yana Dimitrova. In this new project the pottery has been sampled for thin section petrography and scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) to investigate raw material resources, surface finishes, and the firing practices.

Research Aims

The project addresses questions of provenance, specifically the degree to which the pottery was local or imported in order to understand if the mining community brought ceramic and/or technological knowledge with them, and questions about the diachronic development of pottery technology between the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age when new surface treatments and a notable increase in pottery quality is attested.

The project will address four key questions:

  1. What are the sources of the raw materials used to make pottery from Ada Tepe?
  2. Is pottery produced at the site or brought with the miners from other places?
  3. Are there changes in raw materials and technology between the Bronze and Iron Ages?
  4. What firing conditions and temperatures were used to make the pottery?
Expected Outcomes

This research represents one of the first analytical projects of its type in this area and offers a great opportunity for us to understand the range and development of skills and knowledge that potters in the area had during this period. It also offers the opportunity to trace technological changes as potters begin to make new shapes and surface finishes at the dawn of the Iron Age, feeding into wider discussions about technological learning and skills development.

Principal Investigator


since 2021


Dr. Anton Oelzelt-Newin’sche Stiftung