By Tyler Lecours

When most of us hear the word “colonialism,” we tend to think of the 15th century CE, not the 5th century BCE. However, US student Tyler Lecours wants to broaden our understanding, thus his work explores how colonial encounters shaped and influenced the development of ancient societies and the broader cultural landscapes within border regions, with a specific focus on southeastern Europe and the Near East.  A Canadian-American graduate student in Classical and Early Mediterranean Studies at Brandeis University, Tyler is this year’s recipient of Fulbright Bulgaria’s joint archaeological research grant with Balkan Heritage Foundation. To say his work has gone well would be an understatement – several of the artefacts he helped excavate are already on display at the National Archeological Museum!   

My research focuses on intersections of cultural exchange, urban development, and the hybridization of material culture within the context of intercultural relationships between colonial and indigenous societies in the ancient world. As such, my collaborations with Fulbright Bulgaria, Balkan Heritage Foundation, and the National Archaeological Institute have provided incredible opportunities to directly engage with archaeological excavations, material culture, and ancient history to further investigate my research interests to support my master’s thesis on colonial encounters.  

Since my arrival in July 2023, my experience has been nothing short of extraordinary. My Fulbright experience began with Balkan Heritage Foundation’s field school at the ancient Greek Emporion of Pistiros, where I assisted with the excavations of the city’s urban fortifications. During this time, I was introduced to my field advisor, Dr. Emil Nankov, as well as colleagues Dr. Alexey Gotsev, and Dr. Angela Pencheva, whose mentorship has been invaluable throughout my Fulbright journey. Through their guidance, our team was able to uncover a series of critical architectural features alongside a plethora of material culture, dating to the 5th and 4th centuries BCE. However, this was not my first experience with Balkan Heritage Foundation or the National Archaeological Institute. I was originally introduced to the organization as an undergraduate in 2016, when I attended BHF’s field school at Apollonia Pontica in Sozopol, Bulgaria. This earlier experience played a significant role in my decision to pursue a career in archaeology and introduced me to the potential opportunity of receiving a Fulbright research grant in Bulgaria.  

Following the field school at Pistiros, Dr. Nankov offered me a field position with the National Archaeological Institute, where we continued excavating at the emporion of Pistiros, began excavations at a settlement in Laskarevo, conducted field surveys around Sandanski, assisted a preliminary survey at a Roman site on the Bulgarian border, and supported a Geophysical Survey outside of Vetren, Bulgaria. Building on this, my Fulbright journey reached a significant milestone in Spring 2024, when I had the privilege of attending the opening of the National Archaeological Museum’s new exhibit that featured material culture from our excavations at Pistiros. As an archaeologist, witnessing artifacts I helped preserve on display was a profound and moving experience that surpassed all expectations. 

Looking back, my Fulbright journey has been an overwhelmingly transformative experience that has not only influenced my future academic aspirations but also provided unparalleled professional growth as an archaeologist. From the initial excavations at the ancient Greek Emporion of Pistiros to the diverse array of projects undertaken with the National Archaeological Institute, each step has significantly shaped my understanding of archaeological methodologies and the significance of cultural heritage. Building on these experiences, I eagerly anticipate continuing my collaborative research with the Balkan Heritage Foundation and the National Archaeological Institute during our upcoming summer excavations at Pistiros, where our research promises to unearth further insights into the cultural complexities of ancient world while further preserving history for future generations. 

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